2017-03-22

Lunenburg councillor recovers seat on key committees

by Evan Bower

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Lunenburg council reinstated Councillor Brian Davis to the general government and audit committees after an in-camera discussion on March 14. From left, Councillor Ronnie Bachman and Davis.</p>

Just a month after being stripped of all his committee appointments, Lunenburg councillor Brian Davis has been reinstated to the two positions he says are vital to doing the job he was elected to do.

Council removed Davis of his six committee positions last month after he spent months arguing the town's private, in-camera practices may have been in violation of the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Following an in-camera meeting on March 14, that decision was partially reversed, earning him a spot back on the general government and audit committees on which every other member of council sits. Davis sat out the private meeting because of the conflict of interest.

"That's where all the big decisions are made for council. From those committees you just come out and make the recommendations [in council] on the public floor, so that's where all the meat of the matter is," said Davis. "I'm very happy to be back there so I can represent all the people that voted for me."

Lunenburg council's change of course comes after Davis obtained a legal opinion that argued council may have exceeded its authority by removing him from conversations of which every other elected official is a part.

At the time, Mayor Rachel Bailey told LighthouseNOW council wouldn't go back on its decision unless legally advised to do so. Now, she says council reached a settlement with Davis and his lawyer to avoid "future litigation."

"The agreement doesn't change the fact that he will not be a part of the other committees," said Bailey. "But there's an understanding now with council and with Councillor Davis that we're just looking to move forward and to continuing on and concentrating on more important items of business."

When asked if the settlement was an admission on council's part that mistakes were made, Bailey responded that it's simply the best way to move on.

"[The agreement] also reaffirms council's authority and council's decision to remove him from all of the other committee appointments that were previously made," said Bailey.

Later, she added, "The decision that was made by council was made with the best interest of the public at heart. We want to do whatever we are able to do to make sure that council can function well and be productive, and every decision we have made has been with that endgame in mind, and this decision is no different."

Councillor Joseph Carnevale has been the only voice around the table to come to Davis' defence in the past. He moved forward the recommendation to get Davis back on the two committees, a vote that passed unanimously.

"I think it's the right decision they made, and I think it's good that he's back and good that they've put everything behind them and we're moving forward," said Carnevale. "I think we, as new councillors, have a lot to learn, and we're getting there a little bit at a time."

The settlement includes a section that reads, "Both Councillor Davis and council agree to use their best efforts to conduct themselves responsibly, respectfully and cooperatively on a go-forward basis."

While Davis says he won't be shy to voice his concerns going forward, he admits he may be "gentler" when he does so. He's pleased that since reaching the settlement, CAO Bea Renton has agreed to meet with him before meetings to resolve some of his questions without taking up council meeting time.

"Any challenge I make, I'm just backing it up by the MGA or bylaws, and I think at that kind of a level we can resolve an awful lot of stuff," said Davis. "Because I think what they know now is that I'm prepared to push my beliefs to a higher level, but I think because they know that, they'll take me probably more serious."

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