Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay

2016 Year in Review: Fighting among Nanaimo councillors often overshadowed city business

NANAIMO – Mayor hopes appointment to new economic development commission signals new start for council.

CITY Coun. Gord Fuller’s “bite me” comment may have been good fodder for comedians on This Hour has 22 Minutes – but it was no joke.

City council made headlines, and not just in Nanaimo, for its conflict in 2016.

Seven of eight city councillors expressed non-confidence in Mayor Bill McKay in a letter and called for his resignation last March.

In a public address the same month, the mayor spoke about the importance of council working together on behalf of the city and looked forward to the entire council “finding the wisdom to forgive” and move forward, but by the next day he left an in-camera meeting, no longer prepared to meet behind closed doors without a lawyer present.

Fuller was caught on video calling out “bite me” and “screw you” to the mayor when asked to leave an October meeting which councillors and staff walked out of. He apologized to staff at the time, but not the mayor.

In November, council agreed to launch legal action against McKay and forwarded information to police after a seven-month investigation it claimed revealed the city leader wasn’t transparent to council, staff or community.

McKay called it vengeful politics at its best and had planned to talk to his legal counsel about next steps.

Fewer than two weeks later, the mayor wanted an investigation and planned to file a complaint with B.C’s. Information and Privacy Commissioner after an internal e-mail detailing his thoughts on the personalities and behaviors of each councillors was leaked.

The e-mail had been to a facilitator with Integrity Group, hired by the mayor to help council get along, and was handed to councillors by a Nanaimo resident who claimed it was left in an envelope under his truck windshield wiper.

Asked about this year’s conflict, McKay told the News Bulletin if people with significantly varied interests and opinions are put in a single room, there’s going to be conflict, although he didn’t expect to see quite so much.

“The fact that council came up with … the economic development office and entrusted in me to take the chair’s position, that tells me we are seeing a new day,” he said.