Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Ed Wood responded to accusations surrounding recent village council meetings before making allegations of his own.
During a Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on Jan. 26 and 27, Wood read out a letter detailing grievances against the council.
The writer of the letter stated that the Jan. 11 CoW meeting was illegal.
“It was not called by the mayor. It was not called by two council members. (Notice) was not signed by the corporate officer,” the letter reads. “There could not have been any of the required signatures because no notice was given to the public, as clearly required.”
The letter writer accused village staff have not properly signed off on notices require for special meetings for the past five years. The writer further alleged the village staff cut out a portion of the beginning of the Jan. 11 CoW video footage.
The letter writer apparently typed out a transcript of events preceding the meeting, but Wood declined to read them out loud.
Wood said he believes in open, transparent government as critical to effective democracy.
“I believe in good, accountable council and mayor; I stand strong behind that oath,” he said.
Wood alleged a closed, in-camera meeting was held before the regular council meeting on Jan. 16. Wood said he deemed the meeting illegal; he and Coun. John Buckley were not in attendance.
“The other councillors carried on with the council meeting in violation, knowing it was not a valid meeting,” Wood claimed. “Coun. Buckley and myself have no idea what was said, what decisions were made and what was done at that meeting. That’s wrong.”
Wood’s allegations of the invalid meeting come just over two months after he denied a request from Couns. Leo Facio and Michie Vidal for a closed, special meeting to discuss “the concerns in administration.” During a special council meeting held Nov. 15 of last year, Wood rejected the request in the name of transparency and accountability, saying it’s vital for such meetings to be conducted publicly.
CoW meetings tend to be uncommon in Harrison, and special meetings rarer still; during the first three months of the new administration, however, there have already been two CoW meetings.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, village officials announced the Feb. 6 council meeting was cancelled. No further explanation was published. Two regular council meetings have been cancelled since the term started, the other being on Dec. 19, 2022.
In other council business:
– Village planning consultant Ken Cossey went over a “Planning 101” presentation; village staff indicated this presentation would precede more in-depth discussion about the draft Official Community Plan (OCP). The last time the OCP was updated was 2007 – 16 years ago. During the Jan. 19 regular council meeting, council voted 4-1 (Wood opposed) to table further discussion until at least Feb. 16.
– Council moved to direct village staff to seek further public engagement and to canvas area properties regarding an off-leash dog park in the village. The vote was 4-1, Wood opposed.
– Council had their first look at the 2023-2027 draft financial plan.
– Council discussed possible changes to the pay parking plan based on a study conducted in 2021.
The next regular Harrison Hot Springs Village Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall (290 Esplanade Avenue). Online attendance is also available via Zoom; those interested can register through harrisonhotsprings.ca. Video recordings of the meetings will be archived on the village’s YouTube page.