02/05/2015 01:49 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan government removes reeve in RM; inquiry found conflict of interest

REGINA - The government of Saskatchewan has removed a reeve from a rural municipality southeast of Regina.

An inquiry has found Kevin Eberle was in a conflict of interest when it came to a proposed development in the Rural Municipality of Sherwood.

It says Eberle had financial interests tied to the $2-billion Wascana Village proposal and tried to use his position to influence the RM's council.

An agreement between Great Prairie Development Corp. and Eberle, whose family has land in the area, would have seen him paid almost $60 million over 13 years.

Jim Reiter, minister of government relations, has appointed an interim reeve and an administrator to oversee governance of the RM until a byelection in October.

Reiter says criminal charges could follow.

"I'm of the understanding that the prosecutions branch of Justice has referred this matter to the RCMP for investigation," he said Thursday.

“This is not a step any government would ever want to take, but the serious findings in this report require extraordinary action to ensure the best interests of Sherwood ratepayers are protected,” Reiter said.

“The inquiry findings reveal a number of serious breaches of the public trust by a municipal official and the government of Saskatchewan has taken the necessary steps to restore this trust."

Eberle said last summer that he openly declared a conflict of interest when the RM's council first discussed Wascana Village and had recused himself from every meeting pertaining to the proposal.

"Everything has been above board," he said at the time.

Eberle said he would never do anything to put in jeopardy a proposal so important to the area.

"We've been struggling to try and bring land use change into the RM for a very long time. This dates back to 2000, 2001."

Reiter said he was "shocked and disgusted" when he read the inquiry's final report.

"I spent my career in municipal work before politics and I've never seen anything like this."

The report states that “the conflict the reeve found himself in when he agreed to share profits with the developer was horrendous, and keeping that conflict secret from his fellow councillors and the administrator was inexcusable.”

(CJME, CKRM, The Canadian Press)