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Two Maple Ridge councillors lose committee appointments

Robson, Duncan also not serving as acting mayor in 2022
Kiersten Duncan takes the Oath of Office at the inaugural council meeting. (The News files)

Maple Ridge city council has excluded two members of council – Gordy Robson and Kiersten Duncan – from any committee appointments, and serving as acting mayor.

Nobody is offering the public a reason – not the sidelined councillors, the mayor, nor the rest of council.

Nor is anyone denying that the majority of council is disciplining Duncan and Robson. If that happened, it would be in a private meeting, and councillors are not allowed to speak about what took place.

“I have no health issues that would affect my role on council,” Robson told The News on Friday.

Duncan has not returned calls or emails from The News. She has not attended council meetings since Sept. 21. The News asked city staff and the mayor whether this was due to a medical leave, and was informed only Duncan can offer an explanation.

Councillors who miss too many meetings can lose their seat on council, unless they have a medical reason, and have been given medical leave.

The acting mayor rotation is limited to councillors Judy Dueck, Chelsa Meadus, Ryan Svendsen and Ahmed Yousef. There is additional funding for councillors while they are acting mayor. They get a councillor’s rate, plus 20 per cent of the mayor’s base salary. Those funds will be split four ways, rather than six.

In 2021, Robson served on the community heritage commission, transportation advisory committee, and audit and finance committee. Duncan was on the agricultural advisory committee, parcel tax review panel, as well as the corporate governance, and human resources committee. They also were appointed alternates on other committees. They will have no committees in 2022.

Past mayors and veteran members of council could not recall a similar situation in the past.

The News contacted the mayor and every councillor to ask whether there are health issues involved, or whether council is disciplining either or both of the councillors.

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Mayor Mike Morden cited privacy rules that state he must refuse to disclose information if it would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s privacy, or unfairly damage their reputation.

He noted committee appointments are a decision of council. Municipal committees come with no compensation, but regional committees come with a meeting fee.

Former Mayor Ernie Daykin was on council for 12 years, including six as mayor, and said he had never seen a member not given appointments. It was once a discussion to not allow a councillor to serve as acting mayor, but it was decided it would not be appropriate.

“People voted for Mrs. Duncan and people voted for Mr. Robson, and I think there’s an expectation for them to be fully involved in the governance of the community,” said Daykin.

He said some form of council discipline could be appropriate, if there was wrongdoing, but he says voters have a right to know what has happened.

“Everyone campaigns on open government, but what do we get?” asked Daykin.

“The political landscape today… I find it disappointing that people cannot come together and discuss community issues respectfully, and agree to disagree. These people are there to work together and move the community forward, not to be fighting each other.”

Craig Speirs was on council from 1999 until he lost in the race for mayor to Morden in 2018, with the exception of the years 2011-2014. In all those years on council, he also never saw a similar situation.

“It’s unique, and it raises questions,” Speirs said, adding that when those questions aren’t answered, people grow suspicious of council’s motives.

“This council wants to exclude criticism, but that’s why they’re there,” he said, adding they should be honest with the public about what is happening.

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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