SRD board chair airs concerns over mail system

Strathcona Regional District directors to consider changes that would allow staff to open their mail

Strathcona Regional District directors are expected to decide today whether to change a policy that some directors say has resulted in missed opportunities.

A report will be before the board of directors with a recommendation to change the way Regional District staff handle incoming mail.

The matter was brought before staff by Area C Director Jim Abram, also chair of the board, following concerns that mail intended for Abram is not always read in a timely manner.

Abram, who lives on Quadra Island, asked at a November board meeting if mail addressed to him and sent to the regional district office in Campbell River could be opened by staff as it arrives.

“As chair, there are things that come in that are time sensitive and need to be dealt with by the board,” Abram said at a board meeting Nov. 12.

“There’s no sense for it to sit in my box for two or three days until I can get here, or have it mailed over to me, to find out it’s an ad for a new copier.”

Area B Director Noba Anderson, who lives on Cortes Island, said she had in the past missed out on an event she would have liked to attend after she was unable to get to her mail at the Campbell River board office for two weeks.

The current practice, adopted in May, 2010, is for directors’ mail to be left unopened in his or her mailbox. Regional district staff, however, prepared an amendment to the policy, which if approved at today’s board meeting, will allow staff to open and process the chair’s mail as soon as it arrives at the board office.

“In addition to clarifying the process for managing mail addressed to the chair, the policy has been amended to confirm that it only applies to mail received at the regional district’s corporate office,” wrote Tom Yates, corporate services manager of the regional district, in a report to the board. “The process for managing mail addressed to other directors remains unchanged.”

The board, could, however, still change the policy to direct staff to open all of the directors’ mail if it so chooses. Russ Hotsenpiller, chief administrative officer of the regional district, acknowledged in a Nov. 3 report to the board that the argument could be made to have mail opened as soon as it’s received by the regional district’s front office staff, particularly correspondence addressed to Abram.

“This is especially relevant for mail addressed to the chair since matters such as upcoming meetings with senior government officials, approvals of various kinds, and possibly notices of pending litigation could be addressed to the chair,” Hotsenpiller wrote.

“There is therefore a strong argument for suggesting that such mail should be opened by  (staff) to determine if specific action is required. In the absence of such a capability, it is possible that important matters may be overlooked or delayed beyond a reasonable period of time.”