Response to Voices letter to Mayor and Council March 18

Update to our previously posted letter to Mayor and Council dated Mar 18:

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We received two separate responses, one from Richard White, Deputy CAO (link follows) 

.CNVLIVE-#1039931-v1-Letter_to_Toni_Bolton_re_email_to_Mayor_and_COuncil_dated_March_18__2013_from_Deputy_CAO_dated_April_10__2013

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and one from Mayor Mussatto with his response to questions 3, 4 and 5 following the numbered statements (indicated as Mayor).

To:        Mayor and Council, City of North Vancouver

 
Re:       Onni – 2nd Public Hearing

 
Members of Voices are concerned about some procedural irregularities during the Public Hearing on Monday and Tuesday. After several conversations with the Governance and Structure Branch of the Province of B.C. and others, .we believe we could request a judicial review  of both Hearings and possibly have both put aside.  Our concerns deal with the following:
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1. The Public Hearing process is for Council to listen to members of the public.  We have been advised that it’s “very unusual” for members of Council to be able to query the applicant during the public hearing.  When new information comes up during that questioning, members of the public have the right to speak again about the new information.  This leads to a discussion about procedural fairness among other things.  Usual procedure pursuant to the LGA s. 890 is that the hearing is closed after the public submissions. Then Council starts deliberation and questions may be asked of staff but Council should not be questioning the applicant.  The correct procedure would be if Council has questions of the applicant, a staff report would be requested.  We are told that if Council questions the applicant and there is one piece of new information that may come to light, the whole process can be called into question.
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There was another change to the usual procedure after Monday evening. The public portion of the meeting was closed and adjourned to Tuesday evening.  Then on Tuesday evening the Mayor stated that members of the public could speak if it was the first time.  Members of the public  not present were not aware they would be able to speak, therefore there was not fairness  for members of the public who had left the first evening before they were called.  Also if the procedural rules stated a member of the public could speak twice, that same rule had to apply the second evening but did not apply and a member of the public was refused the opportunity to speak.
 
2. We have been advised that it’s highly irregular when a member of Council was aware of a “hypothetical deal” that information was not made public prior to the start of the Public Hearing.  The public should have had the opportunity to comment on the new information, and the amendment that was proposed.  It was stated that the City Clerk had the information in writing prior to the vote on 2nd and 3rd reading.   All information must be available to the public prior to the Hearing.  This situation alone may cause someone to challenge the Hearing. Were other members of Council aware of this amendment, was there an opportunity for other amendments?
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3. We also have concerns that the Mayor has stated that he approached the applicant after the November 19th Public Hearing was concluded.   This raises the on-going questions about procedural fairness and transparency.  It’s our understanding after a Public Hearing that members of Council cannot meet with a proponent of an application after the Hearing was concluded.
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Response:
Mayor  re Item 3.  Once the first public hearing was concluded there is to be no further input from the public until the bylaws had been considered by council.  In this case council considered them the following evening I believe and second reading was not passed.  Council instead directed staff to hold a second public hearing in the New Year.  The rezoning was neither passed nor defeated.  Any member of council could then hear new information until the second public hearing was concluded.  Staff may have more to add to this.
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4. It has also been suggested that a Councillor participating in an election campaign should take a Leave of Absence from his duties, because of the potential of a conflict of interest with competing loyalties between public duty and personal interests.   We note that this week a Councillor in Coquitlam has requested a leave of absence without pay during the campaign.
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Response:

Mayor re Item 4.  There is no law that states a member of council must take a leave of absence when running as a candidate for another level of elected office.

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5. We have also been advised that if a legal opinion paid for by the CNV was obtained in relation to a question about “conflict of interest” that we should be able to obtain a copy of that opinion.  We note that the Mayor and Clr Buchanan were questioned about campaign donations and would like to ask for a copy of that opinion.
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Response:
Mayor re Item 5.    No.
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After careful consideration, even if a judicial review insisted on a third Public Hearing, we feel it is unlikely that the final vote would  change.  Therefore we suggest that we all learn from this experience and make sure future Public Hearings improve from everyone’s point of view.  The knowledge we have gained over this past week from experts has made us aware of what the public should expect and can demand at a public hearing.
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Regards,
 
Toni Bolton for
North Van City Voices
 
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