B.C. municipalities want convicted politicians removed from office

Terrace and Pitt Meadows UBCM resolutions also call for action upon charges being laid

Municipalities across the province backed two resolutions from Pitt Meadows and Terrace designed to have local politicians charged with serious crimes removed from office.

The similar resolutions both passed with near-unanimous support this morning at the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which is holding its convention this week in Whistler.

“As members of elected bodies, we are in positions of public trust and we should be held to a higher standard or at least the standard of your average employee,” said Terrace City Councillor Stacey Tyers, who spearheaded the Terrace resolution. “Anybody working in a public trust position is subjected to criminal record checks… you would not leave a daycare worker in their position to work with children if they were charged with abusing children.

“If they’re acquitted, they return to their seat just like any other employee would.”

The Terrace resolution, Elected Official Disqualification, requires paid leave of absence for any elected official charged with a serious crime. It also calls for their immediate disqualification from public office upon conviction. Pitt Meadows’ resolution, the Disqualification from Holding Elected Office, calls for an unpaid leave of absence only upon conviction, and disqualification from public office upon the expiration of an appeal, or determination of an appeal.

“We were asked if it was a contradiction approving both resolutions, but it gives the province more [flexibility] … it sends the message we want to talk about both charges and convictions,” Tyers said.

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 or failing to attend meetings, but not for conviction of a serious crime.

The UBCM resolutions do not prevent someone with a previous criminal record from holding public office.

“I do believe if the electorate wants to elect somebody who has a criminal record, that’s their right to do so,” Tyers said. “It’s when it happens when you’re already sitting that I’m concerned about, because the electorate has no recourse.”

Tyers first presented the Terrace resolution last March at the Northern Central Local Government Association’s annual meeting, around the same time Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold was formally charged with numerous counts of sexual assault, some involving minors.

READ MORE: Former Burns Lake mayor faces 10 new sex-related charges

Pitt Meadows was also coming out of its own scandal involving former councillor David Murray who was convicted of sexual assault for molesting a 14-year-old girl in 1992. Even following his conviction, Murray could not be legally compelled to leave office.

Although Strimbold had resigned just prior to charges being laid, Murray remained on council, to which he was first elected in 2011, and attended regular meetings, as well as community events, until his conviction in October 2017 to nine months in prison. Murray is appealing both the conviction and sentence.

Tyers said the Terrace resolution is not aimed at punishing elected officials simply charged with a crime, awaiting trial, but removing the burden of public office so they can focus on their judicial proceedings, while the remaining council can focus on their elected responsibilities.

“When we look at the case of the previous mayor in Burns Lake, who is currently facing 29 charges of a variety of sexual charges and with six victims under the age of 16—he did resign, thankfully — but nothing in our legislation required him to do so,” Tyers said.

“Under the current circumstances he [could] continue to sit. Every council meeting, guaranteed, would be about his charges and not the work of the community.”

– With files from Neil Corbet (Maple Ridge News) and Brittany Gervais (Terrace Standard)


 


newsroom@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

UBCM

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: What summer 2020 is like in Revelstoke

Contributors submit their favourite photos from this summer

Celebrate wildflowers next week in Revelstoke

Tourism Revelstoke is hosting a wildflower festival with various activities Aug. 9-16

Body of 21-year-old man found in Okanagan Lake

BC Coroners Service is investigating the circumstances of the man’s death

LETTER: Revelstoke does not need proposed Hay Rd. development

The development calls for 60 housing units

Which streets in Revelstoke have the most crashes?

The data was recently released by ICBC

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Alberta man’s body recovered from Okanagan Lake after five-day search

‘The depth of the water, as well as the topography of the lake, made the recovery of the deceased very challenging’ - RCMP

Masks urged for some students returning to Vernon schools

Phase two sees students return full-time Sept. 8

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

West Kelowna wildfire ‘under control’

B.C. Wildfire anticipates no further growth from the three-hectare fire

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Most Read