qathet Regional District’s (qRD) board of directors will consider censure and sanctions against Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne at its January 27 meeting.
At a special meeting of the qRD board on January 6, Electoral Area A director and board chair Patrick Brabazon gave a report, after legal advice had been solicited, dated December 31, 2021, regarding comments made by Gisborne at the November 9 planning committee meeting. Brabazon, in his report, stated that the agenda for the planning meeting included recommendations for zoning bylaws for the Random Road and Douglas Bay Road neighbourhoods. Brabazon stated that under the proposed bylaws, cannabis production and sales, commercial use and industrial use within these neighbourhoods would be prohibited.
Brabazon, in his report, stated that during the Douglas Bay Road bylaw debate, Gisborne offered an explanation of the zoning principles involved as an attempt to “regulate racial and economic diversity” and to “prevent racial and ethnic minorities… moving into the neighbourhood.”
Brabazon stated that Gisborne referenced a Wikipedia article for his explanation and that Gisborne modified the article to support his statements.
The board chair added that a Douglas Bay Road resident associated with a petition calling for the zoning bylaw was watching the meeting and was sufficiently distressed to write the board. He stated that in her letter, Marcie Mehaffey advised that “to accuse citizens… of racist intent… felt personal, mean spirited and off-base.”
Brabazon stated that he submitted to the board that Gisborne’s comments during the planning committee meeting with regard to “build a wall… safe inside their little bubble,” would be perceived as malicious, humiliating and intimidating, and an attack on the residents of the Random Road and Douglas Bay Road neighbourhoods.
“Therefore, his comments contravene the articles of the first part of the code of conduct and will contribute to erosion of the public trust in this local government,” stated Brabazon. “I submit to the board that director Gisborne’s comments with regard to the origins of zoning principles, when the issue being considered was the regulation of commercial and industrial uses in neighbourhoods, contravenes articles two and three of the second part of the code of conduct, and are indeed personal attacks on Ms. Mehaffey and others involved in creating the petition. I accept that these comments are indeed indecent, demeaning and insulting.”
In a resolution of censure, Brabazon indicated that qRD wishes to publicly censure Gisborne for his “inappropriate comments” and offers the regional district’s sincere apology for the impact of these actions of the residents and community. He also stated that the board expects Gisborne will adopt a thoroughly professional attitude with regard to his work, comments and debate, and that he will adhere to the requirements of the code of conduct, and display the respect due to other directors, qRD staff and the public.
Brabazon offered three sanctions, which will be debated and voted on at the January 27 board meeting. The first is that Gisborne be removed from the rotating position of vice-chair. The second is that Gisborne be denied financial support for attendance at the annual general meetings of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), the electoral area forum, and meetings of the Local Government Leadership Academy. The third sanction is that the sanctions take immediate effect and expire with the end of qRD term of office in October 2022, unless lifted earlier.
Brander introduces sanction
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander introduced a fourth sanction. It read: that the board include on the June 16, 2022, committee of the whole agenda the consideration to remove all sanctions against director Gisborne.
Brander said he appreciated the work that went into the report and thanked Brabazon for taking the time to prepare it.
He said conditions around the board table have deteriorated. He added that Brabazon’s report identifies some specific breaches of the code of conduct and also includes evidence of ongoing behaviour that should not be tolerated by the board, by staff or by the public.
“Given the limited resources that the board has at its disposal to deal with code of conduct issues, and given the fact that steps taken after director Gisborne’s first censure investigation did not have an appreciable effect on his behaviour,” added Brander, “I have to support the motion that is before us today with the hope that changes will happen, to allow all of us to work together for the betterment of the community, and not be dogged by these types of distractions.”
Brander said his addition provides for the prospect of lifting the sanctions so Gisborne could participate in the UBCM conference, paid for by qRD.
“I have hope that changes can occur to allow us to function smoothly and efficiently, which is something that I believe all of us want,” said Brander. “I ask for your support of this motion and offer my support for director Gisborne, should he choose to work with us, to help us reach the point to get back to the important work of local government.”
The board voted to support Brabazon’s recommendations, with Brander’s addition, with Gisborne opposed. The recommendations will go to the January 27 qRD board meeting for sanction, with Gisborne having the opportunity to speak to the motion at that meeting. This is the second time Gisborne has faced board sanctions and censure.
Gisborne asked if the board was going to receive Brabazon’s report. Brabazon said chief administrative officer Al Radke indicated the board was not going to receive it. Gisborne then said the chair’s report did not appear to be debatable. No debate on the report proceeded.
Prior to Brabazon’s report, there was a delegation from Tom Read, and letters from Vanessa Adams and Alex Valderrabano, who all indicated support for Gisborne. Brabazon said in both cases, a motion for him to respond to the letters was in order. The board voted that letters be sent to both writers.