Law and Disorder
November 2, 2011 4 Comments
I have been in a minor state of disbelief these last few weeks. I have watched as the controversy over the filing of the petition against our elected officials has eclipsed the substance of the petition itself.
As a former Trustee, allow me to wade into this discussion. First, the notion that members of the public should simply turn a blind eye to what they perceive as wrong-doing by politicians is ludicrous. The applicable laws and policies are well established and relatively clear in this case.
To use the defense – “the means justify the ends” is so open ended, I’m sure H could have used it to justify the purification of the human race. But, that is obviously the most extreme of examples. A more applicable example is perhaps insider trading for the benefit of a not-for-profit society – say “Save the Children Society.” Would the fact that starving children would benefit from insider trading be all right? If a CEO was charged with such a crime, would you object and say let him go, he was only trying to be a nice guy? I’m just askin’
In my opinion, the primary problem here is political overreach into private societies, and, make no mistake about it, these are private societies with limited memberships. The Climate Action Council Society for example does not allow just any representative from a community organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to be a member. According to Trustee…I mean Chair Torgrimson, the proposed individual representative has to be first vetted, and then deemed “appropriate” by the Board of Directors, a process which could take several months. This clearly sets the stage for a private lobby group of like-minded souls to do what? Oh, yes….lobby the very local government organizations of which some of their Directors or Chairs are elected representatives.
If you do not see the conflict or bias problems inherent in this, allow me to quote the CAO of the Islands Trust, Linda Adams on the matter: “While there is nothing improper with a trustee being a member of a community group, the usual advice is not to remain in a leadership role of a group that has regular interaction with the local trust committee or that might make an application of some sort to the local trust committee. If, however, a trustee did have such a role, and the group was seeking a decision of some sort from the local trust committee, then the trustee would likely be advised not to participate in the decision.” A good example of this is when Peter Lamb stepped down as the President of the Salt Spring Conservancy prior to his running as a Trustee. That was the right thing to do (even though he evidently had to be told to do it.)
The questions which people should be asking themselves are these:
(a) did the Trustees declare their membership, in the three societies which they are Directors and/or Chairs of, to the Chair of the LTC and/or the public?
(b) if not, why not?
(c) how can a Chair and Director of a private society be unbiased about the very purposes of the society, especially if the society’s bylaws require members to uphold its bylaws?
(d) on an island full to the brim with dedicated volunteers, why would elected officials think it was necessary, or proper, to take leadership roles in private societies?
(e) how can a quorum of a local government (in this case 2 Trustees) meet behind closed doors, in their capacities as Chairs and Directors of private societies, decide to request funding from the LTC, then change into their public trustee hats, and propose and pass motions for the very same funding?
The petition is not about improving water quality, reducing carbon footprints or increasing affordable housing. It is about shining a light on accountability, transparency, established ethics, and the laws surrounding them. It is about politicians wearing three hats too many.
The petition is not malicious. It is the accumulated result of three years of questions surrounding the accountability, openness, transparency, cronyism, and due processes of the current administration.
The era of:
- banning of video taping of public meetings,
- attempted banning and then regulation of free speech at private society meetings,
- special LTC meetings held without the public having been properly notified,
- minutes of public meetings drastically altered behind closed doors to hide inconvenient truths,
- questions asked of public trustees at Town Hall sessions but never answered,
- secretive committees formed and convened outside of the public’s eyes and ears with no minutes taken, and now
- the formation of three private, select members-only, societies which raises the question, how can publicly elected trustees serve two masters without bias or conflict,
is hopefully over.
I challenge each and every critic of the petition to take the time to carefully think this through and then publicly propose their changes to the existing Provincial legislation, ethics and Islands Trust policies surrounding conflict of interest, bias, and meetings of a quorum behind closed doors.
I’m curious to see just how much disorder they are prepared to accept in the name of good intentions. Or, in their view this is just a “one-off” we should all ignore?
I await your proposed amendments with baited breath. Seeing none, this motion will pass……