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SRD Board provides Cortes Director with ‘Statement of Expectations’ after insider influence allegations

Allegations of insider influence come from December 2020 emails
A staff report shows the options the SRD board considered in dealing with the Cortes Island Director’s alleged insider influence. Photo courtesy Youtube.

Strathcona Regional District Electoral Area B Director Noba Anderson was given a statement of expectations regarding communications with staff following allegations that she used her office for insider influence in a matter related to a rezoning of her home.

“The purpose of this statement is to provide a warning and notice of the Board’s expectations of Director conduct with Regional District staff members and other members of the Board,” the notice reads.

Anderson has not, however, been disqualified from holding office, which was one of the possibilities of the inquiry.

The board also asked that their legal representation read the letter in public session to ensure it is a matter of public record. A recording of that is available on Youtube.

A subsequent motion was made to ask the provincial government to implement an Integrity Commission.

“It is useful to help guide local governments in matters that are beyond their scope to handle,” said Director Andy Adams, who made the motion.

On Jan. 27, the board held a hearing on the matter where Anderson’s legal representation argued her side of the case. The board had received emails between SRD staff and Anderson about a rezoning application on a property of which she shares ownership, which could be considered Anderson exerting influence as an elected official over a staff decision. Anderson’s lawyer Matthew Voell argued that Anderson had made it clear she was acting “in her personal capacity,” and not as a director since she had used her personal email address during the conversations.

The notice to Anderson reads that “in cases where the influence or attempted influence is taking place between the elected official and an officer or employee of the local government or at a meeting of the local government as provided for in section 102(1)(a) (of the Community Charter), the person receiving the communication will undoubtedly know the person is an elected official. Therefore, the use of a personal email by itself cannot stand as immunity from section 102.”

It continues, saying that there are a number of instances where stating they are acting in their personal capacity would not violate that section of the Charter, but that those are more like paying taxes, purchasing dog licenses or applying for building permits.

“These are interactions where the staff member is not exercising discretion such that influence would make any difference to their decisions, recommendations or actions. However, a situation where an elected official says they are acting in their personal capacity but uses information they have gained as an elected official to persuade a staff member to make a certain decision or takes advantage of access to the staff member that others would not have, might well fall under section 102 of the Community Charter.”

The notice recommends Anderson make “careful consideration” of that section and that board members should seek advice from senior management before communicating with SRD staff on such matters.

“It is the opinion of the Board that in sending your email of December 17, 2020 to a member of staff you did not consider carefully section 102 of the Community Charter, the Code of Conduct or Regional District policy,” the letter reads. “The Board expects you to conduct yourself in accordance with this legislation, and the Regional District bylaws and policies. This information is provided so there can be no mistakes about what is expected to avoid future possible contraventions.”

RELATED: SRD holds hearing on potential disqualification of Cortes director

Cortes Island area director sues Strathcona Regional District

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