Mayor, council at odds again over Aldergrove transit lobbying

The Community Charter spells out the responsibilities of mayors, but according to a majority of Township council, Mayor Rick Green has failed to grasp its finer points.

The Charter states that a mayor must communicate information to council and reflect the will of council.

An exchange of emails between Green and TransLink concerning bus service to the Gloucester Estates Business Park is indicative of his failure to do this, Councillor Kim Richter maintains.

She proposed a motion for a policy, compiled with the help of lawyers, that will make it clear that no council member “has the singular power to instruct, direct or order staff to undertake any program or activity involving the utilization of Township resources unless it has first been authorized by a resolution of council.”

While the motion does not name Green, it stems from those emails in which Green encouraged a market research study that would justify the business case for bus service to Gloucester.

Green did this without council’s knowledge or authorization, a contravention of Section 116 of the Community Charter which compels mayors “to communicate information to the council.”

In another email to TransLink, Green said that he asked the Township CAO “to hire and fund a marketing research company to work through the questionnaire with all companies in Gloucester.”

But council was not informed of this nor did council authorize it, Richter said on Monday night during debate on her motion.

She asked for council’s support “because we have to change how business is currently being done for protection of all of the Township and its financial resources.”

After Richter gave notice of her motion on March 7, Green sought an opinion from Brian Taylor, a lawyer with the Township’s legal firm. Dissatisfied with that opinion, he approached three Lower Mainland mayors who urged him to get a second legal opinion.

He got that from Sandra Carter who stated that the proposed policy “would be too broad and would in some instances interfere with or purport to restrict the ability of the mayor to carry out those powers, duties and obligations.”

When Richter’s motion came before council on Monday, it led to an angry exchange between Green and Councillor Jordan Bateman.

Green said that if the motion passed “then it would be measured against this legal opinion (from Carter).”

“Did you pay for it?” Councillor Steve Ferguson asked.

Green: “I just ordered it.”

Ferguson: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Township paid for it.”

Green: “You’re probably right.”

Councillor Charlie Fox was not happy. “You have gone out and got a legal opinion and the Township will pay for it,” he said, noting that council had had no discussion about it.

Then followed the row between the mayor and Councillor Jordan Bateman who accused Green of getting second legal opinions “when he didn’t get the answer he wants.”

Bateman asked again if the Township paid for the Carter opinion.

Green said yes, and explained why.

“I was not all that thrilled with the response. There was no willingness or offer to put it in a written opinion.”

When Green went on to say that Taylor’s opinion was different, Bateman cut in.

“This, right there, is the nub of the problem, folks. For the last two and a half years, when the mayor didn’t get an answer he likes from someone who is just doing their job . . . the mayor short changed the process, goes behind backs —”

“I won’t put up with this,” Green interjected.

Bateman continued, asking why legal counsel would write a policy that wasn’t legal.

“That flies in the face of the oath they take,” Bateman said.

“For the past two and a half years we have seen conflicts when an elected official doesn’t understand their rules and responsibilities as set out in the Act.”

At this point, Green said, “Excuse me, I won’t put up with —” but Bateman went on, telling the mayor he had already spoken twice.

When Green repeated how he came to getting his own legal opinion after speaking to three mayors, Bateman said: “That’s how it always happens, folks. He goes to a lawyer recommended by a friend.”

“Oh my God,” Green said.

“We’ve tried to reason, we’ve tried to build bridges with you,” Bateman said.

The exchange peaked when the councillor continued: “And the snickering from the chair is totally unacceptable. If you can’t chair this meeting in the proper way, step aside and let someone else do it.”

Several councillors were heard to comment after the meeting that Green does not communicate with them by phone, text or email.

The motion passed with only Green opposed. Councillors Bob Long and Mel Kositsky did not vote. The two, who have on occasion distanced themselves from attacks on Green, left the meeting, separately, during the 35 minute discussion on Richter’s motion.

Following the meeting, Green was asked how much the Carter opinion cost. He said he didn’t know because he had not yet seen a bill.

He told the Times that the Monday night spat between him and council is the “continuation of the political campaign for the next election.”