White Rock Couns. Louise Hutchinson

Appointment swap leads to ‘awkward moment’ at White Rock council

White Rock mayor cuts off Coun. Al Campbell's assessment of fellow councillor's "performance."

Reconsideration of a recent appointment by White Rock’s mayor caused noticeable tension at city hall Monday night.

Wayne Baldwin last month had asked for support in appointing Coun. Louise Hutchinson as council liaison to the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation, naming Coun. Helen Fathers as alternate.

At the suggestion of Coun. Al Campbell, however, the order was reversed and Fathers was named liaison – a decision made while Hutchinson was away on holiday.

Monday, after hearing from Hutchinson that the switch was “a problem,” Baldwin brought the item back for reconsideration, again with the recommendation that she be appointed liaison.

In discussing the matter, Campbell was cut short when he noted his April 29 suggestion to name Fathers as liaison was based on concerns with Hutchinson’s track record.

“My reason was performance,” Campbell said. “I’ve only known Coun. Hutchinson for 18 months. Louise has been gone for two one-month periods. (I) just wasn’t comfortable with the performance side of things.”

“I’m not going to let you go there,” Baldwin interrupted, describing the discussion as an “awkward moment.”

Neither Fathers nor Hutchinson spoke to the issue at the meeting. Both later told Peace Arch News they believed the mayor should have waited for all of council to be in attendance before bringing the matter forward.

“We could’ve had a discussion about it. It would’ve been better to have done it a lot differently,” Fathers said Tuesday. “The mayor, he’s kind of decided, brought forward the recommendation and if you don’t agree with the recommendation, it puts you in an adversarial position.”

Hutchinson said Wednesday that Baldwin had talked to her about continuing in the position before she left on holiday at the end of March. She was initially appointed liaison, with a term that expires next month, following the June 2012 death of longtime councillor Mary-Wade Anderson.

She first learned of the change through the meeting’s minutes, which make no mention of Campbell’s motion that night.

“Usually when a mayor makes a proposal or an appointment of somebody, it’s almost like rubber-stamped,” she said.

“I asked the councillors how this got reversed and none of them could remember.

“The whole thing probably should not have been voted on when all parties were not there.”

Hutchinson said Baldwin told her he was “blindsided” by reaction to his original motion.

“He said, ‘it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t have been anything but approved.’”

Wednesday, Baldwin confirmed he had been taken aback. No one had approached him with concerns about the appointment prior to the April 29 meeting, he said.

“If somebody had talked to me about it beforehand, I might have pulled it off the agenda and said OK, we’ll just wait until she gets back,” he said.

Regarding Campbell’s comments on her performance, Hutchinson said she has no idea what he was referring to. Campbell, too, has missed meetings for extended holidays, she said.

Baldwin said he has no concerns with Hutchinson’s attendance record, and doesn’t expect to do anything different going forward.

Fathers, who took over as alternate following Anderson’s death, said she recalls attending “quite a few” foundation meetings in Hutchinson’s place. She also recalled councillors having to share Hutchinson’s deputy-mayor duties during a period of absence last year.

According to meeting minutes, Hutchinson has missed five regular and special council meetings from January 2012 to date. In the same time span, Campbell has missed six.

Monday’s motion passed on a 4-2 vote, with Fathers and Campbell opposed, and Coun. Bill Lawrence absent.

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