Skip to content

‘It could not be ignored, swept under the carpet, or forgotten’: SCRD chair responds to Henderson

Leonard Lee releases statement weighing in on Sechelt Mayor John Henderson’s reaction to sanction
John Henderson at the inaugural meeting of Sechelt Council, where he first raised the idea of a community safety task force.

Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) Board chair Leonard Lee reaffirmed the board’s decision to censure Sechelt Mayor John Henderson and ask for his removal from the board following an incident last spring. 

In a Friday afternoon news release, Lee responded to the Sechelt Mayor’s Nov. 16 public statement announcing his resignation as alternate board director and decrying the regional district’s decision to censure him and ask for his removal. 

Henderson had said in his statement, “It’s wrong in scale, it’s wrong in intent and it’s wrong in terms of the use of public funds, to name a few. I also think it is wrong for one government to try to tell another government what to do.” Henderson said he had expressed regret for his “short outburst” and that’s where the matter should end.

Lee responded that the SCRD’s actions were to ensure staff could expect board and management would take measures necessary to promote a “work environment that is free of bullying and harassment.”

Henderson’s comments directed at a staff member “have had a very real and lasting effect,” said Lee. 

Details on what was said and to whom have been scant, though Henderson has said the incident took place April 27. The incident was at a public board meeting during a break so was not captured in the video recording or meeting minutes. The SCRD has said it would not release further details so as to protect the staff member involved. 

Said Lee, “This issue was initiated by [Henderson], was directed at staff in front of witnesses who immediately documented what they heard, reported their concerns, and, as per SCRD Policy and the WorkSafeBC regulations on bullying and harassment, it had to be investigated and ultimately addressed.

“To be clear, it could not be ignored, swept under the carpet, or forgotten because he eventually expressed some regret,” said Lee, adding that an independent law firm conducted an investigation and summarized the findings in a report presented to the SCRD board. In its initial statement announcing the censure, the SCRD said the investigation found that Henderson had breached the SCRD’s Respectful Workplace Policy and Board Code of Conduct.

Lee also said that Henderson has had “ample opportunity to apologize and/or directly express remorse or regret,” to staff who were at the meeting and to the staff member to whom he directed his comments. “He has had over six months to take such action and has not done so,” he said. 

“An immediate apology might have gone a long way to addressing the concerns of the Board,” said Lee. 

Asked in an interview Oct. 30 if he had apologized to the staff member or SCRD board, Henderson told Coast Reporter that in the investigation and censure process there’s been no opportunity for him to talk to the individual, and that he stood by his previously published statement of regret.

Lee also clarified that Henderson has not yet – procedurally at least – resigned from the SCRD Board. “For Alternate Director Henderson to be replaced on the SCRD Board, the District of Sechelt must first identify a replacement and notify the SCRD of the change. This has not yet happened,” he said. 

Lee added that District of Sechelt will be well represented by the individuals who sit on the board – Sechelt councillors Darren Inkster and Alton Toth.

“I hope that, for the sake of the staff who bore the brunt of Alternate Director Henderson’s comments, they accept that this Board has taken the necessary and appropriate action and that we can now move forward and concentrate on the important work that we have been elected to do in our communities,” concluded Lee. 

This is the first time the SCRD has issued a censure in its 56 years of operations.

– With files from Jordan Copp