The list of housekeeping duties got a little dirty at Trail council Wednesday night.
While the annual garbage, sewer and water bylaws were adopted without waves, the third item on the table certainly didn’t go off without a hitch.
Trail Mayor Mike Martin proposed a change to the council procedure bylaw last month when he created the deputy mayor position – a seat that Coun. Kevin Jolly was appointed to for one year.
Traditionally, Trail councillors serve as acting mayor on a rotating basis when the mayor is absent, so the bylaw amendment was up for adoption following three readings made during Dec. 15 council.
Coun. Robert Cacchioni, who wasn’t present at last month’s meeting, hotly contested the deputy mayor position and motioned for the change to be tabled pending further discussion at council’s upcoming strategic planning session.
“I think it needs a little more discussion on what is the reasoning behind the deputy mayor position and why we have this division in council,” said Cacchioni.
He likened the change to George Orwell’s novel, “Animal Farm,” saying “all animals are equal but the story ends up being that some animals are more equal than others.”
“It’s a very simple bylaw but it doesn’t provide for turnover or provide for new people to be there” he said. “All it says is by annual appointment. In my opinion, as mayor-elect, Mike did this arbitrarily and he could choose the same person year after year. Or maybe switch Kevin and Sandy (Coun. Santori) back and forth, we have no control over that.”
Council chambers remained quiet while Cacchioni’s motion was defeated and the bylaw subsequently passed – but first, feathers were ruffled and colourful discussion ensued.
Coun. Santori said he didn’t agree that appointing a deputy mayor equalled total dictatorship because council had the opportunity to vote down the mayor. However, he did request that Martin share his rationale behind creating the position.
“I’d like to correct one thing Coun. Cacchioni said,” noted the softspoken Martin. “I am not the mayor-elect, I am the mayor,” he continued.
“Secondly this information was sent out to council on Dec. 10…describing all the councillor appointments..and at no point did I get any feedback between that time and tonight regarding this issue.”
Martin described his early tenure as General Manager at Teck Trail Operations, when he was given a tour of the city, including Trail’s vast public works department.
“I was amazed at the infrastructure that we have and carry the responsibility for in the City of Trail,” explained Martin. “Which further substantiates what I was considering. The Deputy Mayor must be fully informed and able to take full control of the mayor’s duty at any time.”
Martin maintains his concern wasn’t based on who would handle committee meetings in his absence, rather the Deputy Mayor appointee must be ready without hesitation, to step up in potentially difficult situations.
“My concern is that if we have a disastrous event that occurs in the city, how are we going to manage that and who has the where-with-all to do it. One of my responsibilities to the City of Trail is continuity in leadership to deal with such a situation.”
Coun. Kevin Jolly has experience and carries the Protective Services portfolio, he added. “So in my view, that was a good place to start to ensure that continuity.”
Cacchioni countered that his concern is that the council appointments are a “top down” operation.
“This is a complete change in governance and I believe you have created a division in council, so I am voting against it (Deputy Mayor),” Cacchioni added.
David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer, then clarified the bylaw amendment to council.
“Councillor Cacchioni is not accurate,” he explained. “Council governance is not changing, every member of council still has one vote. It’s just the context of these positions and how you personally view them” he noted. “But there is definitely no change in respect to governance and how the city will be operating.”
Coun. Sandy Santori was up next, saying the deputy mayor position isn’t an issue of equality and such decisions are incumbent upon the mayor.
“We have six councillors and one mayor,” said Santori. “We don’t have seven councillors. There are certain expectations that the public demands of a mayor that is different than expectations of councillors – and that is to lead. It’s incumbent that Mayor Martin lead and show direction.”
Coun. Carol Dobie had the last word before the council procedure bylaw was adopted with only Cacchioni voting against.
“It seems to me that you were very clear that this was going to be a one-year appointment,” said Dobie. “And that you would be more than willing to listen to the aspirations of other councillors at the end of the year.”