Councillor hires councillor
Pitt Meadows Coun. Doug Bing is hiring Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie to work in his MLA constituency office, part-time, starting in August.
“I think she’d be very good at the job. Because I knew her, I thought it would be a good fit,” Bing said Monday.
Ashlie, a two-term councillor with Maple Ridge and former school board trustee, managed Bing’s successful campaign in the May 14 provincial election. He won the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows seat for the B.C. Liberals, defeating the NDP’s Elizabeth Rosenau.
Bing also sits on council with the City of Pitt Meadows, a position he’ll continue to fill until January, at which point he’ll resign his municipal seat.
Once elected MLA, Bing stopped drawing his councillor’s salary.
“I just felt that because she was interested, she’d be a good person,” for the job, Bing said of Ashlie.
She will work three days a week as a constituency assistant, starting the second week of August, earning about $29,000 annually.
As a Maple Ridge councillor, Ashlie makes $42,762 a year.
Constituency assistants help people access provincial services and help the MLA run the office.
Gay Conn, now with the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association, will be the other constituency assistant, also working three days a week, with one day overlapping between the two.
Conn previously ran for Pitt Meadows council in 2011, but was unsuccessful.
Bing doesn’t yet have a constituency office, although he’s close to signing a lease for space at 20130 Lougheed Hwy. That location is closer to Pitt Meadows than outgoing NDP MLA Michael Sather’s office was in downtown Maple Ridge.
With renovations required, the office will open in late September.
In the meantime, Bing and his staff will work out of Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton’s office on Dewdney Trunk Road and 230th Street.
He wasn’t worried about the optics of a councillor working for the MLA.
“I guess if a person is cynical, they could try to see the worst in something like that, I suppose. One of the positives, I’m getting a very knowledgeable, experienced person who is very good working with people. She’s a very good, effective, efficient person.”
He pointed out a constituency assistant for NDP MLA Mike Farnworth also served on council. Brad West was elected to Port Coquitlam council in 2008, when he was assistant to Farnworth.
But two years ago West resigned from the constituency position.
Maple Ridge council observer Dan Olson sees a potential for a perception of a conflict of interest between municipal and provincial issues with Ashlie working for Bing.
While Olson, a former federal Liberal candidate, is confident that Ashlie wouldn’t allow any conflict to occur, he still doesn’t like the optics.
“I don’t care if it’s Brad, I don’t care if it’s Cheryl and they’re both from political parties in the bigger picture, it’s wrong. Maybe not legally, maybe not technically. But I really believe a lot of people will be confused by it.”
He suggested one hypothetical conflict involving the Agricultural Land Reserve, where Maple Ridge has a different position than the province.
Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse viewed Ashlie’s new job as helping both communities.
“I look at it more as pretty good synergy.”
Bing said Ashlie was on vacation and is to return the first week of August.
Bing is hoping to use most of former MLA Michael Sather’s office furniture.
If Bing resigns from council before January, it will automatically trigger a byelection, which city staff estimate will cost around $15,000.
If he remains on council until January, the city can skip a byelection since civic elections are already schedule for November 2014.
Bing ended the New Democratic Party’s eight-year hold on the riding May 14 by defeating Elizabeth Rosenau by 620 votes.