Published on: September 9, 2016 | Last Updated: September 9, 2016 9:31 AM PDT
The head of Vancouver’s advisory council on active transportation defended herself Thursday from allegations that her work with Mobi puts her in a conflict of interest.
Tanya Paz has volunteered on the city’s active transportation policy council since 2012. In that role, she and other members give advice to staff and councillors on issues of concern for pedestrians, cyclists, skaters and transit users.
A few months ago, Paz accepted a short-term, full-time contract to work with Vancouver Bike Share, the operator of Mobi. There, she manages a team charged with finding locations for bike share stations and getting them permitted and installed.
This week, Kitsilano resident Elvira Lount asked Paz in an email not to promote bike lanes in areas like the Arbutus corridor during her term, arguing that would benefit Mobi and Paz financially and thus be a conflict of interest. The email was later circulated by Concerned Kits Residents, an advocacy group sparked after councillors approved work to complete the city’s seaside greenway through Point Grey.
“Anything that she’s advocating, for me, is suspect when it comes to bike lanes, because it’s in her self interest to promote it,” Lount said in an interview.
Paz told Postmedia she believes she is not in a conflict of interest, but that she has been advised by the city not to get involved in one key matter.
“When I got the contract with Mobi I checked with my staff liaison … and was informed that as long as I recuse myself from votes about Mobi, it would be fine,” Paz said in an interview.
She did just that on June 1, when, according to meeting minutes, she did not vote on a motion to use city cash to fund adult cycling education for bike share users.
Paz said she started with Mobi on May 10. She interviewed for the job May 2 and May 9. On May 4, she voted on an issue that directly pertained to her future employer. That vote encouraged Mobi to charge casual users less for a 30 minute ride than they would pay for a one-zone trip with TransLink.
When asked if her role at Mobi would cause her to vote differently than she normally would, she said: “I can’t think of a scenario where the goals wouldn’t be the same,” earlier noting that her whole career has been about sustainable transportation.
“I think the Arbutus corridor will eventually have bike share stations, but they would have whether I was doing this or not. It makes sense to put a couple there.”
Members of the city’s advisory bodies are subject to the same code of conduct as employees and councillors. They are obligated to disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest and take steps to resolve them. Under the code, conflicts exist when individuals appear to be influenced by financial or other personal interests when carrying out their duties.
The city signed a $5-million, five-year contract with CycleHop Corp. to start the 150-station system. To date, stations are scattered around the downtown core and some, but not all, are located beside or close to bike lanes.
Among the advisory council’s other members are bike shop owner Paul Dragan, and Molly Millar, a manager for urban biking app Biko SAS.