MIEDS hiring prompts questions

  • Jun. 10, 2009 6:00 a.m.

After a three-month search, the Misty Isles Economic Development Society has hired one of its own directors as its new economic development officer. Travis Glasman, who represents Sandspit on both the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District and on MIEDS, is the successful candidate for the position, society chair Cory Delves announced last week. Mr. Delves said the society interviewed a shortlist of five candidates, three of them from the islands, with the assistance of a human resources firm, and that Mr. Glasman was clearly the top choice. “He brings to the table good knowledge of local politics, and he has a good working relationship with the Council of the Haida Nation,” Mr. Delves said. “His on-island knowledge of the politics and the players is a valuable asset. He has a strong background in forestry… He has also been an independent businessperson.” Another important factor is that Mr. Glasman has lived on the islands for the past 13 years and plans to continue living here, Mr. Delves said. The society hired two employees last year from off-island who stayed here for less than a year. A professional forester, Mr. Glasman previously worked for the Haida Nation’s Forest Guardians program. He was laid off, along with several other employees, at the end of March. Mr. Glasman said he’s excited about the economic development job, which will be “one of the bigger challenges I’ve had in my life,” and is looking forward to working on more than just forestry, which has been his focus in the past. Mr. Delves admitted there have been questions asked about the closeness of Mr. Glasman and the society, given that he has been a board member since MIEDS started up in early 2008 (the five regional district directors from the islands are all automatically directors of MIEDS). The issues surrounding this situation are so unclear that the society sought a legal opinion on whether Mr. Glasman could continue to hold his regional district director position and also be an employee of MIEDS. “The legal opinion told us he could do both,” Mr. Delves said. “The consensus of the board was it would be very difficult to be looking after the interests of all communities while being the elected official of one.” After discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Glasman will resign as regional district director later this month. That means Sandspit residents will likely have to go to the polls within the next few months to elect a new director. Mr. Delves said he hopes the resignation clears up any concerns the hiring might attract, adding that it’s impossible to please everyone. “For lack of a better term, you’re always criticized no matter what you do,” he said. “One of the things mentioned by people was you should hire local… Travis brings a lot to the table, he is local, and there’s always going to be those people who have opinions that differ from the board.” Mr. Glasman said he takes conflict of interest very seriously and that he carefully considered the situation before applying for the job. Once he decided to apply, he stepped aside from the MIEDS board, and resigned that position as soon as he got the job. MIEDS is a relatively new society which controls a significant amount of money. Its board is made up of the five regional district directors plus 12 appointed islanders. The provincial government gave the group $500,000 when it started up, and it has also received grants from the Northern Development Initiative Trust and other groups. The purpose of the organization is to strengthen and diversify the island economy. So far, the society’s directors have chosen to hold their regular meetings behind closed doors. The linkage between the regional district and MIEDS was brought to the attention of many earlier this year when regional district directors – who are also MIEDS directors – voted to impose a tax on rural residents of the islands which will go straight to MIEDS. Several taxpayers were furious that the regional district did not consult with islanders before approving the budget, and that only residents of rural Graham Island and Sandspit have to pay the tax (Masset, Port Clements and Queen Charlotte made equivalent contributions with grants from the Northern Trust). The Tlell Committee called the tax increase outrageous and has called on either the regional district or MIEDS to find a way to give the money back. Some have raised questions about Mr. Glasman’s role in the tax requisition. The deadline to submit applications for the MIEDS job was March 27 and the regional district adopted its budget March 30. Mr. Glasman attended the March 30 meeting by telephone and in fact seconded the motion which gave final adoption to the 2009 budget, setting in stone a 14 percent increase in the tax requisition for Sandpsit residents. (The MIEDS requisition is only a part of this increase, the rest being due to more spending on the islands garbage and recycling system, and the hiring of an additional administrator.) Mr. Glasman said the decision to tax the rural areas was a difficult one to make, but he voted in favour of it because he and Area D director Brad Setso had made a commitment to provide the full $35,000 Northern Trust grant to MIEDS. When it turned out that the mainland rural directors wanted half that grant, Mr. Glasman said, the only way to live up to the commitment was to provide the missing funds through taxation. He said he does not believe he was in a conflict of interest when he voted on a tax increase to fund the organization he was applying to work for because at that point, he had simply applied for the job and was not on the shortlist. He also said that as the Sandspit director, he had a duty to vote on the budget, and the MIEDS requisition formed only a small part of that budget. Mr. Glasman said he is confident that he has always served the interests of Sandspit residents in his time on the regional district board, and his only regret is that the regional district did not have more time to work on this year’s budget. Meanwhile, he said he is looking forward to starting his new job on June 15. MIEDS, he said, is a good organization that could do a lot for islanders, but it’s had a slow start. “I want to try and rebuild the relationship with the public,” he said. “I’m pretty excited, it’s going to be pretty interesting, to say the least.”