Offside at RDNO

Beyond the headlines

The public’s business was benched at the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Just 45 minutes into their regularly scheduled June 15 meeting, directors made the unprecedented decision to suspend the public proceedings until June 16 so they could watch game seven of the Stanley Cup.

That meant that directors from Cherryville, Trinity Valley and Enderby would have to make a second trip to the RDNO office in 24 hours. It’s taxpayers who pay for that mileage.

It will also be interesting to know if directors get paid for just one meeting or does this count as two? In terms of staff, the extended schedule meant that more work went untouched on their desks.

But those concerns pale in comparison to the treatment of three groups that appeared before the board June 15. Usually, directors discuss delegations’ concerns or requests at the same meeting, but that got pushed to June 16. So unless they made another trip to RDNO, the delegations were not able to hear the debate behind any decisions the directors made.

Staff informed me that only one group was actually in need of a decision from the board, but it shouldn’t matter if it is one or a dozen. Groups approaching their elected officials should not be given the run-around. It was extremely disrespectful.

Some politicians insisted that suspending a meeting to another day is perfectly legal under procedures. But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Regular meeting schedules are established at the beginning of each calendar year to provide some consistency for politicians and bureaucrats. And while RDNO meetings don’t draw much of a crowd, advance notice gives residents the opportunity to attend if they want.

The public was not given any notice of last week’s meeting being carried over to Thursday so there was no chance to scrutinize their representatives or to become more informed about issues of importance. Transparency was completely undermined.

Trafford Hall, RDNO’s new administrator, stated that, “In two years time, will anyone remember this agenda? But in two years, we will remember we won the Stanley Cup.”

Beyond an unsuccessful prediction of a Canucks victory, the point of an elected board isn’t to wind up in the history books but to represent the public in an open process.

A similar issue arose in 2010 when some directors wanted to scrap a regular meeting because it conflicted with opening night of the Interior Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong, The chairperson disagreed and the meeting went ahead as planned.

I opposed the decision to ignore the IPE and I still do. Given that the IPE is an economic catalyst that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the region and it’s hosted by two of RDNO’s member jurisdictions, the people’s business would be done by going to the fair. Opening night also included a reception in which officials were invited. Their no-show was a slap in the face to the hard-working volunteers who make the IPE a success year after year.

Is hockey Canada’s sport? Yes. Would it have been nice if the Cup came back to Canada after an 18-year hiatus? Yes. Was it vital to the interests of North Okanagan residents that politicians watch TV at home or in a bar? No.

Such a flagrant approach by directors and administration could ultimately leave residents with the perception that the RDNO board is more of an old boy’s club that does what it wants than a relevant democratic institution.

RDNO gets two minutes for interference.

– Richard Rolke is the senior reporter at The Morning Star. He writes a weekly column for the newspaper.