EDITORIAL: City of Wonder

Questions remain after censure of White Rock Coun. David Chesney and ensuing explanations.

For the second time in less than three weeks, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin read from a prepared statement carefully crafted to silence criticism.

And, for the second time, his explanations raise more questions.

His earlier speech – delivered April 10 – told of a “councillor with a young family (being) harassed over the telephone and threatened unless he changes his vote.”

That the mayor knew – he admitted, when pressed by Peace Arch News – that the threat was the unnamed councillor would be voted out of office, and that the telephone was city-issued, seems disingenuous to not mention.

This week’s speech came after council’s unexplained vote to leave Coun. David Chesney off city committees and the deputy-mayor rotation was made public two weeks ago.

Baldwin announced that the decision was made in-camera one month earlier to censure Chesney for comments published on the councillor’s own website.

“The censure was a result of Coun. Chesney as publisher/editor of the White Rock Sun acting in a manner unbecoming of a city councillor and not in accordance with city policy, respectful workplace policy 405, whereby comments considered to be defamatory were published in the online newspaper. The defamatory nature of the comments were confirmed by legal counsel.”

Because neither Baldwin nor Chesney could reveal what was written, one is left wondering why a potential civil case – which has yet to be seen, if ever, by a judge – is being treated by a public body on the same level normally reserved for issues of criminality.

And one wonders why “censure” – the expression of severe disapproval – includes punitive measures for both Chesney and the public who voted him into office.

Certainly, one wonders why the city’s lawyer would give such clearcut advice, given that defamation is so open to legal interpretation. Typically it’s the court’s role to determine whether the offended party’s reputation is adversely affected in the mind of a right-thinking person.

Turns out, Baldwin acknowledged later – once again, when pressed – that Chesney had not written the comments himself, and that the city’s counsel advised what was written was merely “most likely” defamatory.

Given the limited information made available to the public – in deliberately worded dribs and drabs – one can only hope council members made their decision with the best of intentions, motivated by a desire to better serve their city.

Otherwise, their actions would seem ill-advised.

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