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Robinson withdraws call but not criticism: 'We look like idiots'
One of two White Rock councillors who criticized the handling of a motion to rescind an earlier council decision has withdrawn his request for a special council meeting, reasoning their efforts would not resolve concerns.
Coun. Larry Robinson confirmed Thursday that he withdrew his request for a special council meeting under the Community Charter – made Wednesday morning in conjunction with Coun. Helen Fathers – following discussion with the mayor and city manager.
However, Robinson maintained his criticism of council's actions.
"We look like idiots," he told Peace Arch News. "We make one plan, we get the city thinking we're going in one direction; and suddenly we get another plan and we're going to go in another direction. And what we're doing to staff really isn't fair."
Fathers and Robinson had requested Mayor Wayne Baldwin call the special meeting in an effort to determine the chain of events behind a motion that blindsided them and others at Monday's council meeting. Coun. Bill Lawrence had called for council to rescind a July 15 decision to move council chambers into a city-owned building at 1174 Fir St., explaining he had learned of a business interested in possibly leasing the building.
Council voted 4-3 in favour of Lawrence's motion, with Couns. Robinson, Fathers and Al Campbell opposed.
While efforts to hold a special meeting have been quashed – at least two councillors are needed to make such a request – Fathers has not given up on getting to the bottom of what transpired.
"I can always put it (the issue) on the agenda for the next meeting. All is not lost yet," she said.
Earlier this week, Fathers was highly critical of the process, as some councillors had no prior warning that the motion was coming forward, while others did.
Thursday, she maintained that what had transpired was "a travesty."
Lawrence had advised city staff of his intention late last week, prompting them to seek a legal opinion as to whether it could be brought forward, given that work on the original directive had already been started.
Robinson said he too is still concerned that a potential lease of city property was being discussed publicly when no request for proposal had been issued or expression of interest received.
However, he said that even if a special meeting determined procedure wasn't properly followed, "there's no recourse under the charter."
"It's not like you can say you get 100 hours of community service or you're put in stocks and we throw tomatoes at you," Robinson told PAN.
"All we do is have a public meeting, and everybody stands up on their stool and makes a big fuss and – because we're now in election mode – it's going to end up throwing a lot of crap at the wall at a time when we have a lot of serious stuff coming up, and I don't want to be part of that political process."
Robinson said he felt that Baldwin had failed in his mayoral duties to communicate information to council, as outlined in the Community Charter, and said Baldwin acknowledged to him Wednesday that "he knows he may have made an error in judgment."
Baldwin, however, disputed that, telling PAN Thursday, "If I don't have the information, I can't divulge it."
While the mayor confirmed Lawrence had discussed the issue with him days prior – and he advised him to consult city staff regarding the legalities – Baldwin said he didn't know until 3:30 p.m. Monday that Lawrence was going to ask for the motion to be on that evening's agenda.
"Did I fail? I suppose I could've quickly fired out an email at 3:30, but there just wasn't time," Baldwin said, noting council had meetings starting at 4 p.m. "Under the circumstances, no, I don't think I failed."
Baldwin did acknowledge the issue has "ruffled" feelings amongst council members, but he is optimistic harmony will be restored.