SSI Housing Council Society Update

Update – I have been informed the three current Directors of the SSI Housing Council Society are:

1. Christine Torgrimson

2. George Ehring

3. Garth Hendren

Since it is impossible for a Society’s Board to be comprised of Directors who are not individuals, this means this new private society, which will survive the election, will have Ehring and Torgrimson and Hendren sitting as individuals, making decisions and lobbying the new Trustees and possibly a new CRD Director, for funding and/or changes to .

I have yet to obtain a copy of the Society’s bylaws and constitution, but will post them when received.

 

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Phantom Phound

The mystery surrounding the existence of the  Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society has been solved.

The formal name of the Society has been confirmed as the “SSI Housing Council Society.”

Entire speculation on my part – when the founders requested the name – “Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society” – they would have been turned down due to the similarity between it and the “Salt Spring Island Community Housing and Land Trust Society.”

Solution? Use “SSI”

If my assumption is correct, it is likely inappropriate for anyone to use the term “Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society” to identify the “SSI Housing Council Society.”

Date of Incorporation – August 15, 2011.

The five founding Directors of the SSI Housing Council Society are:

1. Christine Torgrimson

2. Katherine Maryann Bird

3. David Hott (sic? – Holt?)

4. Charles Belknap

5. Thomas (Tom) Mitchell

Registered Office – 2161 Fulford-Ganges Road- J.G. Consulting

 

Update on Ready, Set, Build Workshop – No advertisement in yesterday’s Driftwood. When, or was, the Workshop, being coordinated by the SSI Housing Council Society, ever advertised?

 

The Phantom Chronicles (Part two)

I have now had a chance to review the video of the Oct. 6th LTC meeting and prepare a transcript

As you read the transcript keep in mind:

(a)     Trustee Torgrimson is the Chair of the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Council Society (SSI CACS),

(b)     Trustee Ehring is a Director of the SSI CACS,

(c)     We still have no idea if the Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society (SSI HCS) is even in existence, since it does not show up on the Provincial Registry of Societies

(d)     The funding “requests” were not on the Agenda of this meeting, so Chair Malcolmson had evidently not seen any information prior to the meeting on these subjects. This mirrors the funding of the Salt Spring Island Water Council Society at the Sept 1, 2011 LTC meeting, (the subject of the civil action against the Trustees), was also not on the Agenda,

(e)     There does not appear to be any formal funding request letters, from either the SSI CACS or the SSI HCS, introduced by either Trustee, just a two page backgrounder on proposed SSI CACS workshops,

(f)       Trustee Ehring’s entire verbal contribution of “discussion” to these two motions is limited to, “Second it?…Seconded….Seconded…No.”

(video at http://www.imaginesaltspring.com/video/2011Oct_LTC/Oct2011_LTC.html )

[my notes and comments are in brackets]

Chair Malcolmson – Local Expense Reports, Section 16, anything? This is now page…

Trustee Torgrimson – [waving a piece of paper] I have something.

Chair Malcolmson – Oh, good, Trustee Torgrimson

Trustee Torgrimson – I have some background information, we don’t need to read it here. [Excuse me? “We don’t need to read it here”??] I want to make two motions, one that Salt Spring Local…and I have these in writing so you don’t have to jot them down …that we dedicate $4,000 from the Local Expense Budget to the Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society to support capacity building workshops and other training opportunities to local affordable housing advocates with a progress report delivered on or before March 15, 2012…and I have examples of the workshops here…uh… and that we also dedicate $4,000 from the Local Expense Budget to the Climate Action Council Society…same, uh, same, uh, deadline for a progress report on greenhouse gas reductions that respond to the Climate Action Plan and these would both be within, uh, the use of 75% of the, uh, total expense allowed for special projects budget and that we’re not going to be spending the Communications money that be transferred over into that account for a future Trust Committee, so I have these in writing and I have some background on those workshops, and, uh, the Climate Action…report,,,whuups…sorry…there you go…I’m just giving this to …and, uh, I have the motions in writing, so, if you’d like me to go ahead and move I can do that….the uh…[without waiting for direction from the Chair].I’d like to move that the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee  dedicate $4,000 from the Local Expense Account to the Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society to support capacity building workshops and other training opportunities to local affordable housing advocates with a progress report delivered on or before March 15, 2012…um…[Torgrimson starts to go on before the motion is seconded]

Trustee Ehring – [interrupts Torgrimson, reminding her the motion has not been requested by the Chair if it is seconded, and asks if she wants it seconded] second it? [as in do you want me to second it?]

Trustee Torgrimson…yes…

Trustee Ehring – Seconded

Chair Malcolmson – [slightly embarrassed – to Trustee Ehring] Yes, thank you for chairing…

Trustee Torgrimson – …I thought we were running out of time so I’m moving ahead at a pace here… [it appears Torgrimson was going to make just one motion for the funding of both “societies”]  so and so, um, the training workshops that we’re looking at [this indicates Torgrimson is involved in the Phantom SSI HCS], at this point, are in partnership with BC non-profit Housing Association and we [once again referencing herself and the SSI HCS] have one planned for November already, called Ready-Set-Build…

[Time out! – I have checked the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) website which lists a Ready-Set-Build workshop is indeed to be held November 4, 2011 at Community Gospel Chapel – see- http://www.bcnpha.ca/pages/education/2011-workshops/bcnpha-regional-workshops/ready-set-build.php . From the BCNPHA site – “Workshop facilitation and instructor expenses are covered through the generous support of Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation. (A nominal registration fee per person will be applied; 10 participants minimum required.) Registration Fee: $20 per person for BCNPHA members; $40 for non-members (includes HST). Advance registration is required.

To the best of my knowledge this Workshop, now less than two weeks away, has not been advertised to the public, and, since Trustee Torgrimson announced “we have one planned for November already,” the date must have already been set as of the Oct. 6th meeting. Why no announcement of the Workshop date, or that if members of the public want to attend, they have to pre-register, or, that “Workshop facilitation and instructor expenses are covered…by CMHC”?

If Salt Spring Island participants’ registration costs are being funded by the Phantom, I would like to know, because, as a developer interested in Community Housing, I would like to attend the Workshop….Now, back to the show…]

Trustee Torgrimson…which helps housing advocates and providers prepare well for getting a housing project off the ground and implemented. There are a number of other kinds of examples of workshops in the handout I’ve given you and out of the three areas of recommendation from the Community Affordable Housing Strategy we’ve supported is mentioned in the OCP, as something the LTC move forward, is, uh, a section on support to increase capacity building within the non-profit sector on the island so more housing can actually be brought…housing projects can be brought forward and developed so that’s the direction of this…

Chair Malcolmson – Any further discussion?

Trustee Ehring – No.

Chair Malcolmson – Are you ready to vote? All those in favour? It passes unanimously.

Trustee Torgrimson – Ok, and on the second motion that the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee dedicate $4,000 from the LTC Local Expense Account (65230) to the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Council Society and deliver, on or before March 15, 2012 a progress report on local GHG reduction activities related to the SSI Climate Action Plan.

Trustee Ehring – Seconded

Chair Malcolmson – And the rationale?

Trustee Torgrimson – And the rationale for this motion is that we have long been supporting Climate Action activities on the island with the inclusion of the full section in the OCP related to the Islands Trust commitment to um, uh, [to Ehring] what is it called?…the entire

Chair Malcolmson – Bill 27?

Trustee Torgrimson – The uh…

Chair Malcolmson – The Climate Action Charter?

Trustee Torgrimson – Yeah, I think you’re right…and also Bill 27 and the Charter for greenhouse gas reduction as a result of that we supported the creation of the Climate Action Plan of the island and involved individuals and community groups to achieve those reduction efforts and this is a progress report on that, that will also be an encouragement for further GHG reduction activities on the island.

Chair Malcolmson – Thank you. Any further discussion? I know you commented…although it might have just run over quickly, that there’s still, by virtue of this protecting 25% of the budget for the next Trust Committee to spend…

Trustee Torgrimson – …yes we will, there’s still plenty of the expense account

Chair Malcolmson – Although I’d like…just before we move on from this..Community Affairs…or whatever its called now…Minister Chong’s address to the UBCM she specifically noted Islands Trust work on Climate Change in relation to the Climate Action Charter out of all local governments we’re the only one that got named so I imagine that’s Salt Spring’s work that is maybe getting her attention so compliments to your community. So, you ready to vote? All those in favour? It passes unanimously.

Editorial Comment

So, what’s wrong with all this? Here are a few questions which are raised, and which I believe/hope will be sorted out soon:

  1. Is it reasonable to assume, considering these motions were not on the Agenda, and Trustee Ehring had nothing to say whatsoever regarding the unannounced items, that Trustee Torgrimson had likely discussed the motions, or the background of the funding requests (coming from ) with Trustee Ehring (a Director of the SSI CACS) before the LTC meeting?
  2. Did either Trustee publicly disclose their interest or positions in either society to the Chair?
  3. Given there does not appear to have been any formal funding request letter from either “society,” is it reasonable to conclude that Torgrimson was actually pitching the funding requests, on the behalf of the SSI CACS and the Phantom, in her capacity as Chair of the SSI CACS and possibly the Chair of the Phantom?
  4. Since
    • both Trustees have previously been involved in the morphing of the Water Council and the Climate Action Council into private societies,
    • both Trustees are members of the Salt Spring Island Community Affordable Housing Strategy (SSI CAHS),
    • Torgrimson is Chair of the SSI CAHS,

is it reasonable to conclude the Trustees are planning to morph the SSI CAHS into another private, not-for-profit society tentatively called the SSI HCS?

  1. Is it fraudulent for public trustees to knowingly dedicate public monies to an as-yet-to-be-registered Phantom society?
  2. Is it illegal for a quorum of the LTC to meet behind closed doors, in their capacities as Directors and/or Chairs of private societies, to discuss how to obtain funding for those societies from the LTC?
  3. Is it improper for a Trustee(s) to take part in the discussion and decisions, at a Local Trust Committee Meeting, of funding societies, with taxpayer dollars, of which they are Directors?
  4. Is it proper for a sitting Trustee(s) to be a Director and/or Chair of a private society whose effective purposes are to lobby the LTC for changes to local regulations, bylaw, etc.. which the private society members, in their sole opinion, deem to be “appropriate”?    

Once again, I would like to emphasize this is not about water quality, control of climate change (as if that were possible), or managing our housing crisis. This is entirely about whether public trustees are acting legally, ethically and morally in the public’s best interest.

As a former Trustee, it is clear to me boundaries have been crossed. And, it is my opinion that if I, as a Trustee, had tried something as foolhardy as directing public funds to a private society of which I was the Chair, without any disclosure of the conflict (direct, indirect or perceived), I would have been lambasted by the very Trustees (and their biggest supporters) who currently stand accused.

My highest recommendation is that the Trustees immediately file their formal response to the civil claim, and request an immediate court date to resolve these matters. If they truly believe they are completely innocent of all wrongdoing charges, and this is an open and shut case, then let’s have the air cleared asap….say the first week in November.

In the meantime I will continue to pursue the Phantom….

Phunding a Phony Phantom?

Another Private Society?

We are all familiar with the Lady Minto’s annual Phantom Ball fund raiser. However, it appears they now have local competition.

The latest set of questions which have arisen for the embattled Salt Spring Island Trustees, George Ehring and Christine Torgrimson, revolve around their funding of what appears to a non-existent society.

At the October 6, 2011 Local Trust Committee (LTC) Meeting, Trustees George Ehring and Christine Torgrimson moved and seconded and passed a resolution to provide the Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society with $4,000.

As was the case with the funding for the Water Council Society on Sept. 1, 2011, the Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society funding “request” was not on the LTC Agenda, and, came forward, side-by-side, with the $4,000 funding for the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Council Society.

However, a search of the Provincial Society Registry indicates no such entity as the Salt Spring Housing Council Society (or Salt Spring Island Housing Council Society) currently exists.

Given the Trustees have admitted they co-founded two other private societies (the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Council Society and the Salt Spring Island Water Council Society) is it possible they jumped the funding gun and dedicated money to an as yet to be created private society?

The questions which flow from this are:

1. What is the Phantom Salt Spring Housing Council Society?

2. Who are the founding and current Directors?

3. When was it founded?

4. Where is the written funding request from the Phantom Society to the Local Trust Committee and, who signed the funding request?

5. If the Society is not yet established, were the Trustees aware of that fact when they passed the resolution?

6. Did the two Trustees meet, outside of the public eye, to discuss this funding request prior to the LTC meeting, since it was not on the October 6, 2011, Agenda? (see – http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/ltc/ss/pdf/ssagendaoct062011cov.pdf )

7. Has a cheque for the $4,000 been issued by the Islands Trust and/or cashed  by the Phantom Salt Spring Housing Council Society, and if so, into what bank account and under whose signing authority?

8. What are the Bylaws of the Phantom Society, and are the minutes of the Society’s meetings freely available to the public?

9. What are the Membership requirements of the Phantom Society?

10. Has the Phantom Society hired a phantom paid Coordinator, and, if so, when?

To provide balanced reporting, I will interweave answers from the LTC with the above questions when they are received. To that end, I have forwarded a list of questions to the LTC’s Chair, Trustee Sheila Malcolmson, which should help to begin unmasking this Phantom.

Update October 22nd – I have now reviewed the video of the Oct 6 LTC meeting and will be posting a new blog with the verbatim transcript and link to the video later today.

Bias, Buy Us, or Alright By Us?

Trustees George Ehring and Christine Torgrimson, in response to the civil action filed against them, today stated in the Driftwood (http://www.bclocalnews.com/vancouver_island_south/saltspringislanddriftwood/news/132108983.html :

[Note – comments in brackets throughout this post are mine]

“At no time did we believe that we were doing anything wrong….[there is] a contract[s] for [all] work authorized by the Trust’s treasurer and supervised by Trust staff….we agreed to become directors of the new societies [Climate Action Council Society and Water Council Society]….They [their private Societies] do valuable work, and in our [your elected Trustees] opinion deserve public [your tax dollar’s] support…..The model is used in other communities, where elected officials have a seat at the table of some of the community groups they fund [I want examples]…If any of the petitioners had contacted us with their concerns, we certainly would have looked carefully into the issue and sought advice….We have no wish to incur the expense associated with legal action….We think there is a better way to address this.”

Alright, so, what is the problem? In my personal experience as a Trustee, it is now crystal clear to me that the Trustees:

(a) have ignored their legislative duties as Trustees,

(b) have ignored Islands Trust policy,

(c) have ignored the Community Charter provisions of conflict,

(d) have ignored the provincial Ministry Ethical Guidelines regarding conflict of interest,

(e) have improperly participated in the affairs of the two Societies they helped to create,

(f) have misunderstood the total inappropriateness of relying upon the “models” referred to in their relationship to the legislative requirements and restrictions of a quorum of the Local Trust Committee,

(g) do not recognize that their use of the term “they” in reference to the very Societies of which they, themselves, (in their capacities as Island Trustees), are Directors and Chairs, is absurd. It is akin to pointing at their reflection in the mirror and referring to the mirror image as a separate entity. Are they, or are they not, sitting on the Societies as Trustees? The Societies’ bylaws specifically state – “Members shall be (c) duly elected Salt Spring Island local trustees of the Islands Trust or their authorized representatives.” I am not aware of any legal ability of a Trustee to “authorize” someone to act on their behalf. Considering the Trustees helped write the bylaws, it is clear they did not seek any advice from the Islands Trust’s legal counsel. If they did not, why not? It’s a pretty simple and prudent thing for a public Trustee to do.

(h) did not seek independent legal advice prior to their participation in the founding of the Societies, including the creation of the Society’s bylaws.

(i) have neglected to admit to the public the Societies’ customized bylaws (62(4)) allow Directors to “act in a professional capacity for the society…and they or their firm shall be entitled to remuneration for professional services as if they were not a director.”

(j) have neglected to admit to the public that one of the Societies’ bylaws Purposes states, “To advocate for appropriate government legislation, regulations and policies…” How do you square that “Purpose” with the fact that a quorum of the Local Trust Committee is sitting as Directors/Chairs of both Societies?

Am I to believe that as Directors, the Trustees are advocates of the private Societies, advocating to themselves, as a quorum of the Local Trust Committee, behind closed doors, the opinions created within the private Societies, and they don’t see the problem with that?

So, let’s get down to it and look at the applicable legislation.

Community Charter/Ethical Guidelines/Trust Policy

It is extremely difficult for anyone to wade through the gobbledygook of government legislation to try and understand what the law says on any particular subject, let alone one as confusing as conflict of interest, bias, non-disclosure of elected government officials.

To better understand the application of the Community Charter, Islands Trust Policy and the Ministry’s Ethical Conduct guidelines, to the current allegations against Trustees I have taken a few minutes to:

1. edit down the relevant portions of the Community Charter (in italics), and,

2. add the Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development Ethical Conduct recommendations (in bold italics), and,

3. add Islands Trust Policy Guidelines on quorums of the LTC (underlined), and,

4. substitute the “words” Trustees, LTC meeting, Advisory Planning Commission, etc. (non-italicized, non-bolded) for “council members,” “council meetings,” “council commitees,” etc., and,

5. highlight, in red, sections which appear to me to be the basis of the allegations of conflict of interest and non-disclosure.

6. add my notes [in brackets]

The resultant combined text then will hopefully provide you with a clear understanding of the applicable Provincial and Islands Trust legislation:

Islands Trust Policy Guidelines

Any gathering of a quorum  [two Trustees] of local trust committee members at which the business of the local trust committee is advanced in a material way constitutes a meeting for the purposes of the “open meeting” rule in the Community Charter.

The purpose of the open meeting rule is to ensure that the local trust committee’s business is conducted in an open forum, except where the nature of the business comes within one of the statutory exceptions to the rule and the business may lawfully be conducted in the absence of the public.

The fact that a particular discussion may be occurring via telephone or e-mail does not prevent it from constituting a “meeting” for the purposes of the open meeting rule.

The fact that two persons may constitute a quorum of the local trust committee presents particular difficulties in the application of the open meeting rule. Local trustees need not avoid one another in social situations or impose other artificial constraints on their interaction as members of an island community.

Discussions of administrative and logistical matters connected to the local trust committee’s business agenda are unlikely to violate the open meeting rule. Trustees should ask themselves, in determining whether a particular discussion or other interaction should be avoided outside the forum of a trust committee meeting, whether the fact that the discussion or interaction has already occurred would enable the committee to get through a forthcoming meeting agenda more quickly as a result of the trustees having already exchanged views on the matter.

If the answer is yes, then the discussion or interaction should not occur outside the context of an actual meeting.

Community Charter provisions:

Conflict of Interest – Disclosure of conflict

The following applies to Trustees in relation to LTC meetings and meetings of any other body, like the Advisory Planning Commission.

If a Trustee attending an LTC meeting considers that he or she is not entitled to participate in the discussion of a matter, or to vote on a question in respect of a matter, because the Trustee has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter, or another interest in the matter that constitutes a conflict of interest, the Trustee must declare this and state in general terms the reason why the Trusee considers this to be the case.

Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development Ethical Conduct provisions:

A Trustee must…declare a conflict if he or she has some other, non-pecuniary type of interest that places the person in a conflict position (e.g., bias). This could include any benefit obtained by relations, close friends, or associates of a member who is in conflict. Examples may include a rezoning application by a relative or close personal friend or a business license decision involving a competitor business to one operated by a close friend. The facts of each situation will be unique and will need to be considered when determining if a member is in a non-pecuniary conflict of interest situation.

In broad terms, a Trustee has a non-pecuniary conflict of interest if:

(a) the Trustee’s interest in the matter is immediate and distinct from the public interest;

(b) it can be reasonably determined that the Trustee’s private interest in the matter will influence his or her vote on the matter; 

(c) the Trustee, or one of his or her relations or associates, stands to realize a personal benefit from a favourable decision on the matter; and

(d) the potential benefit to the Trustee is not financial in nature.

The key consideration for Trustees is whether a reasonable person would conclude that the decision-making could be influenced or affected by the connection, such that a private interest could conflict with a Trustee’s public duties. When in doubt it is advised that Trustees err on the side of caution and declare any real or perceived non-pecuniary conflict of interest.

Community Charter provisions continued:

After making a declaration, the Trustee must not remain or attend at any part of an LTC meeting during which the matter is under consideration, participate in any discussion of the matter at the LTC meeting, vote on a question in respect of the matter at the LTC meeting, or attempt in any way, whether before, during or after the meeting, to influence the voting on any question in respect of the matter.

When such a declaration is made, the person recording the minutes of the meeting must record the Trustee’s declaration or statement, the reasons given for it, and the time of the Trustee’s departure from the LTC meeting room and, if applicable, of the Trustee’s return, and the Chair of the LTC must ensure that the member is not present at any part of the LTC meeting during which the matter is under consideration.

A person who contravenes these requirements is disqualified from holding an office as a Trustee until the next election, unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgment made in good faith.

If it appears that a person is disqualified and is continuing to act in office, 10 or more electors of the LTC Area may apply to the Supreme Court for an order. An application to disqualify a Trustee may only be made within 45 days after the alleged basis of the disqualification comes to the attention of any of the electors bringing the application.

[Note – I have heard a few people ask “Why are these charges being filed now?” It is clear the fuse was lit on the charges on September 1, 2011, and the time limit for filing the Petition would have expired on October 16, 2011]

Within 7 days after the petition commencing an application is filed, it must be served on the Trustee whose right to hold office is being challenged. On the hearing of the application, the court may declare that the Trustee is qualified to hold office, that the Trustee is disqualified from holding office, or  that the Trustee is disqualified from holding office and that the office is vacant.

A Trustee who is subject to an application and who considers that he or she is qualified to hold office may continue to act in office pending the determination of the Supreme Court respecting the application.

If a Trustee who is declared disqualified from holding office by the Supreme Court appeals the decision, the appeal does not operate as a stay of the declaration and the Trustee is disqualified pending the final determination of the appeal.

If a declaration of disqualification is overturned on final appeal and the term of office for which the Trustee was elected has not ended, the Trustee is entitled to take office for the remainder of the term if otherwise qualified, and,  for this purpose, any other person elected or appointed to the office since the declaration of disqualification ceases to hold office at the time the person declared qualified takes office.

In the case of an application made by a group of electors, if the court declares that the Trustee challenged is not qualified to hold office, the Islands Trust must promptly pay the electors’ costs within the meaning of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.

The court may order that costs to be paid may be recovered by the Islands Trust from the Trustee who was declared disqualified or any other person as directed by the court in the same manner as a judgment of the Supreme Court.

 Except as provided the costs of an application are in the discretion of the court.

Sources –

Community Charter – Conflict of Interest – Disclosure of Interest

http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/LOC/freeside/–%20C%20–/Community%20Charter%20SBC%202003%20c.%2026/00_Act/03026_04.xml#part4_division6

Community Charter – Disqualification

http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/LOC/freeside/–%20C%20–/Community%20Charter%20SBC%202003%20c.%2026/00_Act/03026_04.xml#part4_division7

Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development – Ethical Conduct –  http://www.cscd.gov.bc.ca/lgd/gov_structure/community_charter/governance/ethical_conduct.htm

Islands Trust Policy – Local Trust Committee Meeting Guidelines:

http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/tc/pdf/tcpol4-1-iidec052003.pdf

Why the Fuss is All About

As I have said before, and will continue to say, the current allegations against the Trustees and CRD Director are not about “water quality” or “climate change.” The fuss is about transparency, accountability, honesty, political ethics, and possible Islands Trust policy and  Community Charter violations.

I have already heard it suggested by some that the civil action is politically motivated.

As an example, Charles Buchwald, in the Driftwood online comment section, states, “As far as I can tell, none of this was secret, and islanders had an opportunity to comment on the process at many times. This looks to me like a politically motivated witch hunt. Calling for resignations just ignores the good work these people have done… especially so when it ignores the entire principle of presumed innocence. How ironic that you invoke the spectre of a “centralized municipal option” that would surely ensconce a pork barrel plutocracy.”

I will allow readers to make up their own minds [after viewing the video and reading along with the transcript below] as to whether  (a) there was anything ‘secret’ going on, (b) ‘islanders had an opportunity to comment on the process,’ (c) ‘good work’ cancels potential illegal actions by politicians, (d) “the entire principle of presumed innocence’ precludes allegations of wrong doing against politicians, (e) there is no evidence of what could be considered by some as ‘pork barrel plutocracy’ considering Trustee Ehring’s successfully elected running mate in 2005 was Peter Lamb, who now happens to be the paid Coordinator of the Water Council Society.

With all of that in mind, the following is a verbatim transript of the September 1, 2011 Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee Meeting regarding Water Council [Society] funding. [Editor’s note – there are a few passages which were unintelligible, and I have noted them. If any of the participants wish to correct or clarify any of the passages I would be happy to do so.]

I recommend reading the following as you watch the video ( http://www.imaginesaltspring.com/video/septLTC/septLTC_water_funding.html ) of the Meeting. While doing so, please consider:

(a)     Trustee Torgrimson is also a Director of the Water Council Society

(b)     Trustee Ehring is also an Officer (Chairperson) of the Water Council Society

(c)     The funding request was not on the LTC Agenda

(d)     [My notes/comments are in brackets]

Trustee Torgrimson – Yes, I have a motion to propose related to dedicating some funding from the Local Trustee Expense budget and so…it’s to support a workshop and a report on groundwater on Salt Spring Island. And so this would be a workshop by the Salt Spring Island Water Council [Society] and some…. Our previous support for them [the first of many 3rd person referrals – them, they…] on the analysis of potable water showed 75-80% of estimated total water supply on the island actually is groundwater and that we [the LTC?] need to know more about it and to coordinate our [the LTC?] efforts between the various local and provincial and regional entities related to groundwater. And so, the Water Council [Society] is proposing a one day workshop involving Water Council [Society] members [including Torgrimson and Chair Ehring], groundwater community water systems representatives, folks from the local service commissions, VIHA, Trust planners, CRD staff, well drillers, hydrology consultants, water testing laboratories, and University of Victoria, and individual well owners.  And so, I want to propose that…and I have this in writing…“That the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee dedicate $4,000 from its Local Expense Account” ….[to the Chair:] you don’t have to scribble this….”to the Salt Spring Island Water Council [Society] for work related to groundwater resources upon receipt of the following deliverables on or before March 15, 2012, planning, organizing and holding a workshop and providing a final report summarizing presented information, breakout discussions and recommended actions.” And I have, if you’re interested in reading more in detail, about the project, I have a two-pager from the Water Council [Society] if you were “caught with that” because I haven’t previously distributed it.”[Torgrimson passes the “two-pager” to Trustee Ehring who glances at it and passes it to Chair Malcolmson who evidently had never seen it before the meeting. Chair Malcolmson passes on a copy to Regional Planning Manager Leah Hartley, and glances through the document while saying:]

Chair Malcolmson: [uncomfortably:] Shall we…. show this as a…you know….handout…or something….so that it’s available, because it hasn’t been previously distributed…

Trustee Torgrimson…I think they [the Water Council Society members] will mirror the workshop, will prepare materials and its going to be (unintelligible)…

Chair Malcolmson: …[clarifying] I’m just thinking more, it’s just nice for us to be passing a resolution to release funds that there’s some documentation [as would be reasonable with any funding request to the LTC] in the agenda on what it is…so that [the two pager] could be something that…um, that we receive…

Trustee Torgrimson…it hasn’t been our practice before and so I just brought it for information for the Trustees so that….

Chair Malcolmson: …OK great (unintelligible)…

Trustee Torgrimson:they [the Society members?] didn’t request that it be part of the official record, so I’m a little unsure about that, because its their [the Society members?] workshop and I [as a Trustee or a Director of the Society?] know that they [the Society members] will be advertising it though and getting a (unintelligible) but it may be some way off…um

[Note – With Trustee Torgrimson being “a little unsure” about what the Society’s “request,” you would think that would be an opportune time for the Chair of the Water Council Society, sitting immediately to her right, to offer some clarification.]

Chair Malcolmson: Right

Trustee Torgrimson: They [the Society members] are hoping to hold it before the end of the year, but its not positive, and they [the Society members] are of course wanting to collaborate with Islands Trust staff in their various work related to groundwater as well.

Chair Malcolmson: Would you like to put the motion on the floor?

Trustee Torgrimson: Yes. I would move the motion I just read…do you want me to read it again?

Chair Malcolmson: Yes, please.

Trustee Torgrimson: “That the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee dedicate $4,000 from its Local Expense Account to the Salt Spring Island Water Council [Society] for work related to groundwater resources upon receipt of the following deliverables on or before March 15, 2012, planning, organizing and holding a workshop and providing a final report summarizing presented information, breakout discussion and recommended actions.”

Chair Malcolmson: Is there a seconder?

Trustee Ehring: I’ll second it.

Chair Malcolmson: Is there any further discussion?

Trustee Torgrimson: Yes, I would say a couple of things….that in the OCP you have considerable objectives and policies that support this endeavour. Section C.3 is potable water quality as… and there are two general objectives and one policy that support the intention of this workshop and that Section C.3 – Private surface collection and groundwater supplies has one of two objectives…is to preserve known groundwater recharge areas and then there are one, two, three, four, five different policies that support the intention of a workshop.

Chair Malcolmson: I’m sorry, which of the Local Expense sections would this come from?

Trustee Torgrimson:  …Special Projects…

Chair Malcolmson: Yes, can I just take it by consent the motion refers to that account, that helps me…

Trustee Torgrimson: Yes, I thought about that but we hadn’t done it before so I didn’t include it and that’s fine…

Chair Malcolmson: And so the number that would be inserted is 65230?

Trustee Torgrimson: Mmhmm, yes…

Chair Malcolmson: …in brackets after the “Local Expense”…

Trustee Torgrimson: …Yes

[Note – This following passage lasts just 3 seconds]

Chair Malcolmson: Is there any further discussion? [seeing no indication from either Trustee]…all those in favour? [all three Trustees raise their hands]…it passes unanimously. Thank you.

My questions:

(1)     Why did neither Torgrimson or Ehring disclose, or even acknowledge, their membership, positions or association in the Society to the Chair of the LTC?

(2)     Why was there no mention the funding request was for the “Society.” Did the Chair assume it was for the Society, or did the Chair not know the Water Council had actually been morphed into a society two months earlier, in July 2011? Having personally known Trustee Malcolmson for nine years, my guess would be she had absolutely no idea.

(3)     Why did Trustee Torgrimson and not Trustee Ehring [Chair of the Water Council Society] bring the motion to the LTC? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that he, as Chair, should know the most about the goings on of the Society?

(4)     Why did Trustee Ehring have absolutely nothing to say about the motion, or, offer one iota of explanation of the funding request?

(5)     Why did Trustee Torgrimson consistently refer to the Water Council [Society] in the third person – they and them – when herself and another Director of the Society were sitting directly beside each other?

(6)     If Chair Malcolmson was aware of the Trustees involvement in the Society, why didn’t she say something, and, if she wasn’t aware, what would/should she have done given the circumstances? What will she say under oath?

(7)     Why did Islands Trust staff not bring to the Chair’s attention Torgrimson and Ehring’s involvement in the Society? Are we to believe they didn’t know, or, that Torgrimson and Ehring didn’t ever bring it to staff’s attention? What will staff say under oath?

I have yet to review the October 6, 2011 LTC meeting video, but, am looking forward to it. And, it will be interesting to see the Trustees’ formal responses to the civil claim which are evidently due October 31st  (Trustee Ehring) and November 3rd (Torgrimson).

I will keep you posted as the news happens. If you wish to follow/subscribe to this story, please use the button available at the top of the page.

Conflict Discussion

The following is an edited (commercial free) copy of the October 14th Troublemakers, CFSI-FM, Radio Show, (courtesy CFSI-FM) featuring Eric Booth, Drew Clarke, and Paul Marcano.  The featured topic – Conflict of interest charges against Trustees George Ehring and Christine Togrimson and CRD Director Garth Hendren. (71 minutes)

Troublemakers October 14 2011