Public weighs in on Village Review

Valemount Village Council
Valemount Village Council

By: Korie Marshall

The recommendations from Valemount’s organizational review were all about Council and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Anne Yanciw, but for some attending the Council meeting and listening to the presentation of the report last week, it was all about Yanciw.

Though he couldn’t be at the meeting in person, Jeff Bellinger of Nichols Applied Management presented a delegation to Council via Skype. The full report is on last week’s Council agenda, available on the Village’s website.

Bellinger said it is a good idea to hit the pause button and review every so often, and it was a good idea in this case to hire a firm outside the Village to do the review. He also thanked Anne Yanciw, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village, saying she has been at the “centre of a storm” which could not have been easy for her, and she remained professional and provided all information and background that was requested.

He also clarified that Yanciw does have the full confidence of some of Council, but does not have the confidence of the others on Council, and that she is struggling to appease a very vocal group of community stakeholders.

One of Bellinger’s recommendations was for the Village to develop a comprehensive employment agreement, and he recommended looking at Canmore, Alberta’s agreement for a good example. Canmore’s employment agreement with their CAO is a fully public, 34-page document including remuneration and performance evaluation, benefits, obligations, a full job description and the town’s CAO bylaw.

“A comment with respect to this Council not having strategic priorities,” said Mayor Jeannette Townsend after the presentation was complete. “We were awaiting the organizational review which is a common practice to take place first. And then we’ll do strategic priorities next.”

Bellinger agreed that was a reasonable course of action.

After Council accepted the report, Councillor Owen Torgerson said, “We’ve got some work to do.”

“Yes we do,” said Townsend. “And I just wanted to say that I, on your behalf, have started the ball rolling just by getting in touch with the Ministry in Victora to provide us with information so that we can discuss and make decisions.”

When asked after the meeting to clarify what that meant, Townsend responded to the Goat saying “a place to start to improve the issues is to obtain an acceptable format with respect to contract clarity, clear expectations, and an evaluation process. Note that ‘the previous council was not as diligent as it should have been in delineating expectations of the CAO.’ No documentation either.” The report says the consultant could not find formal documentation of the previous Council’s expectations of the CAO, either for performance or professional development, and the CAO’s contract is not as comprehensive as it should be.

Townsend says there is professional advice available from the province regarding proper documents. She also says there were “serious concerns” brought forward by many citizens and taxpayers which require remedy, but she has not yet responded to requests for further information about what those concerns are.

During public comment, which is supposed to be limited to topics specifically on the agenda, residents spoke up both against and for Yanciw.

“The town is making steps in the right direction, but we have to make sure that what we have in the front seat of this office is someone that can make a decision when it comes down to it,” said Steve Vanhaften. “Especially now that we are going to get that ski hill, we have to make it so that it is conducive so that businesses can come in and get answers and make decisions and expediate.” (sic)

“What are the repercussions of getting rid of someone without cause? It sounds like an expensive legal battle to me, isn’t this what McBride is going through right now?” asked Rene Nuneweiler, who says she is part of the community that has good things to say about Anne. “I’d like to see Council members including the Mayor behaving like responsible representatives of the community and working together.”

“It is evident, to me at least, that the $20k was well spent,” said Rita Rewerts. She says the report can be used as a foundation to move forward, and the lack of leadership initiatives indicated in the report can serve as a reminder that elected officials represent all of the taxpayers in the community, “not just a select portion based on personal interest.”

Shirley Sander said Yanciw did not allow Sander’s consultant to speak at a special Council meeting two years ago. The meeting was scheduled to make a decision on whether the Village would sign a development agreement Sander was proposing for the Saas Fee project. The Village had received legal advice that a development agreement is not a legal document in BC, and last minute changes were made to the agreement. Council wanted another day to consider the changes, and scheduled a special meeting the day after the regular council meeting.

Sander said a group of business leaders has been organized, and denied that there was a secret meeting of the group. “It was open to all the people in the Village of Valemount because we have concerns. But we are also talking about new business and how we can bring new business into this community. Going in and demanding the removal of a petition that is written because of the concerned citizens of this village I understand could be illegal.”

“We have a voice here and we are speaking it loud and clear,” said Sander. She has not yet responded to requests from the Goat for further information on the group.

Michael Lewis expressed support for Yanciw and Village staff who he says did an excellent job in supporting his business to be able to meet the regulations of the Village and the province.

“It’s not always about getting a decision that suits what I need.” Lewis says it’s also about getting the information to do things properly and in accordance with rules and regulations. He also likes the idea expressed by Christine Torgerson of having a single common place to share events and meetings, because he is downtown most of the day, most days, and doesn’t see notices of a lot of events that are coming up.

“If there are public meetings, inviting people of Valemount, it would be really great if we could see them,” said Lewis.

“The stuff in the background should be dropped, it doesn’t serve any of us,” said Eugene Jamin. “A good working relationship between Admin and Council is really important to us.”

“Changing bylaws to accommodate businesses that want to come here is vital to make Valemount grow,” said Paul Markland. He says from business perspective, you have to have quick responses or “it’s no use coming to Valemount to do business.”

A special meeting was scheduled for Monday night, June 15th to consider one item. The meeting was to go directly to in-camera (closed meeting) to discuss matters related to labour relations or other employee relations. It is not certain if this closed meeting was to come to a consensus on whether Council will work with Yanciw or seek a new CAO.

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