Sechelt Coun. Mike Shanks told council exactly what he felt they should apologize for during the Jan. 16 regular council meeting.
On Wednesday night he spoke about a possible conflict of interest, a perceived interference with municipal employees, what could be an “inappropriate” placement of the future wastewater treatment facility, an overly aggressive response to Coun. Alice Lutes’ breach of her oath of office and improper in-camera meetings.
The prepared speech, which was given to fellow councillors before the meeting at their request, was to follow up on statements Shanks previously made publicly at the Table Talk session and in Coast Reporter in December.
“My public comments over the last few weeks have been born out of considerable public input and my personal frustrations with how this council has conducted itself over the last year,” Shanks began, noting he wanted to make his statements publicly since they began in the public realm.
He quoted the Community Charter about conflicts of interests, saying one exists if a council member’s relatives or associates stand to realize a benefit from a decision on a matter.
“On the Stockwell rezoning, there was a very huge perception, if not an actual conflict of interest, by the community regarding some members of council participating in that rezoning discussion and vote,” he said. “Often a legal opinion on such issues is not the determining factor, but the court of public opinion is.”
He also quoted the charter in regards to interfering with municipal officers and employees.
“Over the last year some senior staff have confided in me over such issues,” he said, adding those staff members were likely “fearful” to come to council with their concerns.
He said a last minute decision to open up Ebbtide as a possible site for the future sewage treatment plant was “entirely inappropriate.”
“It betrayed my trust, other members of council who voted in the majority for owning Lot L on Dusty Road as the new wastewater treatment site, and it betrayed the public trust,” he said.
He addressed the censorship and applied sanctions on Lutes, saying the punishment was “overly aggressive,” and that council should “reconsider their position.”
And finally Shanks pointed to in-camera meetings he felt were improper.
“I believe that two in-camera meetings at the Mission Point strategic planning workshops were inappropriate as I could not find public notification and no record of the minutes,” he said, adding there were more, but he was not going into detail.
Once given the opportunity to respond, council was critical of Shanks’ concerns.
Coun. Doug Hockley said he would have preferred if the discussion had stayed in-camera; however, he didn’t hold back his opinion on the Lutes issue.
“In my opinion she got off surprisingly lucky considering the seriousness of the issue,” Hockley said, adding he will reconsider his decision, “when hell freezes over.”
He also took issue with the implication someone was acting in a conflict of interest while considering the Stockwell application, saying it wasn’t true.
“I, as acting mayor in those occasions, including the public hearing, resent your implication. If you recall, the mayor recused himself at every occasion involving the Stockwell rezoning,” he said, adding Shanks should have raised the issue at the time. “Bringing it up now is a fine example of what I would describe as destructive, unproductive and most of all disrespectful of this council, staff and the public.”
Finally Hockley defended the in-camera meetings council has had.
“Here’s a fact for you to consider in the future. We have a lot of in-camera meetings because there are a lot of things happening and there will be a continuation of that proliferation of in-camera meetings simply because some of us want to move Sechelt forward so it is no longer a drive-through community,” he said.
Other councillors also said they felt they had been conducting themselves appropriately. Coun. Darnelda Siegers said she relies on staff and “hired experts” to give council advice.
“I believe that in all cases including the wastewater treatment plant we’ve actually been following that,” she said.
Mayor John Henderson encouraged everyone to get past the issues raised.
“I know for a fact that we’ve all come together with the best interests of Sechelt in mind, and we’ve been working very hard to do that, to achieve some very high goals,” Henderson said. “So I just want to focus on the future at this point. I think you did, Coun. Shanks, say that you want to look forward to 2013, and I certainly do. I hope we can all take onboard the opportunity if there is something that’s egging or nagging at us let’s get it out and deal with it right then. But really, we’ve got a very, very bright year ahead of us.”
The only councillor who didn’t speak to the issues raised was Lutes.