Rossland council is known for its tendency to belabor the occasional discussion but Monday’s meeting saw a heated debate result in the mayor asking for the police to be called.
At issue was a staff recommendation that Rossland council appoint three people, preferably ex-council members, to serve on the 2011 parcel tax review panel.
The previous panel, consisting of Mayor Greg Granstrom and councillors Laurie Charlton and Kathy Moore, had been mired in disagreement and was unable to or incapable of authenticating the 2010 parcel tax roll, resulting in increased staff work and interest penalties.
The panel’s “quasi-judicial” function is to apply objective standards as set out in legislation, not enacting policy as is done in council.
“It’s a legislative requirement not council business . . . it describes when to send the notice out, when to appoint people, and how to go about doing it, it’s very clear,” said chief administrator Victor Kumar.
However, councillor Laurie Charlton reported that as a member of the review panel, he was within his rights to review the parcel tax roll to ensure there were no errors, and if there are, the panel can direct staff to make corrections.
Charlton raised a number of issues regarding past complaints from property owners, and suggested city staff made “libelous” comments and allegations directed at the review panel. He pointed to statements made by staff in the recommendation that suggest he and Moore did not follow procedure in the community charter and the assessment act.
The mayor asked Charlton to “wrap it up” but the councillor forged ahead,
“I would suggest that the only purpose behind this is that you (Granstrom) were out-voted at the panel last year and this is simply a way to end-run around it.”
Granstrom tried to rein in Charlton by pronouncing him “out of order” and ordered a two-minute recess in an attempt to quiet the feisty engineer.
When calmer heads returned, councillor Andy Stradling expressed his discomfort in addressing the matter due to lack of information, so referred it to staff to provide more history and legal opinions.
“All we’re doing is appointing three people to look at a tax roll and to deal with complaints – it’s pretty simple,” said Granstrom.
Straddling wondered why the original panel could not remain sitting.
“It’s nothing to do with the three members,” said Kumar. “The previous process ended, the panel has to be appointed on an annual basis.”
Councillor Jill Spearn, frustrated with the ongoing debate, attempted to steer council back to the task at hand.
“We’re digging ourselves into the proverbial hole here,” said Spearn. “There’s a motion on the floor from 40 minutes ago, could you call to question and we’ll vote on it? We need a parcel tax panel group to go through the process, we don’t need to dissect the legislation.”
The chair put the matter to a vote and the decision to appoint three people who are not active members of the present council passed, with the opposition of Charlton and Moore.
But the excitement was not over.
“There is an example of a bully at work,” said Charlton.
Granstrom warned the councillor once more that he was out of order.
Moore then introduced another motion to ensure that the parcel tax be applied equitably to all Ophir property holders, indicating that she would like to see a report submitted by Charlton last August included, and also motioned that council refer to a committee of the whole to discuss and inform other council members about the panel.
Kumar and Granstrom once again pointed out that role of the panel is clear and the tax formula legislated by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Both of Moore’s motions were defeated.
“I think we have just seen an example of why the parcel tax review panel was unsuccessful last year, the bullying tactics of the mayor just destroyed the whole process,” said Charlton.
Granstrom tried to restore order but Charlton persisted, forcing the mayor’s hand.
“This meeting will not continue until Mr. Charlton leaves the meeting. Period, I’ll get the clerk to call the RCMP, please,” said Granstrom.
After a brief cooling down period, Granstrom said the meeting could continue if Charlton apologized.
A few minutes later the councillor replied, “ I apologize to the chair for my outburst.”
Video of the meeting can be viewed online at the City of Rossland website: www.rossland.ca/city-hall-regular-meeting-video-recordings