A motion passed at the Northern Central Local Government Association ‘s (NCLGA) annual meeting last week could provide a recall mechanism for cities to give elected officials paid leave upon charges, with the disqualification of their position upon conviction of a crime.
Currently, there is no provision in BC legislation that requires elected officials with a criminal record to resign, and no way to prevent them from continuing to hold office until the court process is complete. There are limited provisions in the charter that says elected officials can be disqualified in the event of a conflict of interest, failing to attend meetings, but not for conviction of a serious crime.
The solution was originally brought forward by Terrace city councillor Stacey Tyers in March, who said that support for the provision barely passed at the NCLGA meeting.
“We as a council have a lot of work to do before we will be at the (Union of BC Municipalities) to make sure that it passes,” Tyers said. She also mentioned there were many attempts by local government officials to amend the solution to remove the mandatory paid leave portion, but that the Terrace elected officials who were present “fought them off.”
“I kind of knew they would. They think it’s a violation of people’s charter rights. I obviously checked that with several lawyers and a few judges before I even put it forward,” Tyers said, who also spoke with the executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).
“All of them say no, there is huge precedence for paid leave during legal issues so that there’s no presumption of guilt. It’s like ‘hey, here’s paid leave, you go deal with your personal stuff and we carry on with business.’ If it was unpaid leave, then it’s punitive.”
The decision came in wake of the defeat of a similar, “more watered-down” solution proposed by Pitt Meadows city council at the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) conference, that would give municipalities the power to only suspend or remove an elected official convicted of a serious crime. But they could be disqualified only after all appeals had been exhausted.
“It was really a ‘we want to pretend like we’re doing something, but we’re not actually doing anything,’” said Tyers.
It was defeated in a 30-30 tie earlier this month, meaning only 60 members voted with many members abstaining, according to Tyers.
She said she was happy about the decision because it meant the Terrace proposal wouldn’t face competition from the Pitt Meadows solution at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention this fall.
“Going to UBCM, they would take the lesser of the two,” Tyers said. “They would opt for the ‘cop-out’ over the kind-of meatier, more substance one, so I’m glad that theirs isn’t going but ours is.”
In response to the proposal, the province stated in part, “With respect to indictable offenses, the legislation prevents those who have not completed the sentence for an indictable offence – unless the person is released on probation or parole and is not in custody – from running for or continuing to hold local government office.”
The resolution will be presented at the UBCM conference in Whistler, B.C. in September.