UNION BAY, B.C- Union Bay is down an elected official.
According to a letter sent by Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) board chair Ted Haraldson to trustee Susanna Kaljur on January 14th, Kaljur has been indefinitely suspended from her position as a trustee.
Kaljur has often been in conflict with the trustee board, with multiple requests for reports on the district’s water system turbidity during recent public meetings. Those requests end up sparking arguments, which ended in Kaljur being ejected from the last UBID meeting in November and threats to call the police.
Included in the letter is a paragraph that states all UBID staff has declined to attend the board’s public meetings, due to an “uncontrolled and hostile” environment, which could lead to violence.
Haraldson’s letter blames Kaljur and a small group of landowners that support her for that environment.
The letter also takes issue with a blog Kaljur launched that comments on Union Bay affairs, including decisions taken by the board, which go against the trustee code of conduct.
Haraldson wrote that the information on the blog is not sanctioned by him, and that the blog was created to “bypass the information stream” of the district.
Haraldson also takes issue with a post made on December 18th of last year on turbidity readings and the district’s past practices, stating that it attacks the district’s Public Works superintendent.
“As a trustee making these statements in a public blog about our employee is certainly Cyber bullying,” wrote Haraldson.
“These unfounded allegations can create a liability and public safety concerns to UBID, and is unacceptable treatment of our employees.”
The letter ends by stating Haraldson called for a vote during the January 10th Committee of the Whole meeting of the UBID board, asking for the “immediate and indefinite suspension” of Kaljur.
Trustee’s Peter Jacques, Rick Bitten, and Glenn Loxam voted in support of the move, without opposition.
In a written statement to the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom, Kaljur indicated that she was not aware of the meeting where the motion was passed.
“I have not posted anything defamatory or disparaging of staff on my blog, only the facts,” wrote Kaljur.
“I also have not been sent the board meeting minutes, reports etc. in preparation for the Jan. 17th meeting as per procedure. These are false accusations for political reasons, they just want to shut me up.”
Citing the provincial handbook for improvement district trustees, Kaljur also stated she hadn’t been speaking on behalf of the board in her blog, with a focus on drinking water and finances.
“I am voicing my own opinion based on my personal experience of working with this Board using facts and evidence,” wrote Kaljur.
“Given that I am unable to speak at board meetings (as you have witnessed) therefore, in the public interest, I started my blog. Only in Union Bay (and North Korea) can you be condemned in absentia without facts or evidence. I will be forwarding this to the ministry (Municipal Affairs) and ombuds (Ombudsman) office but I do not have any hope that something will be done.”
Reached for comment, Haraldson re-stated that the move was made due to Kaljur’s actions with her blog, and also touched on the safety concerns mentioned in the letter.
“When she (Kaljur) turns around and puts out false accusations, on a blog or whatever, and brings up turbidity and tells people to boil their water when it’s not necessary and all the rest of it, that is an issue that goes against the engineer, who has the only ability and the credentials to test water and determine that there is a boil water need, or not,” said Haraldson.
“She’s endangering the public by doing something like that, that’s terrible.”
Haraldson also said records had been released that dealt with Kaljur’s request for a turbidity report, while stating that there hadn’t been issues with turbidity in Union Bay prior to August of 2018.
The board passed a motion asking for a report on past turbidity practices back on June 21st, 2018.
That motion can be seen via the following link, halfway through the meeting.
That motion does not appear to be recorded in the UBID minutes from that meeting.
“There wasn’t an issue when it was above one (NTU) before August because it was on the old system,” said Haraldson.
“It was when Vancouver Island Health changed the rules for Vancouver Island, and dropped the NTU’s from three to one, that the new testing had to come out, and that’s what made the change. That’s one of the reasons we’re on a notice right now, is because the turbidity is above one.”
As for how the disagreement could be resolved between Kaljur and the board, he said he hoped it could be changed in the future, but it couldn’t be changed now.
“What I would like her to do is to turn around, and follow the agenda of a meeting,” said Haraldson.
“And to turn around and be part of the trustees, and work out the jobs that we need to work on, as a trustee, not to turn around and create a blog, and do cyber-bullying, and cause problems that are unwarranted.”
He would have to talk to the rest of the trustees to see what would could be done, and stated that removing the blog “might only be part of it”, and that the decision to suspend her was not solely his.
“I’m just following through,” said Haraldson.
“I can’t turn around, without the board’s approval, to the reason for her to come back and when. But at this moment, she is suspended, and that’s gone off to Victoria to the ministry as well. It’s rare that this happens, and I wish that it wouldn’t happen, I really do. I would wish her to be with us, and to work with us, to get the jobs done that are necessary.”
He did not state who had made the original motion to suspend Kaljur, due to the meeting being closed to the public. He also believed that trustees had a right to question the board.
“She can state whatever she likes, but if she wishes to be on the board, then she has to follow the rules of all trustees, including myself,” said Haraldson.
As for how comfortable he was with the suspension of a trustee behind closed doors, Haraldson replied by saying Union Bay had had issues for a long time.
“Union Bay has had it’s problems, with it’s boards, for a number of years,” said Haraldson.
“The only way that you’re going to rectify this, straighten it out, is turn around and you have to start using the bylaws, using the rules, and following them. If the rules aren’t followed, then that’s what you have, you have a problem.”
He stated that Kaljur would not be participating in any meetings while suspended, and indicated that the Annual General Meeting in April will be the next meeting where the public will be allowed to attend.
Elections for new trustees will be coming at that same time, and Haraldson said the absence of Kaljur will not cause any quorum issues before those elections.
“It is what it is,” said Haraldson.
“It is something I definitely did not want to do, but I was put back into a corner where I had no choice. I had no choice but to suspend her.”
He ended by mentioning vandalism of a Boil Water notice on Friday in Union Bay as an example of a divisive mentality in the community, though he did not blame Kaljur for the vandalism.
“This type of mentality, this is what it creates,” said Haraldson.
“All of a sudden, you have someone, whoever that may be, deciding they’re going to go an destroy a piece of public property, that’s there for the safety of the public. That’s how bad it has got. You can quote me on that, I think that is very disappointing.”
He also indicated that the agenda for the public board meeting on January 17th, 2019, which is barred to the public, will not be made available on the UBID website, because the public is not allowed to attend.
“If you think I wanted to do this (suspend Kaljur), the answer is no, I absolutely did not want to have to do this,” said Haraldson.
A request for comment was sent to the province’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The response has been included below in full.
“As elected officials, Union Bay Improvement District’s trustees are accountable to their community for their collective decisions and individual conduct while in office.
While elected officials may at times disagree, maintaining a safe and healthy workplace with a collegial atmosphere that encourages respectful debate is crucial to the success and well-being of any public body and its staff. Any situation involving the rights and responsibilities of individuals needs to be handled with careful attention to fairness to all sides — for example, a local body seeking to publically rebuke and sanction an elected official for inappropriate behaviour would be encouraged to seek legal advice regarding its process.
Legislation covering improvement districts does not include specific provisions regarding suspensions of Improvement District trustees.
The ministry recognizes the authority and responsibilities of the Union Bay Improvement District as a directly elected local body and continues to support UBID staff with information regarding best practices for the conduct of board meetings and other procedural matters.”
The ministry also stated they were not consulted by UBID prior to Kaljur’s suspension.