Workshop pointless, report concludes

"culture of conflict" among council members

The relationship between Langley Township Mayor Rick Green and the rest of council has deteriorated so far that a workshop to help them address issues of contention is pointless.

That is the conclusion of a report by consultants Gerald D. Berry and Allison M. Habkirk, who were hired by the Township last year to review the duties and responsibilities of elected officials, as they relate to the Local Government Act and the Community Charter.

Berry and Habkirk were to review these with council, and then hold a workshop which would review and assess the procedures in place as they relate to communication between council members, between the mayor and council, between council and staff, and between these parties and the public.

Berry and Habkirk had met with individual members of council and had agreed to hold a workshop this month.

In a report obtained by The Times on Jan. 14, the consultants concluded that a workshop would not be fruitful:

“Given the current culture of conflict amongst the council and the mayor’s open rejection of the fundamental principles of shared and collective decision-making, it is our conclusion that holding a workshop session to address the issues at this stage in this council’s term is unlikely to produce a satisfactory outcome and in fact might further enflame prevailing conditions.”

Indeed, arriving at the decision to have a workshop was a lengthy one, as it was first suggested by Councillor Steve Ferguson in September, 2009, 10 months after Green had ousted the incumbent mayor, Kurt Alberts.

Berry and Habkirk bring the perspective of both bureaucrat and elected official to their roles. Now retired, Berry was the long-time CAO of Nanaimo, and Habkirk is a former mayor of Central Saanich.

They were to conduct a workshop this Saturday, Jan. 22, on the roles, responsibilities and code of conduct of elected officials and staff.

“At this juncture, council needs to consider if a positive outcome is possible from a workshop which deals with such sensitive topics; certainly one would not want to make matters worse by increasing the level of discord around the council table and, under the prevailing circumstances, we think that is a distinct possibility,” Berry and Habkirk wrote.

This Saturday’s workshop of between three and four hours “would, realistically, only begin to scratch the surface of the challenges currently facing your council.”

Councillor Kim Richter said that Green’s action over the letter he sent to Metro Vancouver chairman Lois Jackson asking to retain his status on several sub-committees, is a case in point.

“Tell me that isn’t a blatant example of the mayor’s rejection of fundamental principles (of local government procedures),” Richter said.

Council had already advised Jackson of its preferences for those committees.

“Quite frankly, why would Lois Jackson ignore the request of a democratically elected body?” she commented.

She said that Green’s letter to Jackson, written without council’s knowledge explains “why there’s no point in having a workshop.”