Letter: Trustees Giffin and Champion should resign to allow another election

Wednesday, May 15 2019

I am writing to ask Mr. Giffin and Dr. Champion, the two Trustees elected at the Annual General Meeting of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District (GFPID) held on April 24, 2019, to resign in order that another election with a more tightly regulated voting process might be held. 

I believe that this is necessary for the restoration of public trust in the Board and its work. No body—supported and funded by taxpayers’ money—should hold elections as they were conducted on April 24th. 

What was accepted in the past is something we cannot fix and we, the public, have not challenged it before, but we can assure ourselves that these elections be held to a better standard from now on. 

The narrow results of the election—a 9 vote spread between 4 candidates, with only one vote difference between second and third place—showed that it was critical that these elections followed best practices. There is one very important point to make here. It is not the events leading up to the large turnout that are under discussion; it is the flawed process of the vote that is in question. 

Flawed process equals doubtful results and damages trust in the process and in the people who uphold it. 

There should be no doubt that the people elected were the people chosen by eligible voters. To keep myself better informed, and to encourage the implementation of tighter voting procedures, I attended the trustee meeting of the GFPID on Wednesday, May 8 at 16:45, as did a number of others for the same reason. 

At the meeting it seemed to me that the trustees accepted that the ballots could’ve been compromised before, and while being placed, in the ballot box. This doesn’t mean they believed they were! 

It just means they could see the other point of view, that fraud or errors were possible. 

I make this observation because the Board went on to discuss how best to change the voting procedure, and they were listening to those of us who were present. 

Some of us pointed out that ballots were handed out to anyone who asked for one; that between the receipt of a ballot and the actual placing of said ballot in the box, it could’ve been doctored, or spoiled; and could have been submitted, perhaps more than once, by those ineligible to vote. 

Again, please note not that it did happen but that we can’t be sure it didn’t. 

Prevention is the key. 

Many people were upset about the way the election was conducted. 

A group of concerned Gabriolans, learning that the only legal recourse for asking for another election was to file a petition to the Supreme Court within two weeks from the date of the vote in question, have done so, delivering the notice of the petition to the Board during the meeting on May 8th. 

I think I write for all Gabriolans, including those who took the time and effort (and money out of their own pockets) to file that petition, that we don’t want this issue to go that far. 

And here is the solution: Corporate Officer Paula Mallinson reported that according to phone calls she made, the only way for the Board to rectify the error-laden voting process of April 24, 2019 begins with Mr. Giffin and Dr. Champion—they could step down to allow for another vote. 

We were further informed that John Hudson, another of the trustees, had handed in his resignation, that a Special General Meeting would have to be held for an election to replace him, and so all three positions could be filled at the same time. 

This is good news, because it is a simple solution that provides an opportunity to make things right. 

If Mr. Giffin and Dr. Champion resign, a new election can be held with proper processes in place. 

Likely the results of the election will be the same, but holding it will show goodwill, a realization that the vote could have been compromised (even if it wasn’t), and a commitment to ensuring a fair and transparent process. 

I do not hold either Mr. Giffin or Dr. Champion responsible for the situation in which they find themselves, but if they continue to sit on the board after such a flawed election, they will be seen as accepting questionable and possibly flawed results. It is no good for only one of them to do so. 

The community will not think the worse of them if they agree that the process was flawed and the results cannot be trusted. But, the community won’t forgive, forget, or trust if they don’t. That is why I am writing to ask the newly elected trustees, Mr. Giffin and Dr. Champion, to step down in order that another election can be called and the Gabriola Fire Protection Department Board’s reputation can be upheld. 

Thank you for considering my request.

~ Penelope J. Bahr