It will be up to the mayor and councillors who will be sworn in to office on Dec. 5 to decide whether to refer to legal counsel a municipal-level inquiry into Mayor Rick Green’s conduct, or whether there should be an inquiry at all.
That was how council concluded Monday’s meeting, the last of council’s term.
But the decision should be left to the public, said Councillor Kim Richter, who did not support the motion. Richter said she hoped that on election day, “Township taxpayers will vote zero tolerance for any politicians lying while in a publicly held and publicly paid office.”
She noted that the Lidstone Report into Green’s conduct over the Brownshak affair concluded that Green was dishonest, misled council and three lawyers, and misrepresented how Brownshak documents came into his possession.
“The mayor was caught. He was punished. It’s over,” Richter said.
Before a packed public gallery, Green said that he had asked Ward for an outline of how much a committee of inquiry would cost, but had not received an answer.
However, Richter said that had Green been “honest from the outset, not one dime and not one minute of legal time would have been spent on this matter.”
Ward said that “in procedural fairness to Green,” and before the motion proceeded, he would invite the mayor to agree to the inquiry.
“Will you consent, Mayor Green?”
“No, I’ll be voting against it,” Green said, to applause from the gallery.
Ward’s motion was then seconded by Councillor Charlie Fox, who said that “if one particular individual had done his homework, researched the issue and above all been honest, the taxpayers of Langley could have seen a very different three year term.”
He called the term “a roller-coaster ride, with honesty and integrity at the heart of it all. “
“The truth has been an evasive element at this table quite often this term and the Brownshak/Lidstone Report situation is merely but one situation this council has had to deal with,” Fox said.
“For a town council to work effectively, a team approach is needed and all members of the team should, if nothing else, have honesty and integrity in common,” Fox said.
Saying that a person’s name, actions and integrity are linked forever, Fox said that “people with a public responsibility must be able to look into that mirror everyday and know full well the person they are looking at holds the highest possible standards.”
He added: “What is even more unfortunate for individuals who lose sight of their core values of honesty and integrity is that the slope becomes very slippery indeed. It also becomes an insult to the honest citizens who voted for them. A council position is an honour and should be treated as such . . . you do what is in the best interest of the community. Misleading or whatever term you want to use is not in the best interest of the community (and) an individual that has had his lack of honesty questioned, researched, and documented should take responsibility for their actions and not deflect blame to others.”
“I believe that the last thing our taxpayers want is squabbling over politics,” Green countered, saying that Ward’s motion “demonstrates clearly that those chasing this witch hunt want a ‘blank cheque’ to pursue a partisan political agenda in advance of the municipal elections on Nov.19.”
While he said that it’s time “to close the book on this,” Councillor Steve Ferguson said the question that has not been answered is “Why did this happen?”
He went on: “That question has never been answered at this table. Silliness happens because a question has not been answered.”
Green apologized in 2010, but Ferguson told the mayor: “No matter how many times you apologize, people want to know why.”
Green replied that “far too much time and effort has been put into this non-issue.”
While Green refused to agree to Ward’s motion that sought answers to his conduct, he complained that his request for information on the cost of an inquiry had not been answered. It is essential before Ward’s motion could be passed, he argued.
“Clearly, there is a refusal to do so and an unwillingness to either explain or defend the cost of such an inquiry regardless of how much cost Township of Langley taxpayers have incurred to date.
“I will not get into a ditch with anyone. I will not get into the character assassination that has been going on for two and a half years,” Green said.
Ward said after the meeting that he had offered the mayor the opportunity to explain his conduct and prove his innocence.
“I don’t know why he didn’t take up the offer to heal the hurt in the community,” Ward said.