BREAKERS: BC Ombudsperson cites Town misconduct – Turf field conflict of interest – Mayor threatens chainsaws over tree by-law

  • QB Deputy CAO Svensen cited for misconduct by BC Ombudsperson
  • Grant application for $5M turf field reveals undisclosed conflict of interest
  • Mayor threatens chainsaws will appear if QB tree by-law proceeds
  • QB businesses appeal for cooperation and courtesy in wake of Covid rise
  • Scene around Town

QB Deputy CAO Svensen cited for misconduct by BC Ombudsperson

The BC Ombudsperson has found that the Town of Qualicum Beach acted improperly in August 2020 to prevent a delegation from having an opportunity to appear before Council regarding an application by Telus to erect a cell phone tower near five daycare centres and several schools in Qualicum Woods.

A complaint from QB resident Carol Dowe prompted the BC Ombudsperson investigation into the Town’s conduct. In a letter to Ms. Dowe dated July 13, 2021 documenting his findings, the Ombudsperson Officer concluded “it did not appear to me that the Town correctly applied subsection 17(5) of the Council Procedure Bylaw in declining your delegation request…”

The BC Ombudsperson’s report states in part “I understand that at least as early as July 30, 2020, you asked the Town’s corporate administrator [Heather Svensen] to appear as a delegation at the Town’s August 19, 2020 regular council meeting to speak to the matter of the proposed Tower. On August 4, 2020, Ms. Svensen notified you that the Town had not yet received Telus’ formal application for land use concurrence, and so there was nothing in front of Council to speak to. She advised that if the Town received such an application from Telus, staff would request direction from Council on if and how they would like to consult with the public. She also advised you that the Town would therefore not be advancing individual requests for delegations relating to the Tower at that time. … Ms. Svensen replied to indicate that staff recommended against proceeding with any delegation requests for the August 19th meeting before they sought Council’s direction on next steps for public consultation. On August 19, 2020 the regular council meeting took place over Zoom. Council discussed Telus’ application and ultimately directed staff to execute a satisfactory lease agreement with Telus…” Full report provided below.

As a result, the BC Ombudsperson informed Ms. Dowe that he requested the Town of Qualicum Beach take the following actions to remedy their unfairness:

“• The Town agreed to issue you a written apology for failing to correctly apply section 17 of the Council Procedure Bylaw, no. 674, 2013 in denying your request to appear as a delegation at the August 19, 2020 regular council meeting;

• The Town agreed to publish a formal notice on the “News Releases” page of the Town’s website attesting to the error; and

• The Town agreed to provide supplemental training to Town Staff on the application of section 19 (formerly section 17) of the Council Procedure Bylaw, no. 733, 2019, as it relates to delegation requests, with particular emphasis on subsections 19(5) and 19(6) (formerly ss. 17(5) and 17(6)), and including the instruction not to reschedule delegations to public input opportunities which had not yet been created.”

The town did publish an “Error Acknowledgement” in the News & Highlights section of the Town website. However, it was very short and did not even mention the BC Ombudsperson’s involvement. Nor did the Town provide a link to more detailed information, as is the standard practice. The Town removed the Error Acknowledgement from the Town website after only a few days, even though older items listed beforehand still remain on public view. See images below. It appears that the Town is more intent on hiding their misconduct than delivering an appropriate public apology.

Lastly, it is striking that “supplemental training” is necessary for a senior bureaucrat like Heather Svensen, the Town’s Corporate Administrator and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, who is paid an annual salary of $167,978 plus benefits by Qualicum Beach taxpayers.

Grant application for $5M turf field reveals undisclosed conflict of interest

This is an update to Town Council’s decision a year ago that we should spend five million dollars on Field Upgrades including installation of artificial turf in the Qualicum Beach Community Park, a decision previously analyzed by Second Opinion QB in the articles 3-member Council changes QB’s strategic priorities and Time to turf the turf?

At the September 16, 2020 regular Council meeting, staff were instructed to proceed with a grant application for partial funding of this project to the Community, Culture and Recreation (CCR) stream of the BC / federal government infrastructure program, a recommendation by Luke Sales, Director of Planning, with a signature of concurrence from Town CAO Daniel Sailland. To date, the province has not made any grant funding announcements related to this program phase.

At the time this application was submitted, there had been virtually no recent public engagement on this proposed project. However, one letter of support had been sent to the Mayor and Council on September 1, 2020 by a youth soccer player, a Maya Sailland, who did not indicate if s/he was a resident of Qualicum Beach, or if s/he was any relation to our Town CAO, Daniel Sailland. The Town’s Correspondence Log also contains a second letter of support, this one from QB resident Bree Stutt, representing the Oceanside Youth Soccer Society, sent to the Mayor on September 3, 2020. It is our understanding that Ms. Stutt is the wife of our Town’s CAO, Daniel Sailland, a fact her letter does not disclose.

If you are new to the Town’s attempts to secure matching grant contributions for ad hoc Town projects, you may want to read our article published February 2021, QB’s dark, dismal grant application track record.

Mayor Wiese threatens chainsaws will appear if tree by-law proceeds

What may be a record for the briefest email submitted to the Town found its way onto the Town Council Agenda on July 21, 2021. Tina M. Phillips on June 28, 2021 wrote “Attention: Mayor and Council,” That was it… just this URL. Phillips’ email resulted in a Council resolution that the CBC News article be formally referred to the Town’s Select Committee on Environment & Sustainability for review.

“If… [the tree management by-law] gets to second reading, you’re going to hear the… I’m going to buy stocks in Stihl chainsaws because every person in town that [sic] needs to take a tree down will do it.”

Qualicum Beach Mayor Brian Wiese, July 21, 2021

Mayor Brian Wiese took this opportunity to express his opinion that “if something like this [municipal tree management policy and bylaw] gets to second reading, you’re going to hear the… I am going to buy stocks in Stihl chainsaws because every person in town that [sic] needs to take a tree down will do it.”

Wiese appeared to be suggesting that, in his opinion, proposing a tree and canopy protection by-law will provoke people into cutting down trees. That’s an interesting leadership point-of-view in the wake of recent heat domes and drought.

Qualicum Beach, BC August 2021

QB businesses appeal for cooperation and courtesy in wake of Covid rise

Several local businesses have placed signs outside their doors to encourage the public to act in a civil manner. Our businesses strive every day to provide us with services we need and want. Let’s treat them with respect and gratitude. Otherwise, we may find ourselves without their products and services.

Qualicum Beach is not immune from the skyrocketing increase in COVID-19 infections in BC and on Vancouver Island, nor the heightened tensions related to the highly infectious Delta variant now sweeping the globe.

On a single day, Friday, August 27th, Island Health reported 63 new cases. It may surprise people to learn that locally, our area reported more new cases (22) in the previous week than larger communities such as Campbell River (8). The BC Covid-19 Modelling Group, a team of independent academics, said that the data is showing “exponential growth in all regions of the province,” according to an August 21st report in the Globe and Mail.

People should also be extra courteous towards one another during this difficult time.

Qualicum Beach, BC August 2021

By now, everyone should understand that a) vaccination alone (even if you have had two shots) does not mean that you cannot become infected or that you cannot infect others, and b) a person can be infected and infectious, without symptoms. That means we all remain at risk.

This is why we are all still (again) being encouraged to wear a mask and to maintain a safe distance — even outdoors — if we may be near people who do not live in our households, and to wash our hands frequently.

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 can occur through direct, indirect, or close contact with infected people through infected secretions such as saliva and respiratory secretions or through exhalation of respiratory aerosols, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings.

Scene around Town