Charlton unfazed by Telegraph critique

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
October 12th, 2011

Unfazed by recent criticism for lengthy monologues and fruitless motions, Coun. Laurie Charlton took more than twenty minutes of council time to raise just four motions, three of which died without a second to the motion. The fourth was voted down 5-1 (with Charlton in favour) after city staff explained the technicality and Mayor Greg Granstrom reminded council, “This has come up before and it has been answered.”

Charlton said he had other “serious flaws” to point out—presumably with a shotgun strategy of doomed motions—but the mayor cut the monologues short and called a vote on the main motion to pass the new zoning bylaw through first and second reading. The readings passed 5-1, Charlton against.

By a rough count, Charlton’s failed bylaw motions took up about 25 per cent of the meeting, but an itch for a fight remained to be scratched. A terse exchange with CAO Victor Kumar took another 5 per cent of the meeting.

Seven minutes into his member’s report at the end of the meeting, Charlton brought up changes to provincial Freedom of Information (FOI) regulation that make all documents publicly available within 72 hours of an FOI request being fulfilled. But Charlton used the opportunity to take a jab at Kumar.

“[The province] has a refreshing approach, that the information is freely available,” he said, “whereas here in Rossland I’ve had to make several freedom of information requests because the administrator [CAO] refused to provide me with…”

At this point the mayor cut Charlton off, but the fireworks weren’t over. Kumar was adamant that he is not the FOI officer—he isn’t—that it isn’t the CAO’s duty to provide information unless directed to do so by council—he wasn’t—and he was incensed that Charlton’s comments suggested otherwise in a public setting.

Charlton took the position that he was “forced to submit” FOI requests after the CAO “refused to provide information.”

“I request an apology from this member of council,” Kumar said.

“I request an apology from you,” Charlton retorted.

“I’m not going to apologize,” Kumar said.

“I’m not going here any further,” the mayor interjected. “There is a personality thing here. I would hope, councillor, that you don’t make things personal.”

“It was not personal, it was a simple statement of facts,” Charlton said.

Coun. Jill Spearn scoffed, “It was personal.”

Kathy Wallace concurred, “he’s really crossed the line there.”

Charlton said, “For example, I asked [the CAO] for a copy of the revenue and expenses statement.”

The mayor clarified, “You [Charlton] were directed to get a resolution from council to get this information. You did not get a resolution through council … It’s not the administrator’s job to do what is outside a council resolution.”

Charlton changed tactics and pleaded prejudice: “Every member of this council has gone to the administrator to ask for information.”

“No, they haven’t,” Kumar said.

“They may or they may have not,” Granstrom said, “that is not the point here.” He reiterated that council had not directed the CAO with a resolution to provide the information because “obtaining this information was very onerous on staff.”

Other comments by Charlton accounted for about 10 per cent of the meeting, so in total Coun. Charlton’s issues received 40 per cent of the meeting’s attention. Audio of the 4 minute exchange between Kumar and Charlton is attached below.

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