Tempers flare over council appointments

Whether or not the mayor has the right to make appointments to committees without the approval of council was the big question at Monday night’s council meeting.
In the end, two items were tabled pending answers from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
In the first incident, Coun. Struchan Gilson called for the appointments of council representatives to the Rainycrest board of management to be reconsidered.
He charged that Mayor Dan Onichuk was not following council’s direction as to how it felt about Rainycrest partnering with Riverside, and the possible hiring of Extendicare for interim management services at the home.
Coun. Struchan Gilson said he was outraged after the Nov. 30 meeting at Rainycrest, at which time he felt the town’s representatives on the Rainycrest board of management did not reflect the direction given by council.
At that meeting, Coun. Neil Kabel made a motion to cease all negotiations with Extendicare but Mayor Onichuk declined to second it, Coun. Gilson noted.
He added that, according to procedural Bylaw 15, under the duties of the mayor section, “the mayor is to represent and support the council, declaring its will and implicitly obeying its decisions in all things.”
“There’s no element of free choice built into the wording of this bylaw,” argued Coun. Gilson.
He noted from all he’s seen, it appears the Rainycrest board of management did not know the town was even committed to pursuing the Riverside option.
“The whole incident troubles me greatly,” remarked Coun. Gilson. “Based on the foregoing, I believe, Mr. Mayor, your personal beliefs and desires have taken precedence over the expressed will and decision of council, contrary to Bylaw 15.
“Because of this, I, for one, have lost confidence in your ability to represent council on the Rainycrest board of management, and by extensions, the other boards and committees you sit on.
“I believe you owe this council an apology and an explanation,” he added. “And I believe this council should replace you on the Rainycrest board. I’m prepared to make that motion, which we are allowed to under bylaw.”
“I agree with your comments and I second that motion,” said Coun. Tannis Drsydale.
Mayor Onichuk asked Clerk Glenn Treftlin if the bylaw Coun. Gilson referred to applied to non-town committees, to which the clerk replied, “There is an obligation, under the duties of the mayor section, that the mayor fulfill the direction of council.”
Council then voted to reconsider the appointment of Mayor Onichuk and Coun. Kabel to the Rainycrest board.
Before doing so, Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft spoke against the motion, noting the two representatives were following council’s direction while Coun. Roy Avis disagreed.
Couns. Avis, Drsydale, Gilson, and Todd Hamilton voted in favour of the motion while Couns. Wiedenhoeft and Kabel, along with Mayor Onichuk, voted against it.
“I would like to change our representation on the Rainycrest board. It doesn’t matter who it is,” said Coun. Gilson. “I think we need different representatives to reflect the wishes of council.”
“That vote going forward, proper or improper, what would be my recommendation as to who those replacements would be, consistent with the bylaw?” asked Mayor Onichiuk.
“Traditionally, in the past, the mayor would come forward with his recommendations for persons for these appointments,” said Treftlin.
“But there’s nothing spelled out in the bylaw under that section that profoundly says it’s in the mayor’s realm. It says ‘approved by resolution of mayor and council.’
“We don’t have anything that addresses this specific situation,” Treftlin added.
Then in a second incident Monday night, the mayor announced the executive committees for the term running Dec. 1, 2004-Nov. 30, 2005. Last year, they were named for a three-year term, although the town’s procedural bylaw states that the appointments are for one year.
But council began to question whether they had to agree with the appointments when some said they wanted to stay on certain committees.
Coun. Gilson said he was just starting to get his “feet wet” on the Operations and Facilities executive committee and now he’s being switched to Planning and Development.
“It’s nice to sit on a committee for a couple of years,” he added.
“I don’t have to sit here and justify my decisions. I could, but I’m not sure you’d want me to,” said Mayor Onichuk.
“I personally would have preferred to stay where I am for another year,” said Coun. Drysdale.
“I think you put me where I could be used to the utmost,” said Coun. Hamilton, adding he would have liked a “heads up” to know he was going on the Administration and Finance executive committee, which had a meeting today.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft said he respected the mayor’s decision making the appointments. “But I find myself in a steep learning curves with the committees. I think you should stay on for a full three years,” he noted.
“I believe we stay with the committees the way they are,” said Coun. Gilson.
Council took a vote as to whether to accept the mayor’s appointments, with Couns. Kabel and Wiedenhoeft voting in favour. But then, the vote was interrupted when the mayor said he wanted to suspend the meeting until the Ministry of Municipal Affairs could determine whether committee apppointments required council approval.
“I want to move forward with this motion. Effectively, by extending it, and disagreeing with it, you’re trying to make a change. I disagree with that,” said the mayor.
“If it’s a matter of automatically approving, why are we sitting here?” asked Coun. Gilson.
Both items were tabled until the Dec. 20 meeting of council.