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

Second health care salute being planned for Williams Lake

‘We wanted to show everyone that we are going to be here through the whole pandemic’: CCSAR

Women win provincial award for Williams Lake Farmers Market work

Co-market managers Jane Bowser and Barb Scharf share the honour

WLIB breaks ground on $8 million-plus administration building construction project

Safety precautions will be in place to protect workes on site against COVID-19

COVID-19: Williams Lake 83rd annual Bull Show and Sale goes online only

The event is one ranchers look forward to every year

COLUMN: The other graph that shows B.C. can beat COVID-19

Is the curve being flattened? data on hospitalizations provides a crucial answer.

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read