Former mayor Ted Anchor has responded to the District of Lillooet’s recent resolution stating public officials should be required to provide “substantive reasons” when they resign from office.
Anchor and Councillor Kevin Taylor resigned Jan. 5 after one month in office.
The response on Anchor’s behalf was provided to the Lillooet News Aug. 27 in a letter to the editor submitted by Karl Kempfle. Anchor’s response had previously appeared on Facebook but was never given to the Lillooet News or the District of Lillooet. Anchor told the News he authorized Kempfle to include his comments in Kempfle’s letter.
The News informed Kempfle Aug. 27 that Anchor’s statement warranted a separate story and his letter would not be published until that story was printed. Later that day, Kempfle issued a news release that was distributed to hundreds of post office boxes at the Lillooet Post Office. The news release included additional comments from Kempfle criticizing the Lillooet News and Kempfle’s letter containing Ted Anchor’s statement:
“The main reason why we resigned is that the CAO has been given the legal responsibility via a November 2011 council resolution to coordinate the flood emergency. After determining that the Town Creek diversion may, or may not have been a cause of the flood to the Conway area, I told the council that we need to review the flood issue and the coordination. They disagreed (apart from Kevin Taylor). The council insisted that the CAO continue in his role as coordinator. This places him as administrator dealing with legal services and municipal insurance; and co-ordinating the flood…
“People have said, ‘Why couldn’t you hang on?’ How long do you remain culpable after determining that you are culpable? Once again, the CAO has gained the loyalty of three councillors. Therefore the majority is obtained. Council procedural bylaws remain in place with the CAO in charge and the remaining council have no concept of implementing the Cuff governance report.”
In 2010, the District hired local government management consultant George Cuff to review and report on the mayor’s relationship with senior management, council’s relationship with senior management and the District’s communication with the community.
District of Lillooet Chief Administrative Officer Grant Loyer told the News last week he had no comment on Anchor’s published statement.
At its Aug. 13 meeting, District Council voted unanimously to send a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) asking the provincial government to amend the Community Charter to require council members to provide substantive reasons to the public when they resign from office. The District said it experienced “numerous hardships” because of council members resigning without providing a reason.
When the News asked Ted Anchor and Kevin Taylor for a follow-up interview on their reactions to the District’s resolution and clarification on culpability, Anchor declined to be interviewed at this time and Taylor said he had nothing more to say.
The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development provided the News with its comments on council members’ liability for council decisions.
The ministry stated, “It is only the courts that can determine any questions of liability – and they do that only on the basis of evidence and proof.”
The statement from the ministry cites Section 287 of the Local Government Act, which it says “provides that council members or former council members may not be held personally liable for anything they say, do or fail to do in the performance of their duties or powers, unless they are guilty of dishonesty, gross negligence or malicious or wilful misconduct, or unless the cause of action is libel or slander.”
At the time of their headline-making resignations in January, Anchor told the News he was in a “tenuous” position and wanted to leave while his credibility was still intact. Taylor said he resigned because he felt his principles were being compromised.
Questions surrounding the diversion of water from Town Creek in the summer of 2011 and whether that diversion contributed to last winter’s flooding in Conwayville form part of a lawsuit filed in May by four neighbourhood residents against the District of Lillooet.
The suit was filed by Lacey LaRochelle, Elaine Meiklem, Lynn Albertson and Betty Flegel. LaRochelle and Meiklem’s homes were so severely damaged by flood water, erosion-caused slides on Mountainview Road and mould that the houses were deemed to be uninhabitable.
As the News reported in May, the suit claims the diversion was one of the factors that contributed to the flooding. It alleges that in 2011, “the District of Lillooet diverted, or took part in the diversion of Town Creek by having an excavator dig a channel to divert the creek from the T’it’q’et community towards the plaintiffs’ properties.”
The Statement of Claim also alleges the District carried out the diversion without obtaining proper engineering reports.
The District of Lillooet has referred the case to the Municipal Insurance Association of BC, which represents the municipality. The MIA has not filed a response statement from the municipality with the Supreme Court. Instead, the MIA says that requirement has been relaxed “at the discretion of the plaintiff.”
On Sept. 6, John Hogg, lawyer for the plaintiffs, released the following statement to the News on the status of the case: “We are going to be dealing with the insurer or those handling the claim for the District in an effort to get compensation for the homeowners who have lost the value of their places due to the evacuation order and damage suffered. If we cannot work out satisfactory compensation or a framework for it, the lawsuit will be moved forward.”