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.


One Response to Why the Fuss is All About

  1. Having just heard that the charges were actually brought against our elected officials during our Thursday radio spot, I have to say it had a chilling effect on me to suddenly realise that we were no longer jousting about ideological differences with the Islands Trust but rather Trustees and a CRD Director who apparently channeled money directly to organizations they are directors of.

    It is disturbing to think that if the our CRD Director, Trustees or Trust Council or staff cannot admit to at least the appearance of a conflict of interest and perhaps a formula to rectify it, then we have a much deeper and more ingrained problem on our hands. One which may require a far more thorough and indepth investigation of all Trust/CRD grants in aid, going back many years.

    If comments by Trust representatives continue to be made to try and redirect this discussion towards it being a ‘witch hunt’ or some kind of politically motivated maliciousness, then I would suspect we have a major problem. Any elected official or potential candidates admitting any lack of a reasonable understanding as to what ‘conflict of interest’ means only compounds the problem we face with our current governance model. As a tax payer I would hope the courts will indeed clarify and perhaps even suggest an islands-wide, comprehensive review/audit of the Islands Trust to see if this has not become endemic of how they do business in general.

    As I said, it is far more disturbing if they try to justify such potential conflict of interest with redirect strategies, ‘good works’, ‘community good’ ‘climate change fear-mongering’ or anything that would attempt to set a precident for this kind of behaviour, thus weakening or contravening a pretty serious Community Charter law protecting tax payer’s funds in governance decisions.

    This is not about politics, this is about basic laws that protect us from governmental abuse of our tax monies.

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