The majority of Mission council members now sit as independents, after a fourth resigned from the political slate under which all were elected in 2011.
Coun. Tony Luck, who announced his resignation from the Citizens Responsible for Municipal Government (CRMG) by email on Wednesday night, is the latest to leave, following closely behind Couns. Jenny Stevens and Jeff Jewell, who broke from the group late last month. Coun. Nelson Tilbury has not been a part of CRMG since September 2012.
In a public statement, Luck cited an “irreconcilable split of CRMG” and a lack of confidence in the mayor’s leadership as reasons for his departure.
Last month, Tilbury suggested that Coun. Dave Hensman may have been in a conflict of interest for holding a lease on a property near the former Buy Low building on Welton Street which was purchased by the district in December as part of a downtown revitalization initiative. Hensman was part of a unanimous council vote to approve that purchase.
The four independently sitting councillors, Luck, Tilbury, Jewell, and Stevens, voted to refer the matter to B.C. Supreme Court, but Coun. Larry Nundal, Hensman and Mayor Ted Adlem voted against the motion which failed because a two-thirds majority is dictated in these cases by the provincial Community Charter, which also requires all council members to vote.
“What has now become clear to me is that my major issue, beyond the (alleged) conflict of interest matter itself, is how it was seriously mishandled by the mayor, and more broadly with the mayor’s leadership in general,” Luck says in his email statement.
“Another major problem has been the mayor’s temper and disrespect exhibited numerous times to members of the public, staff and council,” stated Luck, who maintained the mayor’s attitude did not change after the issue was discussed.
Nundal told The Record on Thursday that the mayor “could have done a better job” in a couple of incidents, but he is providing this community with good leadership.
“He’s not perfect, neither am I or anyone else on council.”
“(Adlem) is very hard-working and works 100 per cent for the community. It’s as simple as that,” Nundal continued. “He has principles and values too.”
Nundal says he’s not surprised to hear Luck has left CRMG, and acknowledged recent events have caused some frustrations.
“I don’t disrespect what they did, but if you don’t get your way, will you jump ship?” Nundal asked. “We have a right to vote and use our judgments.”
The councillors who voted to send the alleged conflict of interest to court can still do so, Nundal explained. “If they think it’s a strong case, they have options … to pursue it in court.”
The Community Charter allows a group of 10 people on the voters list to take the matter to court on their own.
Nundal said he voted against referring the issue to court because he didn’t want to spend $60,000 to $100,000 on a “losing proposition.”
Although all council members were elected under the same banner, Nundal says they are all independent with their thoughts and votes, and doesn’t expect that to change on council.
“We were never a voting block to begin with,” he said. “We don’t consider ourselves to be a political party … We have to do municipal business. That’s the most important thing.”
Luck says he will continue to work with council to serve the citizens of Mission, but could not run again under CRMG.
CRMG is the first political slate in Mission, but the idea is not new, said Luck.
“If you work as a slate, you can get a number of like-minded people together and pool resources.”
However, Luck believes CRMG was flawed from the beginning because directors were running for office. The board of directors should hold the politicians accountable, he said.
“I still think (a political slate) is a good idea, but it may be ahead of its time here.”
Adlem said there are others interested in running under the CRMG banner in this year’s municipal election in November.
He was surprised to hear of Luck’s resignation when contacted by The Record Thursday morning, and didn’t offer further comment.
“I will make a statement about everyone’s departure later,” said Adlem, who was on his way to a meeting.