White Rock councillor points to favouritism in committee appointments

Final selections approved by council, Baldwin says.

White Rock council

White Rock council

A White Rock city councillor wants a “more transparent process” when it comes to committee appointments, following council’s endorsement last week of selections for 2016.

Prior to a unanimous vote Jan. 11 to adopt this year’s appointments, Coun. Helen Fathers told fellow council members she would like to see a lottery system put in place for the committee positions that are sought by more than one councillor.

“At the end of our four years we should have been given equal opportunity to serve on all of the committees,” Fathers said. “I hope to see that by the end of this term.”

Committee selections – which include representatives and alternates for a variety of city committees as well as external organizations – are made by Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who then brings the list to council for approval.

For 2016, the council appointments approved last week include eight for Couns. Lynne Sinclair and Bill Lawrence, seven for Couns. Grant Meyer, Megan Knight and David Chesney and six for Fathers.

Baldwin told Peace Arch News Monday that councillors have the opportunity to relay their interest in specific committees ahead of time, and can also request changes to the list before it’s voted on.

Baldwin said he tries to distribute the appointments evenly among council but acknowledged the amount of engagement of certain committees over others does not factor into the selections.

“It varies so much and would be pretty hard to predict,” Baldwin said. “Some of them aren’t going to be very much, but others will vary depending on the issues that come up.”

Fathers told PAN she believes that certain members of council are “stacked heavy with committees” while others are not.

“From my perspective, there’s too much favouritism done with the committees,” she said. “It’s in council’s best interest for us to all have a try on different committees.”

Fathers pointed to two of her 2016 appointments – to the Environmental Advisory Committee and the Lower Mainland Local Government Association – noting that the two had no meetings scheduled for the year. Another of her appointments, to the Parcel Tax Roll Review Panel, is “held once a year for one minute,” she said.

“For the longest serving member of council and the one who got the most votes, it’s just not very even,” Fathers said, noting she thought it was futile disputing the appointments in council, “’cause the votes are stacked against me.”

According to Baldwin, two or more councillors vying for the same committee appointment “doesn’t happen very often” and when it does, he recommends whichever council has the most interest or is best-suited for the role.

“I just pick one and if they want to trade or discuss it between themselves, they can do that,” Baldwin said. “I just make the recommendation. In the end, it’s council’s decision.”

Baldwin dismissed Fathers’ claims that he favours some councillors over others, pointing to her year-long appointment as representative to Metro Vancouver in 2011 as “something that no one else has ever had.”

“If she wants to complain, she should take that into account,” Baldwin said.

In December, council also approved the 2016 deputy mayor-rotation list, which Chesney was removed from last year as part of his censure for a comment published on his website about a fellow councillor deemed “defamatory” by Baldwin.

(Editor’s note: After online publication of this article, Baldwin contact PAN Tuesday afternoon to take issue with the wording that he deemed the comments on Chesney’s website defamatory; he maintained a city lawyer deemed them defamatory and that he agreed with that assessment.)

Chesney is back on the rotation list for 2016, and is scheduled to be deputy mayor from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.