By Andru McCracken
McBride’s mayor Gene Runtz is no longer the general manager of the McBride Community Forest Corporation, but rumours that he was fired from the position are not true.
Runtz said that managing his conflict of interest as mayor was taking up a lot of energy and wasn’t serving the community or community forest.
“I was called the General Manager, but I didn’t have the authority. It caused one heck of a strain between myself and the board,” said Runtz. “I had come to the conclusion the best thing for them to do was to get another general manager as soon as they could. I wasn’t able to put the time in at the village.”
Runtz said his departure was amicable.
“I’ll be better able to do my job as mayor,” said Runtz. “I’m really, really happy about it. I’m glad I’m not there. I was part of the problem, in my estimation.”
Runtz will continue to serve as a Registered Professional Forester for specific tasks.
His decision to leave comes at a time of growing discontent in the community about the governance and operations of the McBride Community Forest Corporation.
A recent letter to the Village Council signed by about 40 citizens said they believe the McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) is not acting in the interests of the community. The letter alleged MCFC is passing up an opportunity to kickstart McBride’s economy by refusing to enter talks that could reopen a shuttered mill. It also expressed concerns about conflict of interest of board members and the dissatisfaction with the postponement of the Annual General Meeting, but the latest complaint has many residents on edge:
Council has decided against an election of the board of directors.
The public electing directors is a longstanding issue. The election is seen as a modicum of public control and democracy in an organization that has a history of perceived conflict of interest and operational misadventures. While not an official vote, in the past, elections have taken the form of an informal vote which is then honoured by Council who are the final decision makers.
Community member Mike Monroe, one of the people who signed the letter to council said the frustration in the community is at a boiling point.
Runtz is concerned the frustration is misdirected.
“In my estimation they have good board members, they have problems because it is not a very large board and you get conflicts with loggers and a mill owner. They try to work around it and in spite of that the board members work their butts off. They are very dedicated.”
Runtz said that the decision to appoint instead of elect new board members sits with the McBride Village Council. Runtz, however, because of his conflict of interest, was excluded from those discussions.
“I feel that was the wrong direction,” he said. “I completely disagree with it.”
Runtz believes an elected board would do a great job, though he believes there is a call for a larger board because of the potential for conflicts of interest and the amount of work involved.
A document on the village website advertising the October 16 Annual General Meeting asks residents to consider applying for a position on the board of directors.
Acting Mayor Allan Frederick said that council’s reason was simple and already made available to the public in their press release.
“Council agreed that the MCFC Board would benefit from community members who have forestry, financial and/or volunteer experience as well as local knowledge.”
Frederick said that he is aware of the community’s long campaign and their disappointment.
“It was part of council’s consideration,” said Frederick.
Village employee Karen Dube spoke on behalf of council.
“[Council] wants to do their due diligence and ensure the best candidates come forward,” she said in an interview on Monday afternoon.
“The goal for council is to carefully consider what skills all directors can bring to the board in a time of significant challenge and change,”
Dube said applications for board positions are available in person at the office and on the website.
Applications will be accepted from August 26th to September 20th.