Mayor offers apology following council fracas

But says staff did nothing wrong introducing budget plan revision.

A controversy boiling over the District of Sooke’s amendment to the municipality’s five-year financial plan has been put on simmer by Mayor Maja Tait.

Or at least she hopes.

Tait publicly apologized to council-watcher Gail Hall at last week’s council meeting.

Hall was interrupted by Tait several times at the Dec. 9 council meeting.

Municipal staff cleared the room when Hall began questioning the validity of the bylaw, expenditures and the integrity of staff.

“Council is being misled on this. This staff report is not accurate. [The bylaw amendment] brought forward tonight is not legal,” Hall said at the time.

Once staff cleared council chamber, Hall was interrupted by the mayor at least twice as she attempted to speak to council. Hall left the chambers frustrated.

“If a member of the public has a valid concern, they should be able to speak to council without interruption,” Tait said Friday.

“It’s hypocritical of me to say, ‘Yes, I want to hear from you,’ but I’m going to keep interrupting repeatedly. So by the time that happened, I could see why she was frustrated. It hasn’t sat with me at all on how I handled that situation.”

The 2016-2020 five-year financial plan amendment bylaw was introduced by the district’s finance department in November.

Council must amend the financial plan to include the expenditures and the funding source for the expenditure that was not included in the original bylaw.

Local governments have the legislative authority to amend their five-year financial plan, by bylaw, at any point during the year, according to the Community Charter, the provincial legislation covering municipal government.

And despite concerns by some on the legality of the financial plan amendment, the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is not aware of any investigation into the District of Sooke for financial impropriety.

“Staff brought it forward because it’s required,” Tait said.

And she admitted council did waver off the financial plan with several major projects not forecasted in last year’s budget, including bringing the parks department and the sewage treatment facility in house.

“In this case, so many decisions fell outside the financial plan,” Tait said.

“I think it was not realizing when we made decisions to move the district business in house the budget was so slim and trim that it didn’t have any room for items that council wanted to see happen. It’s all fine to have a slim and trim budget but then there’s no contingency for other things that come up.”

Tait said in the future the district won’t wait until the end of the year to bring forward financial plan amendments, but will introduce them when needed immediately.

“There’s a process that must be followed. We might even look at doing it quarterly, but meanwhile because it’s so timely and such a new thing, let’s get back on track here for a bit,” she said.

 

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