A village meeting in Tahsis turned chaotic on Monday (March 21), as tensions arose between councillors and villagers in the public gallery.
The meeting was chaired by deputy mayor Sarah Fowler with mayor Martin Davis away on vacation. During the meeting, council reported on a March 10 closed meeting where they passed a motion of censure against councillor Douglas Elliott for disclosing confidential information and contravening council’s code of conduct.
Tahsis village council allows two opportunities for public input during its regular meetings: once at the beginning, and once at the end. People get two minutes to speak about their concerns. In most meetings, this is a relatively calm and orderly process. However, on Monday, things got out of hand.
As this was the first time the public was made aware of the censure, a number of Elliott’s supporters showed up. After a few speakers questioned aspects of the censure, another went over the two-minute allowance. Fowler told the speaker time was up, but the speaker continued. Fowler used her gavel to try and restore order, prompting a shouting match between councillors and members of the public.
“We’re going to talk as loud as we want,” said one audience member.
“I have the gavel,” Fowler replied.
“I don’t care what you’ve got, you will not treat us like that,” said the audience member.
Fowler replied: “You are not the chair! I am the chair!”
Which prompted the audience member to say “God, you’re rude.”
Another speaker continuing beyond her allotted time led to Fowler banging her gavel for ten seconds before Elliott took it from her.
“We’re sitting in the Kangaroo Court of Tahsis,” said one member of the public.
The report from the March 10 meeting alleges that Elliott “made defamatory comments about council, Councillor Sarah Fowler, Councillor Cheryl Northcott, Mayor Davis and Mark Tatchell, Chief Administrative Officer” in a number of emails and other correspondence, including letters sent to Tahsis residents, one of which was titled “What the Mayor Does Not Want You to Know.”
“Council considers Councillor Elliott’s unlawful disclosure of confidential information, defamatory comments and attempt at intimidation to be conduct unbecoming a member of Village of Tahsis Council,” the report says, continuing to say that Elliott called the council as a whole “foul bastards.”
Elliott’s letters were sent in regards to a new fire hall planned for the village, as well as a new sewer plant. Elliott’s comments in regular meetings show that he is opposed to the projects, citing fiscal responsibility.
Council also amended its code of conduct during the March 10 closed meeting to include a section on enforcement.