The mayor of North Saanich released his first statement Friday addressing the sudden and controversial resignation of a newly acclaimed councillor.
Mayor Geoff Orr, who has been in the mayor’s seat for just over a month, said he respects Coun. Joscelyn Barnard’s right to resign, as well as her right to express her opinion, however, he does “not agree with her characterization of the ‘system’ she experienced as a new councillor.”
“I am personally committed to ensuring the District continues to be a positive and healthy work environment for all – council and District staff. Council has complete confidence in staff and looks forward to a productive working relationship this term,” Orr said.
In her resignation letter, Barnard called on Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing; North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr and the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson to “conduct a third-party audit” into what she called “the corporate culture and practices of the District.”
“What I found … was a system that can be manipulated to silence persistent councillors and suppress difficult information through the use of in-camera meetings, threats of publicly funded litigation, severance demands, and labour laws,” she wrote.
“This is not a healthy democratic environment for staff, council, or the public and I will not be a part of it,” Barnard said, calling for changes to the community charter to improve accountability and transparency.
With the inaugural meeting of council on Nov. 5, Barnard had only participated in a handful of meetings.
“Mayor and council are disappointed that Ms. Barnard has decided to take this action so early in the term but do respect her right to do so. As a council, we agree with Ms. Barnard that stakeholder engagement and accountability are important and essential aspects of municipal governance and, as such, we are committed to making further improvements at the District of North Saanich.”
The District of North Saanich council next meets Dec. 3.
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