Looking over the agenda for Monday night Trail council, the list of topics to be tackled appeared fairly benign and ordinary orders of business.
So when Mayor Lisa Pasin was blind-sided about 45-minutes into the meeting under “New Business” by Coun. Robert Cacchioni asking for a vote of non-confidence on her leadership, silence befell the virtual room.
In the end, the motion carried by the usual backing for Cacchioni coming from Coun. Carol Dobie, Coun. Colleen Jones, and Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson. The mayor, Coun. Paul Butler and Coun. Sandy Santori opposed, with Pasin later calling this move, “retaliatory, vexatious, and vindictive.”
Citizens of Trail, however, may be wondering what does this mean, what’s the point?
Generally throwing a political A-bomb like this into governance at the provincial or federal level — the Times could not find any references to a vote of no confidence in municipal governance — a loss, or vote of no confidence passing, means two things. A new election is called, or another party or coalition (the majority) is given the chance to form the government.
But, after much back-and-forth at the Monday night regular meeting in Trail, the councillors who passed the vote of no confidence in the mayor agreed this move was just to get an opinion on record.
Discussion ensued after Cacchioni aired past and present grievances against the mayor, his most recent stemming from a March council meeting wherein the mayor took issue with Cacchioni preparing Coun. Jones to succeed him at the regional district table, before an actual vote was held on who the next director would be.
Pasin argued that mentoring should not have taken place until after all council members voted on a replacement.
“I believe she sought to embarrass both myself and councillor Jones,” Cacchioni said Monday night under “new business.”
After listening to Cacchioni’s introduction to a no confidence vote, longtime Deputy Corporate Officer, Michelle McIsaac, advised, “I am unclear by Coun. Cacchioni’s intent with bringing this forward and I don’t have the experience to know what sort of procedural fairness should have been provided, if any. I am not a legal expert, and without any sort of advance notice of this being brought forward it is impossible for staff to consider what the effects of this motion might be if successfully passed, nor to provide you with any professional advice around the steps that are being taken here,” she noted.
“I would say it would be inappropriate without some further background work being done for council to vote on such a motion off the floor without any sort of advance preparation or procedural fairness provided.”
Again silence befell the virtual room.
Pasin referred to the longest serving member, Coun. Sandy Santori, for a procedural standpoint, to which he said he was unable to provide further insight.
“I don’t know what Robert’s intent here is,” he said.
Cacchioni replied he was not asking for “anything” to be done, that was just his position.
“It’s my understanding that Coun. Cacchioni has passed a motion based on his opinion and his feelings towards the leadership of this council,” Coun. Dobie said. “… He didn’t necessarily say he’s asking her (she is referring to Mayor Pasin) to step down or anything like that, he’s just putting out a statement to support how he feels with the leadership towards council as a whole, and he’s spoken very clearly to that,” she said.
“So to me we have a motion on the floor, we haven’t asked for any results or any further action — it’s just based on opinions. So I can’t understand why we can’t call for a vote on that motion.”
Mayor Pasin replied, referring to McIsaac’s statement that she was unsure of procedural fairness, the process of such a motion, and if a no confidence vote is permitted to be advanced off the floor like it was.
“There’s no process, it’s just a straight forward vote … ,” Dobie insisted. “ … We don’t expect there’s going to be anything further come out of it, but I think (unclear) is allowed to express their opinion and put it to motion if they want,” Dobie continued.
“This is the opinion of four councillors, we put the motion on the floor,” she said, referring to herself, and councillors Cacchioni, Gattafoni Robinson, and Jones.
After more back-and-forth Mayor Pasin said, “I think there’s governance and procedural fairness that you need to follow around this table.”
Santori then jumped in saying, “I just want to put an end to this. There is no secret here (that) Coun. Cacchioni, Coun. Jones, Coun. Gattafoni Robinson, and Coun. Dobie don’t agree with you, that’s nothing new. That started from the day you got elected to today.
“So if it gives them personal satisfaction to put it on the record that they dislike you and they don’t like the way you’re being the mayor then let it be. It’s not going to be any ‘new’ news. It might make a headline, it might not, but it’s not new to the citizens of Trail,” he concluded.
“Let’s just get this over with so we can get on with our life — please.”
Pasin again referred to McIsaac for insight.
“With all due respect Mayor Pasin I’ve heard quite clearly that my input isn’t warranted or welcomed from select members of council,” McIsaac concluded.
“They feel they have the expertise to know what a motion of non-confidence entails, and, as such, I have nothing further to add.”
To hear the entire council meeting visit the City of Trail’s YouTube page: City of Trail Local Government.
Mayor Pasin was voted into her position in November 2018.
The six councillors gained their seats by acclamation.
The next civic election is this fall on Oct. 15.
Third party investigations carried out in 2021 resulted in: a conduct violation by Cacchioni, and the subsequent departure of Trail’s 26-year chief administrative officer; and in a separate filing, two conduct violations against the mayor and one conduct violation against Coun. Santori.
Mayor Pasin released the following statement on Thursday:
“The non-confidence vote advanced by Councillors Cacchioni, Jones, Dobie and Gattafoni Robinson was nothing more than a calculated ambush on the mayor’s office and an assault on my personal and professional standing.
“Their actions are the latest example of playground politics at its worst.
“It is an embarrassment for the City of Trail to have four of our elected officials acting in this manner.
“Their actions create a toxic work environment for city staff, damage the reputation of the City of Trail and have far reaching impacts on us all.
“These acts are retaliatory, vexatious and vindictive.
“It is unfortunate that Councillors Cacchioni, Jones, Dobie and Gattafoni Robinson haven’t been able to move on productively from Councillor Cacchioni’s code of conduct violation which resulted in the loss of our Chief Administrative Officer and cost the city $370,000.
“They continue to engage in retaliatory behaviour that further degrades the reputation of our amazing city. Through this high level of harassment at the hands of certain council members, I remain committed to the well-being of our staff and our community, investing my time and attention to issues that matter to our tax payers.
“I will have no further comments on this issue.”