(This story has been updated to include comments from former Gibsons mayor Barry Janyk)
Gibsons chief administrative officer Emanuel Machado took the unusual step Tuesday night of delivering a harsh critique of a community group during an open council meeting.
Machado read a seven-minute statement he called an expression of Town staff’s “collective frustration” with being “unfairly characterized” by the Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community (GABC).
Machado called GABC’s efforts to defeat an Alternate Approval Process for a loan to upgrade the Prowse Road Lift Station by claiming it puts taxpayers on the hook for infrastructure the developers of the George Hotel and Residences should pay for, “yet another campaign to defame and discredit the Town of Gibsons and its staff.”
Machado said upgrading the aging lift station is part of “responsible asset management” and not to give a benefit to a developer.
“The personal attacks and conspiracy theories by members of the alliance against Town staff have had a very negative impact in terms of morale and productivity,” Machado said. “As the senior administrator I feel a sense of responsibility to speak out against the ongoing bullying and harassment we all feel.”
Machado said by his count GABC has been involved in over 40 legal and quasi-legal actions related to the George approval process since 2013, which have all been dismissed.
“The bullying campaign at times has been mean-spirited and personal. The Town lost the services of its last director of planning, due in part to the constant harassment from GABC,” Machado claimed and went on to say that harassment included a 34-page professional misconduct complaint with the Planning Institute of BC, which was rejected.
Machado said GABC has been setting itself up “as the giver of consent to any development proposed in the Town of Gibsons.”
“As soon as a project is announced GABC leaders will let the developer know that they better listen to them or else. Failing to meet their demands could lead to a full-blown political campaign including fake news web pages, Facebook rants, letters to the editor and threats of legal action.”
Machado called the O’Shea-Oceanmount Community Association, which has challenged the approval of the Eagleview Heights project in court, an “Upper Gibsons chapter” of GABC and claimed it’s been following the same tactics.
He also used GABC’s silence on the Seaglass condo project proposed for Marine Drive, “seen by most folks as one of the most audacious proposals the community has ever entertained,” and the actions of former mayor Barry Janyk as examples of GABC hypocrisy.
Janyk was one of the consultants on a controversial development in Revelstoke where the proponents were trying to rezone a property for a ski lodge with a helipad.
“On the days he was not strongly opposing development in Gibsons, Janyk was in Revelstoke acting as the lead planning consultant for a Brazilian transportation tycoon,” Machado said. “This is the guy that just last week wrote to several provincial ministries and even the RCMP calling for an investigation into the Town of Gibsons.”
Machado closed his statement by questioning GABC’s financial backing.
“The hundreds of thousands of dollars that the Town is spending to defend its processes and meet its obligations in regulating development comes directly from local taxpayers,” he said. “Where does GABC’s money come from, and who funds them? Waterfront offices, web pages, legal challenges, expert reports, etc. It can’t be cheap.”
Annemarie De Andrade was the only councillor to comment on Machado’s statement, saying she thought his frustration was understandable, but so was the frustration expressed by groups like GABC and the O’Shea-Oceanmount Community Association, and the Town should “evolve its process” for dealing with community concerns.
GABC president Suzanne Senger was in the public gallery, and called Machado’s statement “outrageous.”
Senger asked Mayor Bill Beamish whether he or anyone on council vetted the remarks or saw them in advance. Beamish said while they were aware Machado wished to make a statement, council did not know what Machado would say.
Machado said Town staff also knew he was planning a statement, but he was solely responsible for writing it and is “prepared to defend any statement I made.”
In a follow-up with Coast Reporter, Senger said: “Mr. Machado’s Trump-style tirade was stunning. In our view, his allegations against citizens and local advocacy groups are exaggerated half-truths, seemingly intended to incite community division and direct away from the real issues. We will review the CAO’s statement and respond through the proper channels.”
Janyk, who was referred to by Machado as a “senior member” of GABC, told Coast Reporter he’s not associated with the group, and in a letter June 11 he said, “As in the McCarthy trials of 1950 I can solemnly and honestly attest that I am not – nor have I ever been – a member of the GABC nor have I ever donated to them.”
Janyk called Machado’s statement a “deeply unprofessional tirade” that included “untrue, vitriolic slurs concerning professional work I completed years ago in Revelstoke.”
He also took issue with Machado’s assertion that while he was acting as a consultant to a developer in Revelstoke he was “strongly opposing development in Gibsons.”
“Just what ‘development’ was I against,” Janyk asks in the letter. “This from an individual who occupied a junior position in Dawson Creek for most of my 12 years in office – a time when we sought consultation and collaboration, then worked together to build the community that was internationally recognized for enshrining and respecting its natural capital that so many now seek to exploit.”