BC Supreme Court to decide if Fire Board failed to ensure eligible voters cast ballots at Trustee election

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, May 15 2019

A petition to the Supreme Court of BC has been filed, asking the court to declare the April 24, 2019 election of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District trustees of no effect.

It also asks the court to order a new election, establishing the date, time, place and conditions.

The petition was filed on May 8, 2019, by islanders Ivan Bulic, Drew Staniland and April Vannini, stating that the trustees of the GFPID failed to ensure that only qualified and eligible voters cast ballots in the election for new trustees, as set out within the Local Government Act.

A petition through the Supreme Court of BC is the only way under the Local Government Act that voters may seek to force an Improvement District to declare an election of no effect and to hold a new election.

Paul Giffin and Paul Champion were declared the new trustees on April 24. Wilf Caron and Mike Taylor were the other two candidates running for the two trustee positions at that election.

May 8 was the deadline for anyone present at the April 24 election to file a petition with the Supreme Court.

As part of the petition filed with the court, the petitioners state that on Sunday, May 5, they met with Mark Noyon, chair of the fire board, to resolve the issues around the election. They say they asked Noyon to bring to trustees’ attention the need to reject the results of the April 24 election and to organize a new election for two trustees.

The file for the petition was served by Bulic and Stanliand to Corporate Officer Paula Mallinson at the first meeting held by the trustees since the April 24 election, held on May 8.

Mallinson, as Corporate Officer, has 21 days from May 8 to file and serve a response on the petitioners.

Further orders, including one granting that of the petition, may be made against the Board if the trustees fail to file a response within that time period.

Mallinson responded to a query from the Sounder on May 10 on whether the Board had a response to the petition being filed.

She stated that the Board will need to have a special meeting to discuss the petition and what the response will be.

As the meeting is dealing with legal matters, it is likely to be an in camera meeting. No date has yet been set for it.

Only option for Board to redo election is for trustees to resign

Attending the May 8 meeting since the April 24 election night, Paul Giffin, John Moeller, Sean Lewis and Sandra Rudischer were the trustees in attendance. Paul Champion and Mark Noyon were not. Trustee John Hudson, who had one year left in his three-year term, resigned from the Board effective May 6.

Also attending at the table on May 8 were Fire Chief Rick Jackson and Corporate Officer Paula Mallinson. Rudischer chaired the meeting.

Rudischer explained that due to the concerns they had heard from the public about the April 24 election, staff at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs had been contacted to ask if a re-election could be held.

According to what the Board was told, the only legal way for the Board to hold a re-election would be for the two newly-elected trustees to voluntarily step down.

Ministry staff confirmed this to the Sounder on Friday, May 10, stating that, “given that the Improvement District has quorum and an election was held, the board of trustees continues to operate until they receive direction from the Supreme Court that determines otherwise.

“The Supreme Court may decide to uphold the decision or result of this past election or declare it has no effect and order a new one.”

If trustees were to voluntarily resign, the Board would need to call for a special general meeting within 60 days of the trustees stepping down, to allow for notice to be given to the public that an election would be held.

Rudischer said, “Having said that, it would appear the elected trustees will stand, unless they voluntarily resign.

“So that’s it.”

Lewis asked, since there will need to be an election held to fill the seat left vacant by Hudson, could the Board hold that election for three trustee positions, assuming Giffin and Champion were to step down.

Rudischer said yes.

Moeller asked that, if the trustees resign, can they run again?

Rudischer said yes. And the election would be held within 60 days of Hudson’s resignation.

“We have to give at least 14 days’ notice to the public.”

Giffin asked if the terms would be the same.

Mallinson said, “We would differentiate that it’s for the three-year term [for two positions], and the one-year term [for Hudson’s].”

Even with Hudson’s departure, and if Giffin and Champion resign, there are four trustees left at the table, which would mean quorum, so the Board could conduct regular business during the election period.

On May 9, 2019, Mark Noyon stepped down as Board Chair, but remains a GFPID trustee.

Noyon has said his stepping down is not a political move, but rather his recognition that the Board Chair will need to be taking a very active role over this spring and summer, and his professional life will not allow him to provide the time to do that.

As of press time, a new chair had not been chosen by the trustees.