BY BILL PHILLIPS
Victoria has sent Isabell Hadford into McBride to help the municipality deal with the sudden resignation of three councillors.
Coun. Sharon Reichert, Coun. Ralph Bezanson and Coun. Edith Tracey tendered their resignations November 18, leaving only Mayor Loranne Martin and Coun. Rick Thompson on council. Not being able to form a quorum, the village council could not conduct any business.
On November 29, Community Minister Peter Fassbender signed a ministerial order to allow the remaining two members of council to constitute a quorum until the vacancies are filled through a by-election.
The ministry has now appointed Hadford – a former municipal chief administrative officer in British Columbia with 25 years’ experience in smaller, rural communities – as municipal advisor who will begin her work with the village immediately. Hadford will work with McBride municipal staff, council and the community to stabilize short-term municipal operations and help support long-term confidence in the municipality. The advisor will report directly to the inspector of municipalities.
On November 21, Martin issued a statement on the city’s website announcing the resignations and saying that several council meetings have been cancelled due to a lack of quorum. A day later, November 22, Martin posted another statement claiming that “three councillors refused to attend regular council meetings, despite legislation, and then held their own special meetings at time when the mayor was expected to be unavailable.”
Martin also claimed there are human rights complaints against two of the councillors, and a WorkSafeBC claim of bullying and harassment against two councillors.“When the village indicated the ministry and solicitor would attend a meeting to discuss this conduct, the three councillors resigned,” the notice stated.
The inspector of municipalities met with the remaining McBride council members and staff to discuss the role of the advisor and emphasize expectations for the two-member council while they act in their limited capacity.
Council’s immediate priority is to appoint a chief election officer and deputy chief election officer to run a by-election. Council is expected to meet on Dec. 19, 2016, to appoint the chief election officer.
Experienced elections staff from the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George have indicated they are available to support McBride’s by-election. The date for the municipal by-election must fall on a Saturday no later than 80 days after the appointment of the chief election officer.