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Council in Focus

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

A brief recap of council meetings, as viewed from the gallery.

January 31, 2023 edition

Event: Lions Bay Council meeting

Time: 6:00 pm: closed session; open session commenced at 7:00 pm

Agenda & reading package: HERE

Video link: HERE


This was an epic council meeting, clocking in at more than three hours and forty-six tension-filled minutes, and that was only the public portion. The closed session was held for an hour before the meeting, and continued after the public session had concluded.


While a few references were made to Robert's Rules of Order, tempers ran high and the evening was marked by several heated exchanges as well as a number of unexpected revelations.


CAO Struggles Without Support Staff


Present at the council table were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillors Neville Abbott, Michael Broughton, and Marcus Reuter, acting Chief Administrative Officer Anthony Tobin and newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Ron Miller. Public Works Manager Nai Jaffer was present online. Marina Blagodarov attended in her role as Administrative Assistant. Onlookers, both in person and online, numbered twenty-seven attendees.


During discussion about the adoption of the agenda, Councillor Abbott expressed his concern with the late receipt of the agenda package, noting that he didn't have time to read the information prior to the meeting, and further requested that future reports be submitted for prior reading, rather than simply as a note indicating an oral report would be presented.


Councillor Reuter reiterated that the late receipt of the package affects the ability of council to respond intelligently. He also objected to procedural language within the agenda. Acting CAO Tobin responded that the delivery of the package of materials met the 24-hour-notice deadline, and further that he is struggling with a non-functional computer, a phone that is not working and no secretarial staff to assist in the production of the materials. Abbott asked that the oral reports be stricken from the agenda, but that motion was defeated.


After considerable discussion, the agenda was passed, with the addition of Abbott's request to address the recent posting of a clerical position added as a discussion item at the end of the agenda.


Public Participation:


  • Resident Tamara Leger asked if an individual named in an action through the BC Supreme Court in 2003, accused of malfeasence and wrong-doing with respect to public office, is the same Anthony Tobin as the village's current acting CAO. Tobin confirmed he was not the person accused in that case.

  • kc dyer asked whether council plans to continue holding an in camera session prior to every public session. Abbott noted that this practice had begun with the previous council during Covid, and a detailed explanation was offered as to the reasons for closed council sessions. It was not made clear if this policy will continue.

  • Karen Jeffries reiterated that the procedures policy regarding two-minute time limits for speakers has been in force and in active use since at least 2015.

  • Rose Dudley voiced her concerns that village staff postions for hire have not been widely posted and have gone to individuals who are acquaintances of the mayor and council. When she asked Ron Miller how he learned of the CFO postion, he said that he had heard about the job from Mayor Berry. When she asked if he had met with all the other councillors prior to accepting his position, Miller said he had not. She noted that the posting for clerk appeared online only in Lions Bay for a week, and not on a government site. Berry said that no one has yet been hired for the clerk's position. Rose Dudley's final comment was that hiring conducted in this manner could lead to an appearance of conflict of interest. Councillor Broughton noted that the fact that an individual is known by council members should not preclude them from consideration.


At this point there was some disagreement among councillors as to whether meetings with the new CFO had been facilitated or not. During discussion, both Reuter and Abbott requested that speeches be kept to a minimum.


  • kc dyer raised a point of procedure, and Mayor Berry clarified that with the current configuration of council, a tie vote is automatically defeated.

  • Rebecca Caspersen asked why signing authority was not removed from the previous CAO, in light of his termination. Tobin indicated that this matter was dealt with by council in a closed meeting, but was not yet resolved.

  • Karen Jeffries noted that according to the village organizational chart, the hiring authority rests with the CAO, and therefore does not require approval of or vetting by council.

Mischaracterization in Wording


Adopting of Minutes:

Before the minutes from the meeting on January 17, 2023 could be adopted, Abbott requested that the adoption be tabled to a future meeting to allow sufficient time to read the contents, and this was moved and passed. Reuter registered an objection to what he called a mischaracterization within the wording of the agenda to the special council meeting, called on January 13, 2023. He noted that the wording implies he and Abbott did not show up, when instead they both had clearly stated that they were unable to attend the meeting at the time it was called.

Abbott pointed out that the minutes (on page 17) reflect that the two councillors had indeed sent their regrets, and is different from the wording noted on the agenda.


Unfinished Business:

  • Highway maintenance follow-up is awaiting a report to be issued on February 28th. It was not made clear who will be issuing the report.

  • Reuters stated that the Speculation and Vacancy tax has come up repeatedly, and asked when a result could be expected. Mayor Berry said that things have been very busy, and that he would welcome Reuter's assistance. After further discussion, the issue remained unresolved.

  • Broughton noted that his request for information regarding First Nations acknowledgement in council also remains unresolved.

  • Both the pesticide by-law and the response to a resident regarding a suite charge were determined to have been resolved at the last council session.


Reports:


Berry led off by reiterating his Mayor's Report, published in the most recent Village Update.


In the CAO's Report, Tobin repeated his complaint that after a month in his position, he still had a dysfunctional "laptop computer" with a broken hard drive, a phone that doesn't work, files in his office that appear to have been there for five years, and no one to help him. He added that given what he has been used to in the past, it has been a struggle. He estimated there are 3,000 emails requiring a response, amidst the various issues the village has faced recently, including the resignation of the Chief Financial Officer and the complications of financial security. Tobin stated that he is addressing organizational issues through the hiring of a municipal clerk, which he noted is an administrative role in most municipalities. However, traditionally in Lions Bay, a Municipal Coordinator has worked with the CAO. That role has not been filled, and the position of Municipal Clerk has now been posted.


Abbott noted that none of the four small communities in the Vancouver region have a Municipal Clerk. Reuter added his concern that the Mayor's report in the most recent Village Update included information reported out of closed sessions without council approval.


CFO has Known and Worked with Mayor for Twenty-Five Years


Newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Ron Miller offered a verbal report. He introduced himself as a Chartered Accountant and a Charted Business Valuator, with a background in finance, accounting and auditing. He's been the CFO of a number of public companies and has recently retired as the managing partner of a chartered accounting firm in Vancouver.


He noted that he has worked with Berry's public companies as an auditor for at least twenty-five years. He stated his goals are to fill the role of the CFO and to determine what a community of this size needs in the finance department. He added that the existing staff are competant, but he is concerned that the budgeting process for 2023 is still not in place; which is about five months behind, considering this year is already upon us. He said the rolling five-year plan is established, but doesn't take the place of the actual budget. His principle concern is that one person in the office currently both prepares and signs the cheques, and he advocates a segregation of duties. This means the person who records transactions needs to be separate from the person who authorizes the expenditure, and again from the person who controls the assets. He notes the bank is willing to make a change in policy with a council resolution.


Mayor Not Clear on Number of Village Bank Accounts


Mayor Berry presented the Finance Committee Report, which reflected the new CFO's concerns - that the bank require two signatures on any payment or cheque, that those signatures come only from members of council, the CAO and the CFO, that a limit be placed on the cheque values and that any amount over that limit be subject to further assurances from the CAO, the Mayor or Acting Mayor. The second recommendation is that apparent vulnerabilities in the current banking system be addressed, and that controls be applied to all village bank accounts.


The Mayor noted that it is still "not clear" how many bank accounts are currently in place for the village.


The final recommendation is that the CFO seek to maximize treasury management for village funds that are not immediately earmarked for upcoming expenditures.


Broughton and Abbott noted that the Beach Park Committee will be meeting February 1, 2023 for the first time in the new slimmed-down version, and that a 'Have Your Say' can be expected sometime after February 6, so the rest of the village can contribute ideas.


With regard to the Metro Vancouver Committee Report, Mayor Berry reported that he has recently attended climate action and transit committees, where he has advocated for Lions Bay whenever possible.


Signing Authority of Previous Signatories Not Yet Rescinded


Resolutions:


  1. The first of the resolutions referred to bank signing authority. Broughton outlined his concerns regarding management of village finances, with support from Miller and Berry. Abbott expressed a worry that removing the signatory designation from the village accountant will limit her ability to do her job on a daily basis. Miller stressed that two signatures other than that of the person writing the cheque is a necessary separation of duties and is standard practice. Tobin noted that the signing authorities of the previous CAO and CFO have not yet been rescinded, nor has his own signing authority been implemented because a proper resolution has not yet been filed with the village's bank. Abbott said that a two-signature standard is already the accepted procedure in the village office. After protracted and often heated discussion, and an amendment to add the signature of the village accountant to the list of signatories, the motion passed.

  2. The next resolution addressed the appointment of Barret Germscheid as the new village Fire Chief. Discussion of this resolution was led by Abbott, who expressed his concern that an appointment was being made before contract negotiations had been undertaken. Tobin clarified that with regard to the Fire Chief, the appointment rests with council but administrative decisions rest with the CAO. Abbott and Reuter objected to the contract negotiations resting with the CAO when the salary of the fire chief is a budget issue. The initial motion to appoint the new fire chief was defeated. A second motion was passed, with the added amendment that the agreement will come back to the next council meeting in a report for information.

  3. The final resolution addressed the appointment of election officials and the setting of a date for the upcoming by-election. Reuter asked what the proposed costs would be and was assured by the CAO that he is seeking to keep the costs below the earlier quote of $35,000, provided by a contracted company. The CAO offered to meet with the CFO to establish an acceptable cost, and report back at the February 7, 2023 meeting, and the motion passed.

Bylaws:


A first draft of the garbage bylaw was presented for consideration. The CAO agreed to be provide a final draft for reconsideration at the February 7, 2023 meeting.


Correspondence:

(Correspondence is available to read, beginning on page 36 of the agenda package.)


A motion was made that going forward, correspondence would be received as acknowledged by staff and responded to by council should an action be required. Response to resident correspondence is rotated quarterly among council members.


Additional Item: Municipal Clerk posting


A final item added to the agenda by Abbott was the posting of the position of Municipal Clerk. He reiterated Rose Dudley's concerns from earlier in the evening, noting that the position doesn't currently exist on the village roster; and the posting was only made on the village site, not on any government site, and not even in the Village Update. Tobin noted that a posting had been made for Municipal Coordinator last fall, that closed in December. He said that none of the applicants had received a response and the position remains unfilled in spite of applications from as far away as India and Nigeria. He further stated that he has no support in his position on a personal level and he needs help with office duties. He said that to be efficient and serve the community better, he needs someone in place right now, and he plans to begin interviews next week. He noted that the new position of Municipal Clerk was "morphed" from the Municipal Coordinator role.


Heated Debate Over Hiring Freeze*


Reuter raised a question about the hiring freeze, which set off a debate as to whether the freeze, initially of a six-month duration and later amended to three-months, had not yet elapsed. Questions were raised about the hiring of the new CFO, the appointment of a Fire Chief and the posting of the Municipal Clerk position, and whether they were all compromised by the freeze.


Broughton stated that after the CFO's resignation, closely followed by the Works staff resignations, there was discussion about finding replacements for those existing postions. Reuter said that he had combed the minutes and found no evidence that the freeze had ever been formally rescinded. His conclusion was that the CFO may well have been hired in contravention of the hiring freeze, which could have been avoided if the matter had come before council.


Public Participation:

  • David Shore thanked the new CAO and CFO.

  • Tamara Leger asked if there was recourse to recapture the expense of the by-election from a candidate who bows out. Council response was that there are essentially no legal remedies.

  • Karen Jeffries also spoke to reinforce this point.

The meeting was formally extended, with the public portion of the meeting ending just before 10:45 pm.


The next regular council meeting is scheduled for February 7, 2023 at 6:00 pm. As of this writing, the agenda and associated information package has not yet been posted.


*Editor's Note: According to Mayor Berry's report in the February 3, 2023 issue of the Village Update, information about the hiring freeze was sourced and provided to council on February 1, 2023, confirming that the "hiring freeze was removed by Resolution at a Special Council Meeting held December 8th, 2022, effective December 16th, 2022."

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Thank you for this report. It is important for all Village residents to take the time and make sure they understand exactly what is entailed in the governance of the Village. If in doing so you see something that concerns you, then look into it so you know exactly what is taking place.

いいね!

Norma Rodgers
Norma Rodgers
2023年2月04日

Thank you kc for providing this service to the community, especially residents who are concerned but unwilling to watch 3 hours and 46 minutes of dysfunction. It must have been a gruelling task to summarize this uncomfortably contentious council meeting.

It is an appalling lack of transparency that CAO Tobin, with the support of Mayor Berry, only provides agendas 24 hours prior to the meeting and both neglect to provide written reports. Neither Councillors or residents are able to understand issues when information is withheld. While I appreciate the objections both Councillors Abbott and Reuter lodged about late agendas and oral reports by the Mayor and CAO, they are complicit by voting to terminate a well organized and municipal government…

いいね!

Thank you for his report 👍

いいね!

不明なメンバー
2023年2月04日

The letters to mayor and council, found starting on page 36 of the agenda package and accessible through the link found in the article are well worth the read.

いいね!
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