Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has missed several Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) board meetings over the course of 2021 so far, but he denies his regular volunteering has anything to do with those absences.
For the past year, Basran has spent most Thursday mornings from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. volunteering at Kelowna General Hospital’s (KGH) coffee shop — a gig that earned the 43-year-old politician an early COVID-19 vaccination. The RDCO board of directors, of which Basran is a member, also meets on some Thursday mornings at 8:30 a.m.
RDCO board members have met on six Thursdays in 2021 for board meetings, government and service committee meetings, or both. According to meeting minutes, Basran has missed five of those. Three other meetings have fallen on Mondays and Basran has attended each one.
Basran claims he’s not skipping RDCO meetings to volunteer but has been attending immovable “personal appointments” on Thursday mornings over the past two months. He did not divulge the nature of those appointments, only calling the matter “private.”
Those appointments were at 10 a.m. on Thursday mornings, with the final one having occurred on April 8. On the days there was a board meeting that conflicted with that appointment, Basran chose to pull short shifts at the coffee shop rather than attending the meeting due to the fact he would’ve had to leave early.
Before the appointments began earlier this year, Basran said he attended Thursday RDCO meetings instead of working at the coffee shop, pointing to his attendance at 2020 meetings as proof. Meeting minutes show he missed just two of 20 meeting days in 2020.
For all but one of the meetings he missed in 2021, Kelowna councillor Mohini Singh appeared in his stead in her role as alternate director. Singh fills in when any of the seven Kelowna city council members who serve on the RDCO board can’t attend. She says she doesn’t know why Basran has been unable to attend.
“It’s none of my business,” said Singh. “I don’t ask anybody why I’m going and they’re not; I just go.”
Singh is remunerated for her time on a per-meeting basis, but Basran confirmed he also gets paid for meetings he doesn’t attend. RDCO financial disclosures from 2019 show board members earned $18,552 that year, regardless of attendance.
Basran said he still does the work, studying the items on the agenda, contributing his opinions in advance of the meetings. He likened his absences to taking paid personal time for appointments at any ordinary job.
“I don’t see why, just because I’m an elected official, I should be treated any differently,” Basran said.
Board chair Gail Given said Basran informed her he would be missing certain meetings and he has not breached the Local Government Act, which states board members are disqualified from service after four consecutive absences at regularly scheduled board meetings. Due to the Monday meetings Basran participated in, he did not miss four in a row.
Now that the appointments have ended, Basran said he’ll be able to attend meetings from now on, barring an illness or other personal circumstance.
Basran also rejected social media accusations that he only began volunteering at KGH to get an early vaccination.
Given he’s 43 years old, Basran shouldn’t be eligible for inoculation under B.C.’s vaccination rollout plan for a few months. But along with hundreds of other healthcare volunteers in the Interior Health region, Basran received his first dose due to his proximity to health-care workers and hospital patients.
Basran said he reached out to the KGH Foundation looking for volunteer opportunities as soon as the pandemic began. As soon as it was safe to do so, the foundation let Basran work at the coffee shop.
“I understand peoples’ frustration, but I didn’t make the rules in terms of volunteers being allowed to get their vaccine. It wasn’t created for me,” he said.
“The only reason I’m being scrutinized is because of my position, but I’m a volunteer just like anyone else.”
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