Coun. Kari Gares would like to see a limit to how long a politician can serve on an individual board, in order to eliminate the appearance of bias. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Coun. Kari Gares would like to see a limit to how long a politician can serve on an individual board, in order to eliminate the appearance of bias. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Time limit on Vernon committee terms shot down

Council considered limiting tenure of board appointments for elected officials

An effort to curb bias among Vernon’s political appointments has been defeated.

Coun. Kari Gares asked her counterparts to consider a policy that “encourages fairness, equality and effective succession planning when making committee appointment recommendations,” during the Monday, Dec. 14, council meeting.

“We’re heading into our third year and we have the same committee appointments, we’ve had very little change,” Gares said.

“Councils in the past have not shown fairness, there have been systemic problems,” she said.

Aside from the mayor, who Gares said should be a constant at the Regional District of North Okanagan and Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, she wants to see a variety of faces and opinions on various boards.

“Such policy should limit the length of tenure an elected official can sit on a board or a committee during their term,” Gares said.

She said such a policy would limit the perception of personal bias and would give each elected official the opportunity to broaden their knowledge horizon.

Coun. Scott Anderson, who has yet to serve a term at GVAC or RDNO, agreed.

“I see this as a failure of leadership frankly. I’ve been here for six years, approaching my seventh year.”

While he has lobbied to have Anderson on the RDNO board, Coun. Brian Quiring did not agree with his colleagues.

“You’re not happy that you didn’t get a turn. And I don’t blame you for a second that you’re frustrated,” Quiring said.

But he believes that the long-standing representation Vernon has at RDNO with Coun. Akbal Mund is invaluable.

“I look at Coun. Mund and I say we are lucky to have an ex-mayor and a councillor on our team. We would be doing our community a disservice if we didn’t allow him to serve on that board again.”

Any alternate director on a committee can also attend the meetings, and even participate, they just can’t vote, Mund reminded his colleagues.

“Coldstream councillors do it all the time, they are always there.”

Mayor Victor Cumming and Coun. Kelly Fehr agreed that representation by someone with experience and who has built relationships with the other committee members is invaluable.

“Both at GVAC and RDNO some of the issues that have been addressed were long-standing issues that we weren’t getting a move on,” Cumming said. “We had significant movement around water which we hadn’t had in 17 years.”

Gares was commended by the mayor and her colleagues for bringing up the subject and sparking the “valuable discussion.” She also had previous politicians thank her for bringing it up.

But in the end, council defeated her proposal.

It was also questioned why no one spoke up against the committee recommendations when they were presented at the previous council meeting.

“It was unanimous. I don’t know why we would all vote in favour of the appointments if we were not happy with it,” Quiring said.

READ MORE: COVID-19 closes Vernon council meetings to the public

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Municipal Government