Citing confidentiality, Harrison Hot Springs councillors could not confirm whether or not a special council meeting was held prior to the regular Jan. 16 meeting.
In a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, Harrison Mayor Ed Wood alleged Couns. Michie Vidal, Leo Facio and Allan Jackson held an illegal in-camera meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 16, ahead of the regular council meeting. Neither he nor Coun. John Buckley – who serves as the current deputy mayor – were present at the alleged meeting.
“Due to confidentiality, I’m unable to respond to your questions or any allegations of secret or illegal meetings,” Vidal told The Observer in a brief email statement.
There are procedures in place to host a special council meeting outside of the parameters of the regularly scheduled sessions. According to the B.C. Community Charter, it is the mayor who calls special council meetings. Two or more members of council may also submit a written request to the mayor to call a special meeting. From there, the mayor has 24 hours to respond to the request.
If the request is approved, the meeting would be held within seven days. In the event this does not happen or both the mayor and acting/deputy mayor are absent or otherwise unable to act, two or more members of council may themselves call a special council meeting. If the councillors call a special meeting, the members of council or the municipal corporate officer must sign a notice of the council meeting in place of the mayor.
Wood told The Observer he did not call a special council meeting for Jan. 16. He said that neither he nor Buckley known what was said or what decisions were made, if any. Wood added minutes of the alleged in-camera meeting were not made available to him as of Monday, Feb. 13.
The Observer received no such meeting notice at that time or throughout January. Available village staff was unable to answer inquiries about any existing special council meeting notices for Jan. 16.
Even if the pre-meeting, in-camera session did take place and was legitimate, unless there is an approved special request to release information to the public, the minutes of said session would not appear in any public agenda or document.
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