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Ministry rejects any claims of wrongdoing
Demands for Coldstream council’s activities to be scrutinized have hit a dead-end.
The Greater Vernon Governance Society wants the provincial government to review actions taken by Coldstream council prior to it deciding not to support a study into possibly merging local jurisdictions.
“Coldstream council has done nothing wrong and was within its rights to do what it did,” said MLA Eric Foster, who has consulted with the Ministry of Community Development.
The society accuses Coldstream council of not following proper process.
“Their actions of meeting as a quorum with the Coldstream Ratepayers Association, and encouraging the 60 ratepayers in attendance at that meeting to come out and support their position to not agree to any study, clearly shows they had predetermined their decision because of their personal biases toward not changing the governance structure in the area,” states a society release.
“We believe, in common with other municipal jurisdictions, councillors should not offer personal opinions in public forums, and when a quorum of elected officials is present and speaking on a topic, formal minutes should be taken and entered into the public record.”
However, Foster anticipates there won’t be a ministry review as Coldstream politicians were attending a community meeting and not a session of council.
Foster added that when he was mayor of Lumby, he attended meetings held by local groups.
“Council members are citizens of the community and entitled to their opinions.”
Bruce Shepherd, society president, defends asking the ministry to get involved.
“Their actions are unprecedented in terms of how it was handled,” he said of council’s attendance at the ratepayers meeting.
“We want the minister to say if it was appropriate or not.”
Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor, says he is frustrated with the society’s approach.
“They’re saying we don’t have the right to attend a meeting and express our opinion. On Thursday, I was at the chamber and expressed my views and the chamber supports a governance study,” he said.
Garlick points out that an official quorum of council does not apply to gatherings held by third-party organizations.
“It wasn’t our meeting,” he said of the ratepayers.
Vernon has called for a provincial study of governance options but the ministry has stated that will only happen if another jurisdiction agrees to the process.
“Our council has already dealt with the issue. We are not pursuing it,” said Garlick.
Rob Sawatzky, Vernon mayor, is not surprised by the position taken by the government and he isn’t sure if the city will still ask Vernon voters if they support a study.
“It costs nothing to put a question on the ballot and it’s a way to gauge the views of the public,” he said.