The alleged defamatory comments that led to White Rock Coun. David Chesney’s censure and removal from public duties – announced in open council this week – were about a fellow councillor, Mayor Wayne Baldwin confirmed Wednesday.
In explaining to Peace Arch News how Chesney’s actions publishing a third party’s comments on his website constituted “council business” – as stipulated by the Council and Committee Procedure Bylaw’s detailing of censure – Baldwin revealed the article in question involved another councillor, whom he did not identify.
“It took some information that (Chesney) had received as a matter of privilege and worked on that,” Baldwin told PAN. “And of course, it affects the working of council, because it creates tension between the councillor who received these defaming remarks.”
Chesney, however, disputes that information published was privileged.
“It absolutely was not privileged,” he told PAN Thursday. “I have no problem disputing his statement, that this was not anything of privilege that was released on the website.”
Chesney late this morning published a post on his website – www.whiterocksun.com – detailing his version of what transpired leading up to this week’s announcement by the mayor, with the exception of what was discussed in-camera.
This afternoon, Coun. Helen Fathers contacted PAN after reading Baldwin’s comments about privileged information, saying that had any been divulged on Chesney’s website, there is a process in place that would have resulted in him being removed from office. She noted Baldwin’s speech Monday made no mention of privileged information being released.
Also Thursday afternoon, Vancouver media began reporting comments Chesney made in an interview posted online April 6 in an interview with Jim Goddard, in which Chesney was critical of tight clothing worn by some pregnant women. A link to the interview was posted hours before on the website, Reddit, by a user identified as chesneyThrowaway.
Chesney estimated to PAN that his legal costs were already “into the thousands.”
According to the city’s bylaw, “a motion to censure may be used to express council’s indignation with a council member’s conduct regarding council business. A motion of this nature would be used only in extraordinary circumstances, where the Respectful Workplace Policy has not been adhered to.”
The bylaw does not detail council’s ability to impose censuring stipulations, however Baldwin told PAN he believed that aspect fell under the Community Charter, and that the city’s legal counsel agreed the stipulations were in line with the charter.
Inquiries to city staff for clarification on what section of the charter censuring stipulations fell under were not returned by press deadline.
(UPDATE: A response from city staff after press time stated council’s authority to impose censuring stipulations is “through common law plus the natural person powers of council under the Community Charter.”)
In addition to Chesney’s removal from committees and the deputy-mayor rotation, he was removed from “exterior representations.”
“That would be where you’re acting as a liaison to some exterior organization like the BIA or chamber of commerce, that kind of thing. Something that’s not part of the city governance structure,” Baldwin explained. “Because Coun. Chesney was a first-time councillor, I don’t think he had any (situations) where he was a primary go-to guy.”
Baldwin also reiterated that the decision to censure Chesney was not solely the mayor’s decision.
“I think it’s important to note, I don’t know for whatever reason people think it’s me doing it,” Baldwin said of Chesney’s censure and the resulting stipulations. “It wasn’t me, it was council. It was a council motion. I don’t have the authority to do that. It could not happen.”