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….

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2 Responses to The Phantom Chronicles (Part two)

  1. “Make Your Cheques Out to the Phantom.”

    I have now registered for the Workshop on November 4th.

    Lo and behold, in the payment receipt email I received from the BCNPHA was the following note:

    “Lunch is not included in the registration fee; however, a catered lunch is available for an additional $14 per person….Lunch payment must be made at the door by cash or cheque made out to SSI Housing Council Society.”

  2. Mark F says:

    As usual, Eric, logical, clear and very, very scary.

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