qathet Regional District (qRD) directors are considering the prospect of censure and sanction against Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne for comments he made regarding a proposed zoning bylaw.
At the November 25 regional board meeting, regional directors carried a motion to obtain a legal opinion regarding the procedural requirements if the board were to consider potential action in relation to Gisborne's comments at the planning committee meeting on November 9 regarding Douglas Bay Road.
The proposal for censure came about during the review of correspondence from Marcie Mehaffey regarding a petition she had started regarding a zoning bylaw for the Douglas Bay area to exclude new commercial or industrial uses. In her correspondence, Mehaffey said Gisborne had attacked her integrity, or those in her neighbourhood, by suggesting there was racist intent or a desire to build a wall of regulations around themselves to keep them safe inside their own little bubble. A motion was made to receive Mehaffey’s letter.
Gisborne said there were a number of items he wanted to point out in the correspondence. He said he had quoted a Wikipedia article that described exclusionary zoning in order to identify what he and many others believe to be a systemic problem.
Gisborne said chair Patrick Brabazon did not allow him to finish his point at the planning committee meeting, therefore, comments that were made lacked context.
“My point is that exclusionary zoning was a tool designed to segregate the community based on economics,” said Gisborne. “It was then later tied with a variety of other community factors that resulted in racial segregation in the 1920s. I believe there were other options available to address neighbourhood concerns without using…”
Brabazon interjected and said he did not understand what Gisborne’s comments had to do with receiving the letter.
Gisborne said he would go onto his next point and said he apologized for using the term “putting up a wall.”
“That was not the correct language,” said Gisborne. “I should use the language used by our consultant for this type of zoning…”
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander called a point of order regarding the debate being about receiving the letter.
Gisborne asked if the discussion was to deal with the Douglas Bay zoning bylaw. He asked if Brander, who lives in the Douglas Bay area, should excuse himself from the discussions.
Brabazon said it was up to Brander to decide whether he should recuse himself.
Gisborne then went back to the contents of the correspondence from Mehaffey, which stated that Gisborne attacked the integrity of her or those in her neighbourhood by suggesting there was a racist intent.
“I do not believe there was any racist intent, nor was I suggesting any such thing,” said Gisborne. “This correspondence implies and assumes the intent of a member of this assembly, which has been stated in the past, is against the code of conduct and against the rules of the assembly.
“I believe this correspondence to be comparable to the June 10 committee of the whole meeting, where Electoral Area A director Patrick Brabazon made a motion to not receive correspondence from Diana Collicutt and Stephen Miller from the Townsite Ratepayers Society…”
Call for order
Brabazon called for order.
“I take it you are arguing not to receive the letter,” said Brabazon. “I think the board understands that.”
Gisborne asked if he could finish stating his point.
Brabazon said Gisborne comments were not germane to the motion, and that Gisborne had declared the letter to be in violation of the regional district’s code of conduct, which would be determined by the regional board when it voted.
Gisborne said there were a number of accusations that assumed intent and were based on accusations about the petition. He said he hasn’t seen the petition and he believes the correspondence is a violation of the code of conduct. He said he would be voting against receipt of the correspondence.
The board voted to receive the letter, with Gisborne opposed.
“The board will recall that director Gisborne made comments about the definition of ‘exclusionary zoning’ found on Wikipedia, and stated it is the use of such zoning to exclude certain types of land use from a given community, especially to regulate racial and economic diversity,” said Brabazon. “He also stated that exclusionary zoning was introduced in the early 1900s to prevent racial and ethnic minorities from moving into middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods.
“The regional district has a code of conduct that applies to the conduct of directors at qRD meetings. Under this code, directors are required to act in a manner that demonstrates fairness, honesty and respect for individual differences and opinions and shall treat members of the public, one another, and staff appropriately without abuse, bullying or intimidation and will ensure that the work environment is free from discrimination and harassment.”
Brabazon said directors are also required to not instigate, be involved with or condone personal attacks on board members, staff or members of the public.
Gisborne asked Brabazon if he was going to continue to personally attack him when he was not able to defend himself. Gisborne said his comments were made about exclusionary zoning bylaws and stated that Brabazon was putting words in his mouth, then asked the assembly to rule the chair out of order.
Brabazon said he believed the board should consider that Gisborne’s conduct at the November 9 meeting violated the code of conduct, and whether the board should consider censure or sanctions against him. Brabazon introduced the censure motion to obtain legal council, which the regional board passed, with Gisborne opposed.