Sooke District staff abruptly walks out of meeting

Council-watcher questions finance bylaw and expenditures 'illegal'

Several District of Sooke staff abruptly walked out of a council meeting Monday night during a discussion of a bylaw amendment to the municipality’s five-year financial plan.

The staff cleared the room when council-watcher Gail Hall questioned the validity of the bylaw and expenditures.

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

“The money has already been spent … those were illegal expenditures.”

With that, Mayor Maja Tait halted the meeting to allow staff to leave.

“Comments that have been made have had an impact on my ability to have a safe working environment [for staff] and some of those comments have been allegations of staff doing something criminal or untoward,” Tait said.

It was a comment not accepted by Hall.

“That’s got nothing to do with this,” Hall said. “I’m trying to tell you that you can’t … you know what – shove it.”

Hall then walked out, despite an offer from Tait to continue her questions and comments to council.

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

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, according to the Community Charter, the provincial legislation that covers municipal councils.

Financial plan amendments are not unusual, with New Westminster, Richmond, West Vancouver, Cowichan Valley Regional District, Grand Forks, Penticton, North Vancouver, Golden and Smithers tabling similar documents.

Finance director Brent Blackhall said he did not receive any inquiries about the bylaw amendment before Monday’s meeting. The information was released in mid-November.

On Monday, two speakers stepped forward – Britt Santowski, the writer of a local blog, and Hall. Santowski questioned the use of the corporate services contingency fund.

Disagreements between Hall, district staff and council have brewed for months.

In June, the District of Sooke wrote a cease and desist order to Hall asking her to stop bullying and defaming staff, said Teresa Sullivan, the district’s chief administrative officer, adding she has received three staff complaints.

Hall has gone to the RCMP on several occasions with complaints about the district, Sullivan said. The RCMP were unavailable for comment.

WorkSafe B.C. regulations require any employer to provide a safe workplace for its staff that’s free of harassment and bullying. “I take that role very seriously,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said her staff will walk out again if Hall or any other member of the public comes to council and starts defaming staff, admitting the walkout was planned to protect staff.

“The staff certainly heard and understood the concerns (about the financial plan amendment) put forward by council and members of the public, but to say a report is illegal or some untoward activity occurred, I find troubling,” Tait said.

Council passed the five-year financial plan amendment bylaw unanimously.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Food safety a good practice amid COVID-19 concerns

BC Centre for Disease Control offers useful food safe information for households

Sidney’s top emergency official says he is not aware of any COVID-19 cases in the community

The public Sunday also heard of future plans to help local businesses through tax deferments

Digitization of Peninsula News Review by Sidney Museum and Archives preserves historical legacy

Searchable database will ease research and preserve integrity of records

COVID-19: Victoria plumbing company dedicates van for grocery delivery

The Super Plumber uses van to pick up groceries for those in need during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Evening world update: U.S. restrictions extended 30 days; NY deaths near 1,000

Comprehensive world update, with the latest developments in the COVID-19 crisis

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Most Read