By Roy L Hales
The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) is sending Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson a letter advising of the SRD Board’s expectations regarding communications between directors and regional district staff.
This is the latest development in the ongoing issue. The board’s original motion for a lawsuit aimed to have Anderson disqualified from holding office.
Campbell River Director Claire Moglove explained, at the Feb. 10 board meeting, they should not attempted to have Anderson removed from office.
“The chances of success, in my view, are fairly low...the risks to the organization should we not succeed, should we lose, could be quite significant," Moglove said.
“We can’t just do nothing, because the behaviour needs to be addressed," she added.
Tahsis representative and Mayor Martin Davis seconded the motion, which carried.
Prior to this, the SRD Board refused to pay Anderson’s legal costs in what the Supreme Court of British Columbia found to be a frivolous lawsuit a handful of Cortes residents brought against her.
The SRD then censured Anderson for showing confidential SRD documents, associated with the suit, to her lawyer.
The board’s conduct is currently the subject of a lawsuit that Anderson has brought before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
This most recent incident started on Dec. 17, 2019 when Anderson emailed an SRD staff member that his impending referral of a property, that she co-owns with several other Cortes residents, could be a waste of time, unless he waits for the Ministry of Transportation to explain what they would accept as far as roads go. There was a strong possibility that he would have to do the work twice.
“So, unless you have already completed the referral, it would be wonderful if you could hold off until the new year. All the very best to you. Warmly, Noba,” wrote Anderson in response.
The SRD interprets this email as insider influence and a violation of section 102 of the Community Charter.
At the Boards’s last meeting, Anderson’s lawyer, Matthew Voell, explained their position.
“The key requirement…for a breach of section 102, is that the board member must not use their office to attempt to influence a staff member in respect to a decision being made … It does not prohibit a board member from acting in a personal capacity with respect to their property, rather there has to be an attempt to leverage their position as a Director. To use the language from 102, ‘use his or her office to influence a decision,'" Voell wrote.
“This is somewhat of a unique situation because there are a number of owners. Imagine a situation where there is only one owner and that owner is a board member. Of course the board member is entitled, in their personal capacity and not as a board member, to engage with staff in the issues involving their property,” he added.
Voell produced a long stream of emails demonstrating that staff repeatedly initiated the direct contacts with Anderson. Voell maintained that Anderson "communicated with Regional District staff in her personal capacity and not in her role as a director," used her personal email address, and "almost always copied her land partner Ms. Lovena Harvey."
In their subsequent press release, the SRD Board highlight the idea that is not sufficient for Anderson to use her personal email address.
“The use of personal email does not immunize a Director from the application of section 102 of the community Charter, in cases where the influence or attempted influence and an officer or employee of the local government," explained Kathryn Stuart, the SRD's lawyer.
“…The person receiving the communication will undoubtedly know, the person is an elected official," she added.
Stuart said that it was not sufficient for Anderson to tell staff she was acting in her personal capacity.
“There are a number of circumstances where an elected official could communicate with a staff member in his or her personal capacity and that would not be a breach of Section 102 … Examples would include: an official could communicate directly with staff when they are paying their taxes, purchasing a dog license or applying for a building permit," she said.
Stuart is drawing up a letter informing Anderson how the Board expects directors to behave.
Proposed Integrity Commission
Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams moved that the SRD request that an "integrity commission" be created.
“The chair of the SRD be authorized to write a letter to the Provincial Government Attorney General’s office requesting the implementation of an integrity commission," Adams said.
He added that while British Columbia does not yet have such a commission, other provinces do and they are very helpful “in guiding local governments, Regional Districts, in matters that are maybe beyond their capability or scope to handle.”
Moglove agreed to the proposal.
“The lack of teeth of the community charter. There is not a lot that a local government can do when there may be some behaviour that is not appropriate," Moglove said.
Links of Interest
- (SRD) SRD Statement of Expectations Provided to Electoral Area B Director Anderson
- (Campbell River Mirror) SRD Board provides Cortes Director with ‘Statement of Expectations’ after insider influence allegations
- (Cortes Currents) SRD Board undecided about legal action against Anderson
- (SRD) written presentation from Matthew Voell, Director Anderson’s lawyer
- (SRD) Staff report on alleged insider influence
- (BClaws) Community Charter
- (Cortes Currents) articles about the lawsuit Noba Anderson vs the SRD
- (Campbell River Mirror) Cortes Island Area Director Sues Strathcona Regional District
- (Campbell River Mirror) Cortes Island director rejects allegations contained in regional district’s censure
- (SRD) SRD Board Passes Censure Motions
- (Campbell River Mirror) Strathcona Regional District won’t cover director’s court costs
- (Cortes Currents) No conflict of interest
- (Campbell River Mirror) Petitioners concede no conflict against Strathcona Regional District director