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Another Harrison council meeting ends early amid clashes

Mayor, Coun. Allen voted against facilitator recommendations
Coun. Michie Vidal (far left) stands up to address Mayor Ed Wood during a tense exchange at the Nov. 8 council meeting in Harrison Hot Springs. (Screenshot/Village of Harrison Hot Springs)

Conflict among members of the Harrison Hot Springs village council shows no sign of slowing down nearly a full year into the 2023-2027 term.

Nov. 8’s council proceedings came to a premature halt after Mayor Ed Wood once again adjourned the meeting early after a clash with Coun. Michie Vidal.

This week’s council meeting conflict arose after a lengthy discussion following a report from Ron Poole, an independent facilitator who was brought to Harrison in February by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in an effort to help council work cohesively.

During a previous meeting, Wood ruled a zoning amendment for the Glencoe Motel (259 Hot Springs Road) out of order due to “procedural fairness not being followed.” Wood again ruled the item out of order, to whichVidal replied with her own point of order, saying an item could not be removed from the agenda once the agenda had been approved. After a brief, heated exchange, the mayor moved to adjourn, and the vote passed.

RELATED: Harrison officials accomplish nothing on lengthy agenda as mayor and council clash – again

Poole presented his final report to council on Wednesday (Nov. 8). Wood took umbrage with the fact that there was no mention of “illegal meetings” or any investigation thereof on a provincial level.

Wood did not specify what allegations were levelled against him during Wednesday’s meeting. However, back in August, he expressed wishes to form a standing committee to investigate “frivolous” allegations against himself for bullying, harassment, intimidation and disrespect. There has been no further update on the committee’s creation or status.

“I would never have believed what could happen (in closed meetings),” Wood said to Poole. “I guarantee that the worst thing that’s in your mind – you’re not even close to what’s been happening.”

Wood has historically refused to attend a number closed-door meetings with members of council, including at least two consulting sessions with council and Poole. Closed – or in-camera – meetings are most often reserved for land, legal and personnel matters.

Coun. John Allen said he was “horrified” to note that Poole did not have access to the minutes of in-camera meeting minutes from previous sessions.

“To me, that would be like sending in a financial auditor and saying you can come in and do an audit, but you’re not allowed to look at the bank balance or the chequebook or any of the financial decisions,” Allen said. “What we needed was somebody to come in here with the full authority to look into all the dark corners and behind the veil and make an assessment of why this municipality is in the crisis it is today. Until that happens, I do not see this as being a improvement.”

Poole provided seven recommendations to the council in his report:

That council budget for professional education and ongoing elected official training.

That council revise the current procedure bylaw.

That council finalize the adoption of the Official Community Plan (OCP).

That council review and understand the existing social media communications policy.

That the CAO and mayor continue with regularly scheduled council agenda briefing meetings.

That council establish a Council-CAO covenant in order to ensure clarity of roles and establish a respectful relationship.

Finalize and adopt a Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct and the approval of the OCP have appeared on previous agendas. Poole said provincial officials vetted the report before it was presented to village council.

RELATED: Harrison Council meets with facilitator in open meeting

Poole did not comment on potential for investigations by provincial officials. He said there’s still clear tension at the table that isn’t going to go away, even after workshops.

“I believe the five of you have to somehow come to an agreement that we have to govern this municpality the best we can, and that’s by setting the differences aside,” Poole said.

Vidal moved to receive the report, approve all recommendations and that staff be directed to create a timeline for implementation as soon as possible. The motion passed 3-2, with Wood and Allen opposed.

Coun. Allan Jackson demanded an apology from the mayor for implying he was involved in “illegal actions.” Wood replied that he did not say Jackson was involved in illegal meetings, not illegal activities.

The most recent council meeting marks the second prematurely adjourned meeting in just as many months for the village. During the Oct. 4 meeting, Wood and Coun. Leo Facio argued over allegations that the former mayor “released distorted confidential information.” Like last week’s meeting, October meeting ended after 50 minutes, leaving most of the agenda items for future meetings.

The next regular Harrison Hot Springs Village Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. at the village office (495 Hot Springs Road). Venue is subject to change.

Online attendance is also available via Zoom; those interested can register through Video recordings of the meetings will be archived on the village’s YouTube page.

Adam Louis

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