Metchosin’s Monday (Jan. 11) council meeting was a tense affair as mayor and council debated whether Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila informed them of her Mexico travel plans, and over a dozen residents called in to express their disappointment.
Kahakauwila came under fire last week when Black Press Media learned that she and her husband traveled to Mexico on Dec. 1 for the wedding of a business and industry partner. Defending herself, Kahakauwila said “there was a very real possibility” they could have lost their business, L.A. Limousines, and that the couple quarantined upon arriving back in Canada on Dec. 9.
While provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has strongly recommended that no one travel unless essential, the province has never defined the term, nor implemented means of reprimanding those who disregard the recommendation. For many Metchosin residents though, elected officials should know better.
“Honestly I am just appalled at Kyara’s sense of entitlement and Mayor [John] Ranns’ lack of respect for the office and the people you are representing,” resident Wendy Mitchell said during the Zoom public participation. “You are a huge disappointment.”
Ranns has consistently backed Kahakauwila, saying that while nobody condones what she did, everyone – even elected officials – should be entitled to make a mistake from time to time. Before opening the floor to residents, he provided his own statement.
“She did not want to go – and I know that because she discussed it with me a number of times before she left – but her husband convinced her it would provide a foundation to confirm that Victoria would be ready for tourism and business-related travel,” Ranns said. He also added that with an annual stipend of $16,000, being a Metchosin councillor is “basically a volunteer position.”
“Holding elected officials to higher standards is appropriate, but there has to be limits,” he said.
Resident Rachel French disagreed, pointing out that councillors are elected to be leaders and role models.
“[Kahakauwila] still has not fully apologized for her gross trespass on her citizens’ trust, on her extremely poor judgement and on her lack of leadership,” French said. “She has demonstrated repeatedly that she is out of touch with the realities of these times.”
French and multiple others called on Kahakauwila to step down from her position as deputy mayor.
Monday’s meeting began with Coun. Marie-Terese Little addressing this request from residents and asking that a discussion by council be added to the evening’s agenda. Ranns rejected Little’s request, saying that council needs to seek a legal opinion on whether Kahakauwila’s role as deputy can be rescinded and that discussion must be held in an in-camera meeting.
Little and Coun. Sharie Epp have both said they were not informed of Kahakauwila’s travel plans prior to her leaving. Ranns asserts council was informed during its Nov. 30 meeting. Ranns said the meeting was simply a COVID-19 briefing and, thus not made public, but that he is working on finding a recording of it.
An in-camera discussion of Kahakauwila’s position is to occur at the next council meeting, scheduled for Jan. 25.
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