Since it’s first days in office this council has been mired in internal struggles of one sort or another to the detriment of all of us.
In the beginning it was over the water meters with two newbies on council, Konrad and Butler, carrying on the fight against them even though by that time the whole project was close to completion. Later it became Butler versus the rest.
The net result of all this argument has been costs to the city, and by direct linkage, to all of us taxpayers and residents.
Costs in financial terms because we have legal bills to pay.
Costs in morale going into the toilet as the negative tainted atmosphere blunted and bludgeoned staff and productivity tanked. At least two of the highest level staff have left for other towns and clerical errors from that period still dog us to this day.
Costs in the widening gap in the community between supporters of Butler and everyone else.
Costs in the community’s confidence in council’s ability, and inclination, to perform the job they were elected to do,
Costs in the reputation of our town in the larger community as one supporter of the Councilor Butler sent out mass mailings to every MLA in the province making outrageous charges of the Premier of the province meddling in our local political affairs.
The upshot of all of this is that our council has become fare fit for a Tabloid of the sort you find at the supermarket checkout. Except we’re not that big, or alone in this, to warrant mentioning in a real Tabloid. Thank goodness for small favours – the whole world won’t find out how dysfunctional and bat shit crazy we can be. Oh wait – that letter to all the MLAs …
Doesn’t the Ombudsperson’s Final Report and final Judgement regarding Councilor Butler bring all this to an end?
With the release of the Ombudsperson’s report and the court’s final decision on Councilor Butler one could almost forgive council, and others, for thinking that the storm was over and they could get on with what they were elected to do. Almost … but of course that was wishful thinking on their part … everybody has to agree to stop fighting and it’s become obvious that this is not the case.
At the last city council meeting we were disabused of that notion as we were treated to a display of council anger. It began with council reports, specifically Councilor Butler’s report. Two pages with most it blaming and shaming directed at the rest of council.
To go into detail would be to rehash a lot of what has gone on over the past year and that’s not what this is about. That a lot of the objectionable behaviours that both sides claim against the other happened out of the public view makes it difficult to resolve who is to blame for what.
I will note a few points of glaring inconsistencies though:
Councilor Butler writes “Despite many pleas along the way from myself and the public to discontinue what the Mayor originally called a “witch hunt”, council’s advisors continued to press forward encouraging the gross mismanagement of public funds.”
Well apparently both sides claim to have been calling for an end to this because the rest of them say they pleaded with her to just do the correct thing and follow the same path as the Mayor and recuse herself from engaging in council discussions on something she was told she was in COI about. But she, like them, refused to follow advice ‘from the other side’, to come to a compromise. So they all ended up in court over it and we all will pay the price.
Let’s be clear on this: under the rules in BC a local council doesn’t have a COI Commissioner to consult with like the Legislature does so thev, council, need to talk it out and work it out. If they cannot their choices are capitulate to the offender or take them to court. Put another way: The offending councilor has to agree they are in error and go along with the rest of council once they’ve been found COI. Councilor Butler took the opposite tack and got her own lawyer resulting in a different legal opinion which she decided to go with and refused to ‘not fight’ council. She has that right.
It’s almost like they’re all playing Chicken with taxpayer bought cars. And taxpayers pay the damages later on. Maybe one could say that council only sees room in town for one Demolition Derby: Council’s own.
Councilor Butler writes “Sadly, it would appear that the some people at city hall are not prepared to move forward collegially“. This is immediately followed by what she sees as an example of this “the city issued a blatantly misleading press release stating that I had been found in a conflict without stating the judge’s final ruling. All hopes I had for putting this behind us were crushed!”
Hmmm … didn’t she do that same thing in her own ‘release’ on facebook? If memory serves her stripped down version did not include any part where she was actually found to be in a Conflict Of Interest even though that was the case as stated in other parts of the judgement.
Unlike the City’s Press Release Butler’s was on a social network where a ‘conversation’ could be engaged in. That conversation thread got quite long and ran for a few days so she had ample chance to add clarifications but she did not. She left it to her supporters who were more inclined to argue. So is she not also doing the same cherry picking spin on the result as she accuses council of? When it’s bad if they do it to you but justified when you do it to them then, to me, it’s another example of the human trait of being blind to your own behaviours running against your public pronouncements. Nothing new here. I leave it you, dear reader, to come up with the appropriate term.
Over the next few days her supporters, in that conversation thread, proceeded to engage in acrimonious attacks on the group, COPP, that brought her possible COI to council’s attention. (a COI that the judge found to be in fact true albeit a minor one) And since I am the only publicly admitted member of that group I bore the brunt of those attacks. Attacks where I was told that I should be paying all the legal bills because it was a letter from the COPP that instigated the whole thing … this by someone very close to her on a conversation thread she herself initiated. Which means she had to be aware of them but chose not to intervene and keep it ‘collegial’.
From the words of Councilor Butler and her supporters it is very clear that this will not stop until she is completely vindicated by bringing the rest of council to heal and forcing them to admit they were bad to her and wrong about her. And if that costs more money and energy well apparently her ends justifies spending our means to get there.
The rest of Council reacted negatively to Councilor Butler’s report, very negatively. Every councilor at the table had words to say on this – even the Mayor. And they weren’t happy with Councilor Butler. You can listen in below. The meeting video should begin at 7:50 or so in.
Around 26 minutes in the Mayor asks for a motion to stop talking about the case of Councilor Butler in council meetings unless new information comes forward. Butler was the only No vote. Krog was absent.
Council may hope this is all over but I do not know how they can realistically expect it to go that way. A technique used by some members of this council is to introduce things in their personal report to council that they want to be discussed. That way it is ‘on the agenda’ and their supporters can bring it up in Question Period. And at least one of the candidates running for election apparently says things that lead one to understand this fight will carry on.
What does it mean when every councilor present but one is on one side of an argument? Could they all be wrong?
I have heard Councilor Hammet say she would like to get council to release the minutes of in-camera meetings so the public could see what they have had to put up with when the cameras are not watching. I would hope that would help clear the air but I also suspect it would just feed more fuel into the fire burning away at council’s ability to shift into any forward gear except Slow.
But hey – it makes for exciting fare at council meetings.
addendum: A note about that letter from the COPP that suggested Councilor Butler was COI.
Councilor Butler’s supporters push the idea that this group, and Note, is to blame for all her woes.
Let’s follow that line of reasoning in some examples.
You head off for a an extended summer vacation and on your return find out your neighbour has constructed something that encroaches on your property. It might be a new garage. You ask them to fix it and they say too late, too bad. You head off to the city and find out they didn’t get any development variance clearance to get permission – in fact they didn’t even get a building permit or surveyor. Council eventually enforces the rules and their building is removed at their expense. They are out of pocket many thousands of dollars and they blame it all on you. Really? How is that your fault?
You see a car being operated erratically and phone 911. The police show up and arrest the driver because they are Drunk. They lose their license and because they need to drive for work they lose their job as well. Their life and marriage fall apart because of this and they blame you. It’s all your fault for calling the cops they say. Sorry but not the case.
You pay attention to local government. You see a person elected on an issue they appeared petitioning against in front of council. An issue where they clearly stated that their business would be negatively impacted if council’s plans go forward. Now they are on council, still have their business and are engaging in deliberations about the topic they tied to impacts on their business. From your knowledge and experience you see a potential Conflict Of Interest and being an civic minded citizen you warn council of a potential problem by dropping off a note at city hall. City Hall checks into it with their lawyers and finds you were correct. They cannot resolve it among themselves (for whatever reason) and take the only other road they can which leads to court. At which point the councilor’s supporters blame it all on you. Really?
The judge found that at the time of the note being dropped off at city hall councilor Butler was in fact in Conflict Of Interest. A minor one that a new person on council might make. The note was the only thing that brings the COPP into this. It did not say give her the boot – it did not say anything about what council should do about it. What happened afterwards cannot be blamed on that note or that group.
Trying to blame COPP for what followed is the same as saying that whenever someone exercises their right, and civic duty, to tell an authority about a possible transgression they are then responsible for everything that happens as a result. As the examples above point out that is ludicrous at best and a threat to citizens’ exercising their rights at worst. We do live in a democracy and elected officials are not above the rules – its just too bad the mechanisms don’t exist to make rule following easy or cheap at this level of government. But the blame for that lies with a higher level of government …