Turmoil as McBride Council loses three

by EVAN MATTHEWS

Stock photo of McBride Mayor, and member of MCFC, Loranne Martin
Stock photo of McBride Mayor, and member of MCFC, Loranne Martin

Rather than “A Town on Track,” McBride appears to be coming off its tracks after three councillors resigned last week.

Councillors Ralph Bezanson, Sharon Reichert and Edee Tracy submitted their walking papers, leaving Councillor Rick Thompson and Mayor Loranne Martin as the only remaining members of council.

The Village will now hold a by-election to elect three new councillors, according to the Village of McBride, and Mayor Martin says the election will be held as soon as possible.

Former councillor Sharon Reichert says the three councilors resigned together in an attempt to get the Province to step in.
“I have lost all faith in my mayor and in my CAO… I can’t elaborate on that, for fear of ramifications,” says Reichert. “I felt the only way I could help the Village is to get the ministry to step in.”

But in a statement released Tuesday, Mayor Martin, said “the three councillors refused to attend regular council meetings — despite the legislation — and then held their own special meetings at times when the Mayor was expected to be unavailable.”

The statement goes on to say that as a result of the councillors’ absence a human rights claim against two of the councillors, a WorkSafeBC claim of bullying and harassment against two of the councillors, as well as other business crucial to the community could not be conducted.

When The Goat asked Mayor Martin to elaborate on which councillors had WorkSafeBC claims and human rights complaints filed against them or why those claims couldn’t proceed she did not respond by presstime.

The Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Peter Fassbender, confirmed to The Goat he has been informed about McBride’s inability to form a quorum — even prior to the resignations.

The Ministry is investigating the issue, according to Minister Peter Fassbender, as — if true — it would be in contravention of the (Community Charter) Act.

“We’re on a fact-finding mission at the moment,” says Minister Fassbender. “Coming out of that, we’ll know what the next steps are going to be.”

Now down to two, the remaining members of Council are not enough to form a quorum on their own, according to the Community Charter, meaning the Village of McBride is unable to hold regular Council meetings.

The remaining members of council must ensure residents continue to receive required services, according to the Ministry, however any decisions resulting in any future financial liabilities will be made by council once a by-election has been held and quorum is restored.

The three councillors who resigned were new to government as of the last election. They were elected together with the Mayor and another councilor (who has since resigned) as a brand new slate. This will be the second byelection this term, which has still has two years left in it.

Since the last election, McBride residents hungry for change have cast blame on the current administration for being slow to make improvements and to secure and retain qualified Village staff. Several senior staff members have resigned over the past two years including the CAO, EDO and Director of Finance.

The former councillors issued an official statement to the public over the weekend announcing their resignations, thanking the public for its support, and said “After several unsuccessful attempts to have our Councillors’ concerns addressed and having no other resource, we could not continue to participate any further on council, for the best interest of our community.”

In an interview with The Goat, Reichert cited “legal reasons” for declining to comment on what councillors’ concerns were, but the three former councillors did confirm they decided to resign together.

“Hopefully (the resignations) will make enough of a statement that the (ministry) will get involved and try to get McBride on track,” says Reichert. “Because honestly, I don’t think it’s going anywhere right now.”

However, It will be up to the remaining staff members on how to proceed, generally, according to Minister Fassbender, as he says the Province isn’t willing to impose its will on municipalities, but rather support them when they have challenges.

“As a Province we celebrate the duly elected people at the local level,” says Fassbender.

“It has been a plank for us in that (local administrations) are autonomous, responsible and ultimately, accountable,” he says.

More documents from the former councillors are being submitted to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, according to Fassbender, as McBride continues searching for answers.

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