Sandspit committee members ousted

  • Sep. 13, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Sandspit residents may be down two more Moresby Island Management Committee members after the summer season, but not without some controversy. Don McNeice and Mandy Wesley were sent letters in mid-August stating that they had missed three consecutive meetings without notice and that according to the MIMC bylaw that means they had automatically vacated their seats. But the question of whether they had given notice or not was brought up at the Sept. 9 meeting. Committee member Gord Usher said they had given verbal notice that they would not be attending summer meetings due to their work – Ms Wesley is a fishing guide and Mr. McNeice runs Bridgeview Marine. Mr. Usher noted that both committee members missed a similar number of meetings the year before without consequence. “Now all of a sudden the tables have turned,” he said. Mr. Usher said he didn’t believe due process had taken place in this situation. “We as a board make a decision on absentee members, not one specific person,” he said, adding that it was MIMC chair Evan Putterill who seems to have made the decision. Mr. Putterill said he was following the bylaw and the regional district doesn’t have the authority to contradict its own bylaw. Mr. Putterill said the next step was that the regional district board will have to decide whether the Moresby committee can proceed with a reduced number of members until the next general election in November 2011 or whether a by-election should be held. Mr. Usher suggested a third alternative: “I suggest they consider reinstating the two individuals if they are still interested in holding the seats.” “Are we mimicking a committee or are we really serious,” asked Mr. Usher, intending the pun. If we really are a committee, then that verbal communication should have been enough, he said. But Mr. Putterill and committee member Robert Chisholm didn’t agree. “In order to function effectively people need to show up to the meetings,” said Mr. Putterill. He said the pair were sent packages for each meeting and no communication was forthcoming about whether they would attend or not. “I don’t make the decision on whether other people show up at meetings,” Mr. Putterill said. Notifying staff about whether one can attend is important, so the rest of the committee will know if they have quorum or not. All MIMC members are given a copy of the bylaw, so they should be aware of the legislation. Alternate Gail Henry said she is uncomfortable with the notion that two members had given up their seats. She understood that summer was their busiest time and was at the meeting where this was stated. “I believe they did that in good faith,” she said. “I think we should ask the board to reinstate the members.” And then Mr. Usher made a motion to that effect. This motion was carried with three voting in favour and two voting against. Mr. Putterill admitted that nothing was black and white in the MIMC bylaw. “But the probability (the regional district) will agree to that is incredibly low,” he said. When the Observer talked with him after the meeting, he said the decision was not a committee one to make. “It’s like election law,” he said. Mr. McNeice attended the Sept. 9 meeting, but sat in the audience rather than at the table. When the Observer talked with him by telephone the next day he said he believed he had given verbal notice about his forthcoming absences. He received the letter several weeks ago, but did not contact the MIMC office, nor the regional district (the letter directed him to do so if he had any questions). “If that’s the way they want to interpret it, that’s what they have to do,” he said. “I felt I left the message.” He said he and Ms Wesley (who is his wife) are both interested in continuing on the committee. “When we were elected, we went for a term,” he said. Whether he will run again in the next election remains to be seen. Mr. McNeice did say that he has experienced frustration because the committee seems to have become “a one man show.” He said some issues seem to be pushed through if that is what the chair wants to do. Committee member Bente Sutherland has stepped down. There are normally five elected members on the committee, with the regional district director (Mr. Putterill) and the Gwaii Trust director joining the table. At present MIMC has only two elected members.