In a shocking decision, Mayor Ted Anchor and his political ally Councillor Kevin Taylor resigned from District of Lillooet Council on Jan. 5.
The two men submitted single-sentence letters of resignation to Chief Administrative Officer Grant Loyer that afternoon and then proceeded to the Lillooet News Office where they gave this newspaper written statements about their reasons for resigning.
Anchor said he decided to resign after “receiving advice.
“I find myself in a very tenuous position and have no other alternative but to resign,” his statement read in part. “My credibility and integrity is still intact. Lillooet, I cannot be involved any farther.”
Anchor thanked his supporters, commended Taylor for his work on the Conwayville flooding emergency and extended his best wishes to the people evacuated because of the emergency. He concluded his statement by saying, “You have lost two good men,” referring to Taylor and himself.
Anchor had never held public office before, while Taylor is a former two-term mayor.
Taylor said he resigned because he felt his principles were being compromised.
“I ran on the platform of honesty and openness to the public, that I would work towards change for the betterment of our community,” said Taylor. “The present composition of council will not allow me to work toward those goals.”
Both men declined further comment on their reasons for resigning.
The full texts of their statements are published as sidebars accompanying this story.
In a subsequent interview with CBC News, ex-mayor Anchor said he resigned for several reasons, including concerns about “culpability.” He again declined to elaborate.
Acting Mayor Wendy Parker said she was “blind sided” by Anchor and Taylor's decisions to resign from council.
“When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke,” Parker told the News Jan. 6.
“My thought is that we'd had only one real council meeting,” said Parker. Council's inaugural meeting Dec. 5 was largely a pro forma affair. Its second regular public meeting was Dec. 19.
“I wish we'd had the chance to work together,” she added. “I wish Mr. Anchor and Mr. Taylor well.”
“We have a quorum and we have a lot of District business to move forward on,” Parker said of council's plans. She said addressing the ongoing Mountainview Road/Conwayville flooding emergency will continue to be a top priority for the District.
Council formally accepted the two men's resignation letters during a tense 12-minute meeting on the afternoon of Jan. 6.
About 100 people crowded into council chambers and the adjacent hallway to witness the proceedings.
Kevin Goforth, who ran unsuccessfully as part of an unofficial slate with Anchor and Taylor in November's election, launched a FaceBook campaign Jan. 5 urging people to attend the meeting and “take back the town.” Citizens attending the Jan. 6 meeting appeared to be a mix of those who responded to Goforth's appeal and others who came out in a show of support for Acting Mayor Parker and Councillors Kevin Anderson and Greg deStrake.
Because they resigned and forced a by-election, Anchor and Taylor told the News they are prohibited from seeking public office for three years. However, CAO Grant Loyer said he was unable, as of Jan. 6, to find any legislation barring Anchor and Taylor from running for office again.
During the Jan. 6 media question period, Loyer said the District would hire a Chief Elections Officer to conduct the by-election that will choose a new mayor and councillor. “That could happen as soon as the Jan. 16 regular meeting,” said Loyer. The Chief Elections Officer must then call a by-election to be held within 80 days. “If an elections officer is appointed Jan. 16, “the clock starts ticking then,” Loyer added.
During question period, Loyer said he expected the cost of holding the by-election will be less than $5,000. Chief Financial Officer Leslie Piderman added that the cost of running the entire municipal election last November was approximately $7,200.
During their brief time in office, Anchor attended two council meetings and Taylor attended three, including one where he walked out at the start of the meeting.
At a special meeting on Dec. 22, Taylor announced at the beginning of the meeting that he was disqualifying himself from the meeting because of concerns about the legality of the proceedings. He said he was going to consult with a lawyer and would report back to council. He then left.
The Dec. 22 meeting was called to give fourth and final reading to an emergency bylaw to borrow up to $2.5 million to fund repairs to Mountainview Road, build an alternate access route and construct a complete storm drain system for the Conwayville area.
A special meeting was called for Jan. 9 to update council on the Conwayville emergency and to repeat the process of giving fourth and final reading to the borrowing bylaw.
Acting Mayor Parker said that was being done as a follow-up to ensure “we've dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's. That means there will be an additional delay in our ability to borrow any money under the bylaw because it extends the 30-day quashing period for the bylaw.”
There were signs of tension between Taylor and Anchor, on one side, and Anderson, deStrake and Parker, on the other, at the Dec. 5 inaugural meeting when the majority of council voted to defer committee appointments for two days until council had a chance to discuss the appointments. The two men were also at odds with the majority of council on some procedural issues.
However, on a controversial decision to eliminate public question period, Taylor voted with the majority to eliminate question period's current format, replacing it with submitted written questions. Anchor cast the lone dissenting vote on that issue.
The resignations of Taylor and Anchor came exactly one month after they were sworn in at the Dec. 5 inaugural meeting.
At that meeting, Sydney Easton asked council members if they would resign if they found themselves continually in the minority at meetings.
Ted Anchor responded that if four councillors “voted against something all the time – and that's their prerogative – and if it's not in the community's favour and the community's not happy, that's when I would step in and encourage them to change their position.”
Kevin Taylor replied that council members bring different values and opinions to the table.
“I think we can work very effectively together,” said Taylor. He first said he didn't think he needed to answer Easton's question about resigning “because when we're working together effectively, no one's going to resign.”
Then Taylor told Easton he would not resign if he continually found himself at odds with the majority of council.