Nanaimo mayor leaves meeting day after conciliatory speech to council

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay spoke on the importance of council working together on behalf of the city and looked forward to the entire council “finding the wisdom to forgive” and moving forward, during a public address Monday.

By Tuesday he had left an in-camera meeting, no longer prepared to meet behind closed doors without a lawyer present.

In an interview with the News Bulletin, McKay said he wants to move on and tried to be positive in his speech Monday, but the situation hasn’t gotten any better.

The expression of non-confidence, or call for resignation, is also still on the table, according to several city councillors.

Seven of eight councillors, with the exception of Diane Brennan, expressed non-confidence in the mayor this month and called for his resignation. In a statement, released through the City of Nanaimo last week, councillors alleged poor attendance at council meetings, attempts to remove the city’s chief administrative officer from an interim position, and “threats to dissolve council.”

McKay denies threatening to dissolve council, but said he had serious concerns about Tracy Samra’s conduct as interim CAO, knowing council would be in a situation at some point where it would consider her for the full-time job. He also has concerns about the hiring process, which he said was abridged, adding “we did not follow process.”

He also pointed out that if he’s gone one day, he could be counted as missing up to three meetings because of an open meeting, regularly scheduled meeting and in-camera meeting that can happen on the same day.

According to the mayor, the Integrity Group  situation is a large part of the issue council faces today. The consultant was hired by the mayor last year to help council get along and city administration is currently seeking more information about the money spent.

McKay said the bill should just be paid instead of every line item being nitpicked. He said when he gives answers, it’s like being in a cross-examination in a court room and says council should get on with life.

Council should work as a team, he said, but for months now there’s been “two teams, two rosters and two coaches and when you are in competitive sports you start to understand that you destroy the other team. That’s where we’re at,” he said.

McKay said he believes council can move on, but it needs a referee, like an independent third party, to help.

Coun. Wendy Pratt, contacted after the mayor’s speech Monday, didn’t want to comment on whether the issue is over but did say she’s “really hopeful we’re going to be able to address all the issues that are facing council and coming together as a council.” She said she wants to wait and see how things unfold.

“What the mayor did last night was what he felt he could do, what he could say, and so we’ll have to wait and see whether or not that is enough to move us forward in the right direction.”

Asked if the mayor’s statement was enough and if city council is moving forward, Coun. Ian Thorpe said other issues still need to be dealt with.

He would not say what those are, but referred to the in-camera meeting Tuesday afternoon where those issues would be discussed – and which McKay walked out of.

“To me, the call was a wake-up call, a vote of non-confidence,” he said. “I think that’s certainly still out there.”

Coun. Jerry Hong called the mayor’s statement a start, but also said it’s all words and councillors are waiting for previous demands to be cleared up.

Coun. Gord Fuller said the mayor’s actions will speak louder than words. He, however, still plans to call for McKay’s resignation.

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