Gibsons CAO Mani Machado has called for a retraction and apology from a resident who last month publicly questioned Machado’s version of how long the Town had been in contact with the Ministry of Environment regarding contamination on the proposed George Hotel site.
During inquiries at council’s July 8 committee of the whole meeting, Andre Sobolewski, an environmental consultant, disputed Machado’s claim that staff had been in contact with the Ministry during “the past few months.” Instead, he said, two Ministry officials told him in late May that they’d had no contact with the Town at that time.
“So, at most, any communication from the Town must have come from a month ago, but Mani says several months. There seems to be a discrepancy,” Sobolewski said from the gallery.
Machado, reading a statement at the July 29 council meeting, listed four separate occasions between Feb. 14 and April 10 when there was email or phone contact between the Town and Ministry staff, who are named in the list.
As well, he said, staff contacted the George proponent on Feb. 24, asking him to submit a site profile directly to the Ministry for review, and Ministry staff participated in a conference call with the proponent’s consultant (Balanced Environmental) on March 3.
“The statements made by Mr. Sobolewski that staff had misled council were completely false, as evidenced by the correspondence we have from Ministry staff,” Machado said. “In light of the facts presented here, which confirm that staff did in fact contact the Ministry, I feel an acknowledgement of these facts and a retraction of the statements by Mr. Sobolewski is needed and an apology is also in order for the completely false accusations that were made.”
Contacted last Friday, Sobolewski said he was meeting with Machado later that afternoon.
“There was a misunderstanding. I want to clarify that with him,” Sobolewski said, adding that in May he had received incorrect information from the Ministry.
Asked if he planned to retract his statements and apologize, he said: “Oh sure, I have no problem with that.”
In his statement, Machado also cited resident Tim Turner’s “unprovoked attack” on director of planning André Boel at the previous council meeting. Machado said he and Boel “have been the target of what at times has felt like an organized attempt to discredit staff.”
During inquiries on July 15, Turner said the interpretation of the official community plan had taken “a bizarre twist” in the last two years, and that Boel was responsible. He also accused Boel of “clearly wanting to urbanize the waterfront,” claiming Boel’s “political baggage is getting in the way of his professional duties.”
Prior to Machado’s statement at last week’s meeting, Mayor Wayne Rowe announced that council had decided to enforce inquiry rules, limiting each speaker to two minutes and insisting that a question be asked.
“If you need to make a statement to provide some context to your inquiry, that’s acceptable, but we’re not going to be just taking statements generally,” Rowe said. “So, it needs to be an inquiry that is genuinely seeking some information from council or staff.”
The next Gibsons council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 2.
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