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Petition to remove Splatsin councillor from office fails

Theresa William’s paid suspension was lifted by a Splatsin Complaints and Appeal Board decision
The Splatsin Complaints and Appeal Board has dismissed a petition to remove councillor Theresa William from office. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

A petition to remove a Splatsin councillor from her position has been reviewed, discussed, and thrown out.

Theresa William was suspended with pay on Aug. 3 after a petition was submitted by Splatsin member Vikki Tronson to have her removed from office, alleging William violated “policies, procedures, codes, and charters” by aiding a protest at the Splatsin Development Corporation building during a company board meeting on April 17.

William was then acting as a board member of the Splatsin Development Corporation, but has since resigned.

Several protesters who believed Splatsin chief and council were not providing adequate leadership for the community entered the building holding signs with slogans such as ‘New Election.’ Other protesters also used vehicles to form a blockade of key band buildings including the Splatsin Community Centre, the Splatsin Health Centre and the band office.

Tronson alleged that William unlocked and propped open a door to the office where the board meeting was taking place, allowing the protesters to gain entry.

According to a decision by the Splatsin Complaints and Appeal Board published on the Splatsin website, William admitted to letting the protesters inside, however, she said she did so unintentionally.

By allowing the protesters entry, Tronson alleged William “compromised the safety of all board members and employees of the (Splatsin Development Corporation),” and allowed the protesters to “interrupt business and harass/verbally abuse the board and staff.”

William said she had not intentionally opened the door for the protesters. Rather, she held the door open for an elder after coming in from a smoke break and the five protesters followed the elder in.

“She realized the group of people walking through were demonstrators as one individual was beating a handheld drum, but by that time, that group had already walked through the door she opened in order for her to exit to take her smoke break,” reads the section of the decision detailing William’s position.

As evidence, Tronson submitted a workplace investigation report by Highbridge Human Capital as well as four video clips. There was a question as to whether the videos were obtained illegally (the petitioner claimed they were dropped off at her front door on a USB stick), but the board ultimately decided they were not. The Highbridge report was not tendered as evidence “due to both credibility and reliability issues.”

A hearing was held on Aug. 22 for the Complaints and Appeal Board to receive evidence and arguments. The hearing was live-streamed to community members at the Splatsin Community Centre.

Prior to the hearing, William requested that band member Gloria Morgan act as her legal advocate. Morgan, a former lawyer, has been an outspoken advocate of a change in band leadership and took part in the April 17 protest following a vote of non-confidence in December. The board allowed Morgan to act as a “helper” for William, rather than as legal counsel, as she was not currently a practicing lawyer.

According to a description of Tronson’s evidence, Edna Felix attended the demonstration and indicated she “kind of” had a role in planning the demonstration. She said the purpose for the demonstration was to show that the Splatsin people had no confidence in the chief and council, and said the protest outside the band offices came from “the failure to heed the petition that was signed by 158 band members to call a new election.”

The board found that William was not aware the demonstration was to take place after the five demonstrators entered the building while she was taking her smoke break.

“The respondent had no knowledge or any active participation in the demonstration or its planning.”

The board also found that the demonstrators “spoke in a calm voice, stating that the councillors and corporation did not have authority and that all persons needed to leave.”

Eight days after the incident, William apologized to the Splatsin Development Corporation board and chief and council.

The board ultimately decided Tronson had not met the burden of proof to remove William from office, dismissing the petition and immediately lifting William’s temporary suspension. It called William’s act of allowing the protesters into the building “a momentary lapse in judgement” that she later showed contrition for.

READ MORE: Splatsin councillor suspended, petition launched to remove her from council

READ MORE: Petitions against suspended Splatsin chief dismissed

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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