Mayor Richard Atwell said he is not sure how his name appeared on a provincial registry that lists him as one of 15 directors of the Capital Region Municipal Amalgamation Society as of June 15, 2013, as he insists that he never sought nor served in the office of the director.
“I have no idea, how it [my name] ended there,” he said. “My name wasn’t even spelled correctly. I didn’t give permission [to use my name] and I’m working to have the error in that single record corrected which is out of sync with the minutes and other filed documents and witness accounts and statements from those witnesses on the record.”
He made these comments Sunday in insisting that he never served as a director of Amalgamation Yes, nor ever stood as a candidate for that organization.
“I wasn’t a director of that organization,” he said. “Full stop.”
The question of Atwell’s association with the society lies at the heart of a legal dispute between Atwell and one his rivals for the mayoral office, Coun. Fred Haynes.
Atwell’s lawyer Robin Gage sent a cease-and-desist letter dated Sept. 7 to Haynes, which asks Haynes to stop the distribution of campaign material considered “falsely or misleading” and “correct and retract” the false statement.
“To be clear, Mayor Atwell is not now nor has he ever been a director of Amalgamation Yes or any related society or organization,” Gage wrote.
Haynes’ campaign has told Gage that the information concerning Atwell’s association “is not false and misleading” in refusing to withdraw the literature, which makes the following statement.
“Unlike [Mayor] Richard Atwell, I have never been a director of Amalgamation Yes. I have an open mind.”
Haynes’ campaign points to a number of documents in support of this claim, including documents from the B.C. Registry that shows Atwell with his name spelled Attwell on the list of directors.
To buttress this point, Atwell submitted statements dated Sept. 6 from Vickers, Jones and Shellie Shellie Gudgeon that Atwell never sought nor served in the office of director.
He has since submitted what he says are the actual incorporation documents of the society as evidence of the registry’s mistake.
The document lists six names and their signatures as “Applicants for Incorporation” — Vickers, Heemskerk, Anderson, Jones, Marg Gardiner, and Legh.
While the incorporation document lacks a specific date, it shows that the applicants signed it sometime in March 2013. According to the registry, the society incorporated on April 5, 2013, and held an annual general meeting on June 15, 2013.
Atwell said in an email that the “actual incorporation documents with the signatures of the directors is the important document, clearly showing no signature from me and verifies the mistake in the document that [Saanich News] referenced.”
Records from that meeting also show that Atwell elected as a member of the society’s nominating committee, along with Harper, and Meiklejohn. Atwell says his presence on the nominating committee is “proof in itself” that he was not director, because directors cannot serve on the nominating committee.
“Then ask yourself how I volunteered to serve on this committee but never attend a meeting or ultimately served on the committee,” he said. “Does that make a director? No, it doesn’t.”
Atwell’s comments come as he prepares for the first all-candidates forum Thursday, Sept. 20, where he will face Haynes. Rob Wickson and David Shebib are also running for mayor.
Thursday’s forum held at the Arts Caliber Academy — the former Gordon Head United Church — at 4201 Tyndall Avenue will likely test the candidates where they respectively stand on amalgamation.
Atwell said his position on amalgamation has always been clear and consistent. “We need a study,” he said. He also added that he has nothing to hide or cover up about my involvement with a citizen-led advocacy group.
“What I do have issue with is Dr. Haynes distributing false or misinformation about my involvement in an attempt to claim I don’t have an open mind [about amalgamation] and in turn vilifying a citizen-led group that has been working to get an amalgamation study for [five years]. That work should be commended.”
Haynes said in a statement to the Saanich News that not once has he said anything negative about Amalgamation Yes. It is a legitimate position for Amalgamation Yes to lobby for fewer governments, he said.
“I do not understand the Mayor’s defensiveness at being identified as directly involved in [Amalgamation Yes] in several ways,” he said. “Given the importance of this issue for the future of our municipality, I believe it is an important difference between myself and the Mayor.”