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Council in Focus, May edition

Updated: May 24

A brief recap of Council meetings, as viewed from the gallery


May 21, 2024 Edition

Event: Lions Bay Council Meeting

Time: Public meeting: 7 p.m.

Agenda: HERE

Video (1 of 3): HERE

Video (2 of 3): HERE

Video (3 of 3): HERE


Present at the council table were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillors Neville Abbott, Jaime Cunliffe, and Marcus Reuter, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ross Blackwell and (for the last time) Deputy Corporate Officer Marina Blagodarov. Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff sat in the gallery, and joined the table to give his report. Councillor Michael Broughton was absent for the open portion of the meeting, attending a Lions Bay Graduation event.


The gallery was packed with 10 residents in attendance, and online viewers topped out at 22.


The meeting began with a closed session at 6 p.m. When the public portion of the meeting opened at 7 p.m., Council offered no public reporting-out. The agenda was adopted without amendments.


Public Participation:

A number of residents attended the meeting both in person and online to share concerns about the recent 2022 Audit and 2022 Annual Report.

  • Resident Gail Craig offered her concerns about the 'Mayor's Message' element of the 2022 Annual Report. "Please put to rest this idea that ‘change, and grappling with the preservation of traditional practices’  is the problem we have with the current administration. We welcome change, when it comes with competence, fiscal responsibility, transparency, accountability and municipal knowledge. What we have had instead is a previous fully experienced and competent municipally trained staff who were fired or made to feel so uncomfortable that they fled, flagrant over-spending, and the speeches and grandstanding that continue on, even in this Annual Report." She asked why the 2022 report referenced many items more pertinent to 2023.


Regarding the auditor’s management report, Craig said that the information in the auditor’s report should be of profound concern to every resident, and asked what changes were made in the four-month delay between the first audit presentation in December and the second on April 16.


Councillor Neville Abbott said it was "common knowledge" that the delay was caused by the auditors, and that the nothing of substance changed in the report over the four month delay. He suggested residents read the audit letter to understand the delay. Councillor Marcus Reuter later added that the delay was not caused by Council, and while he could not say what did cause it, he noted that many around the Council table regretted it.


  • Resident Kambiz Azgordegan declined to stand at the podium when directed, and said that no one has responded to his repeated emails requesting the closure of the Kelvin Grove parking lot after 10 p.m. He also repeated his request that Council erect a barrier across the parking lot. Mayor Ken Berry said that the task force recommendations have been put in front of Council, but a parking committee has not yet been struck. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Blackwell called this a "tricky issue, because the nature of a public beach is that it is for the public."

  • Leslie Nolin, a 28 year resident of the village, addressed comments in the Mayor's Message in the 2022 Annual Report that called out residents who have found themselves grappling with the preservation of traditional practices, and that it's "become evident that returning to the 'the good old days’ is not feasible.”  Nolin called this language divisive. "So bylaws, policies, procedures, fiscal responsibility and accountability are traditional?" she asked, adding that these are actually essential practices that are taught in schools. Noting that the message reads 'on behalf of council,' she asked Councillors individually if the letter represented their thoughts. "I have known many of you for years," she said, "and it doesn’t sound like you."


Abbott reminded everyone that this was the much-delayed 2022 report, and two of the present Councillors were on previous council. He said all the Councillors he had spoken to were "affronted" by the Mayor's message, and that it doesn't represent their views. He noted that the final report does not have to be received until June 18. Councillor Marcus Reuter said the Mayor's message "in no way" represents his voice. Berry said that there hasn't been a lot of collaboration on Council, and the disfunction has caused angst. As he began to reiterate his financial management concerns, Blackwell stepped in to caution those at the table. "This is way off-side. This is not a strata meeting. This is a formal meeting of local government, pursuant to the statutes set out by the Province of BC. There should be none of this dialogue."


  • Long-time resident Rebecca Caspersen began by thanking those who approved and installed the signage preventing parking by the fire hydrant on Mountain Drive. She noted that since the onset of spring, residents of Mountain, Bayview and Sunset have faced weekends filled with "continual traffic and visitors parking wherever they please – in no parking zones, on blind corners, in resident-only spaces, with NO repercussions." She added that the current job postings for bylaw and parking patrol positions were posted far too late into the season, and while bylaw is helpful, on its own it is not a solution to parking and traffic issues. "Why are we putting visitors before residents? Why have we not implemented a registration system and improved signage? Why was bylaw not hired in a timely manner? Why are vehicles not towed when they cause safety concerns?" She reminded Council that an election campaign promise was to improve the parking situation, "but it has actually gotten worse." She asked what action residents can expect this season.


  • With regard to the BDO audit management letter, Caspersen noted how the letter identifies concerns around hiring practices, public statements around financial controls without sufficient and appropriate information, missing minutes and lack of internal controls. "These are the very concerns raised by residents and minimized and dismissed by some of you at the table. This treatment of outspoken residents, the ones who possibly voted for you, pay taxes and whom you provide a service to, has been in my opinion, deplorable." She noted how the letter mentions that failing to support the internal control environment can diminish service quality to residents while increasing overall costs, and said that this "has certainly been the case." Caspersen asked that action be taken to address these concerns.


  • Norma Rodgers was the fourth (and final) long-time resident to address concerns regarding the BDO Audit Letter, noting that it verified resident concerns about financial mismanagement and Council operations, including: 

    • Hiring key positions without seeking qualified people and ignoring employment procedures.

    • Announcing publicly about supposed 2022 financial “mismanagement”, contrary to facts known to the auditor.

    • Disregarding the Community Charter by not completing and approving minutes for Council and Finance Committee meetings in a timely manner.

    • Failing to properly communicate or provide materials during the audit process, causing a 10 month delay and resulting in substantially increased audit fees.

    • Personally contacting auditors and bankers, contrary to the Village’s communications policy.

Rogers said that residents do indeed want the “good old days” referred to in the 2022 Annual Report, because that was "when the Village easily met all financial deadlines and followed procedures." She noted that residents do prefer the preservation of traditional practices, "because they were rule-based, professional, and did not cost the village hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted fees."


Berry began to respond, but stopped when once again cautioned by Blackwell.


Delegation:

Lions Bay Store owner Craig Doherty asked for a Noise Bylaw exemption for store events from June 1-September 30, until 2026. Later in the meeting, a resolution approved the exemption for this summer only, and Council requested that Doherty reapply annually.


Review and Approval of Minutes of Prior Meetings:

The minutes from the Regular Council meeting held April 16, 2024 (beginning on page 7 of the agenda package), and the Special Council meetings held April 23, 24 and May 7 (beginning page 17), were adopted.


Business Arising:

Referencing the minutes from the April 16 meeting, Reuter reiterated his request that the Mayor provide Council with the letter from the province received last December with regard to the SUV tax, and he asked that this request be added to the action list of Unfinished Business for upcoming meetings.


Unfinished Business:

The list of unfinished action items can be found on page 24. Items specifically addressed included:

  • Abbott reiterated that the rain barrel issue has been dealt with by the Climate Action Committee (CAC), and should be marked as complete.

  • Abbott also noted that research is still underway with regard to the BC Nature Municipal Protected Areas Project.


Staff Reports:

  • Blackwell presented a list of potential conferences in 2024 for elected officials (page 25), with options to attend the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the Local Government Leadership Academy (LGLA), the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA). Blackwell recommended attendance at the LMLGA and UBCM. After discussion, a motion was passed that those who have expressed interest be allowed to attend the UBCM, including the CAO. Blackwell noted that attendance at the UBCM by all councillors would cost $4,000, and asked for a final decision from everyone by the end of the week.

  • Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff presented the 2022 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI), beginning on page 30. He recommended that the SOFI report be approved as written, for submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and a motion to that effect was passed. No one at the table mentioned that the report is a year overdue.

  • Fire Chief Barret Germscheid was scheduled to offer an update on Wildfire and Fire Smart activities, but was out of the country and unable to attend.


Mayor's Report:

The Mayor offered a series of verbal reports asking Council to:

  • authorize the CAO to initiate “Key Recommendations” as outlined by the Province of British Columbia’s Municipal Advisor Randy Diehl and the office of the Inspector of Municipalities

  • direct the CAO to draft a new Code of Conduct, as outlined by Diehl and recommended by the UBCM

  • direct the CAO to continue to update the Council’s Procedure Bylaw to strengthen the key areas of governance and operations

  • authorize the CAO to initiate a policy to reduce the misuse of the communication system, specifically no emails after 9 p.m., no attack emails and respectful wording

  • authorize the CAO to update all existing bylaws, as necessary, in priority order

  • direct the CAO to seek legal advice/assistance to draft documents on an “as and when needed” basis

After discussion, Council opted not to support any of these initiatives, noting that most have already been addressed or are underway.

Emergency Reports:

Fire Rescue Dispatch Report for April, 2024 (page 64).

11 incidents were reported, along with 18 usages of apparatus. 52 members attended incidents.


Correspondence:

The list of correspondence begins on page 69 of the agenda package. Councillor Jaime Cunliffe is now responding on behalf of Council.


  • General correspondence began with two letters from Nora Maddox on the subject of weather modification versus climate change (pages 70 and 71).

  • Cathy Peters wrote to thank Mayor Berry for writing a letter to protest serial killer Robert Pickton's release on parole, and offered a plea to stop human trafficking (page 72).

  • Alex Pawliuk wrote in support of wildfire prevention and suppression (page 74).

  • Andy Tompsen wrote of his objections to land acknowledgements (page 79).


Resident correspondence begins on page 80 of the agenda package.

  • Norma Rodgers wrote about her concerns regarding the BDO Management letter (page 82).

  • Gail Craig addressed transparency and accountability with regard to the Mayor's Messages found in the Village Update, the 2022 audit and 2022 Annual Report.  (page 83). In response to the letters from Rodgers and Craig, and to the concerned residents who spoke out earlier, Reuter said he is hoping council will follow BDO's recommendations to solve outstanding problems. "I think it's time for this council to show some contrition and humility, to resolve to do better and address these concerns."

  • Byron Montgomery wrote about the Highway and Noise Committee and the Beach Park. (page 85). Cunliffe said she will respond, and make herself available to attend the Highway group as an observer.

  • Jennifer Heatherington wrote about a damaged kayak and the Beach Park (page 86).

  • Brian wrote about the hiring practices with regard to bylaw officers (page 87). In response, Blackwell noted that Council's decisions mean there should be no more seasonal gaps and there will be more than one full-time officer during high season. He said interviews are taking place with a goal to have staff in place for June 1.


No further comments were offered from the public gallery so the open portion of the meeting adjourned.


Following the final closed portion of the meeting, Council returned to say that a Lions Bay Citizen of the Year has been decided, and will be awarded by Councillor Cunliffe at an upcoming event, but that there will be no Citizen of Distinction for 2024. The Curly Stewart Award recipient will be announced at the graduation ceremony of the recipient.


And with that, the meeting adjourned for the evening. The next meeting of Council will be a Committee of the Whole, scheduled for June 4.




As always, The Watershed welcomes your thoughts. Leave your comments below, or email us at editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca 

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Lions Bay is fortunate to have Chief Administrative Officer Ross Blackwell keeping council on track.

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