Qualicum Beach councillors stand ground over meeting

When the three new Qualicum Beach councillors gathered at town hall Tuesday, they didn’t tell the mayor — and while that has Teunis Westbroek crying foul, the councillors involved are standing their ground.

The gathering was organized by Coun. Dave Willie in an attempt to get new council members up to speed on decisions made in camera over the past term, and was attended by councillors Scott Tanner and Bill Luchtmeijer and senior staff members.

The review, Willie said, was  held in the staff coffee room at town hall, located directly across from the mayor’s office.

Mayor Teunis Westbroek was incensed when he saw the three council members sitting down together across the hall however, noting that three council members is a quorum and thus should be considered a council meeting — one to which the mayor was not invited or informed.

“I was in my office and looked across to where the councillors’ lounge is across from my office are and there were three councillors in there,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it and staff was going back and forth. If I had been told or invited to it there wouldn’t be an issue, but to do that without letting everyone know it was happening was rather disrespectful.”

Westbroek said even in camera meetings, where the public is excluded, need to be properly posted and advertised.

“You can call a meeting on very short notice, but you still have to make it public,” he said. “You can’t do it secretly.”

That’s not how Willie sees it.

“We must be pretty poor individuals to pick a room right across from the mayor’s office to hold a secret meeting. I think people will see this for what it is.”

Willie said it made perfect sense to have the three new council members get caught up with all the in camera minutes from the past term, noting that while open council meeting minutes are open to anybody, in camera notes require a stricter protocol and can only be viewed — even by councillors — with senior staff present.

He said the mayor’s response to the review, which he stressed was not a council meeting and did not discuss town issues going forward, was inappropriate.

“He burst into the room at about quarter to 11 and there was no Happy New Year or Merry Christmas, but rather, slanderous remarks about this being an illegal meeting. We were flabbergasted. I think is a clear indication of why some of us are having great difficulty in seeing his ability to speak for us on anything.

“Time will tell. I hope it does. He has tremendous amount of experience and we need that on council. He has shown great leadership.”

Willie noted while Westbroek wasn’t invited to the gathering, neither was Coun. Mary Brouilette, as both the incumbents had been present and involved in making the in camera decisions and didn’t need to be updated.

Tanner also defended the gathering, calling it a useful exercise.

“It was interesting, because I there was some information I read in the minutes that was dealt with at the council orientation Wednesday, so I found it beneficial that I already had background information I had been able to review.”

Tanner conceded the gathering could have been handled better, however.

“In many ways, it could have been handled differently,” he said. “There’s no question about that — on three sides, from administration, from councillors and from the mayor.”

Despite their disagreement about the meeting, both the councillors and the mayor stressed the need for council to put its differences behind them and work towards the betterment of the community.

“The thing that bothers me most is we should be talking about how we can help the board of education keep Kwalikum Secondary School open,” Westbroek said. “We need to look at how we can work with the community on our arts and culture plan and how we can protect our waterfront with a master plan. We need to move forward. We have so many things we can be doing. The community doesn’t want to hear about us fighting, but about us working together.”

Willie expressed similar sentiments.

“We have serious problems in the world today, but we don’t have serious problems in this town,” he said. “However, we have some things we can kick up a notch and some we can move forward on. There are some really positive things going on and we would like to get moving on them.”

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