‘Isn’t this Canada?’ Union Bay residents banned from public meeting

NOTE: I tried to correct a misleading and inaccurate portrayal of myself during the October 18 meeting. Isn’t it curious that the October minutes (which the Board approved in November despite my objection) have not appeared online!

Residents concerned over month-long boil water advisory

Joel Ballard · CBC News · Posted: Jan 19, 2019 11:00 AM PT | Last Updated: an hour ago

Turbidity in Langley Lake on Vancouver Island has risen above acceptable levels for drinking water. (JET Productions)comments

Union Bay resident Kathy Calder wants to know why she can’t drink her tap water.

Her community, in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, has been on a boil water advisory for more than a month. Calder was looking forward to asking some questions at Thursday night’s Union Bay Improvement District [UBID] public meeting.

However, a letter posted to the district’s website Jan. 10 says residents are banned from attending the public meeting, which consists of elected officials.

The officials say they invoked the ban because past meetings have been sidetracked by heckling. 

The boil water advisory and the subsequent banning of residents from public meetings has fuelled tensions in the small coastal community of 1,200, where some residents believe their most basic democratic right — access to information — has been thwarted.

An Improvement district is a local authority that provides services for a community. In Union Bay, it’s run by five elected trustees.

‘Are we not entitled to see and hear what’s going on?’

Since Dec. 15, 2018, the residents of Union Bay, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, have been forced to boil their water due to a high turbidity level in nearby Langley Lake, where the community draws its water.

Some residents wonder if increased development and logging near town may have affected the water quality. But district officials say heavy rain and winds have kicked up particles in the water and increased turbity. 

Turbidity is the measure of the cloudiness of fluid.

Residents say the poor water quality is an urgent matter, noting some local stores are running out of water.

“We’re very, very frustrated,” said Calder, who moved to Union Bay with her husband in 2015. “We’re in our late 50s and it’s not good to have to boil everything.”

She wants to address district officials directly to voice her concerns.

Landowners from Union Bay, BC, have been banned from attending their upcoming public meeting. (JET Productions)

But district chairperson Ted Haraldson is adamant the weather is to blame for the poor water quality. He added stricter drinking water regulations introduced by the province in August 2018, have also led to the advisory.

Haraldson admits, however, that he doesn’t know when the boil water advisory will be lifted and people will be able to drink water straight from their taps again.

Calder wanted to raise her concerns at the next public meeting, from which the public is now banned.

“Isn’t this Canada? Are we not entitled to see and hear what’s going on in our community,” said Calder.

‘It is a privilege to be attending a board meeting’

Some residents say the heckling allegations from the district are unfair, arguing residents aren’t always to blame.

Resident Janet Thomas said board members are often seen heckling each other at meetings.

Indeed, videos from meetings held in October and November show how proceedings often descend into chaos, as trustees continually speak over each other.

At the November meeting for example, what began as a correction to the minutes quickly devolved into chaos as board members bickered, resulting in Haraldson threatening to call the police on one of the trustees. Eventually, the residents too became riled.

Haraldson said he’s run out of patience. “It is a privilege to be attending a board meeting,” he said.

“I would love to see people attend this meeting, to listen to what’s said in a governance manner. But that’s not what’s happening.”

He says a handful of culprit tend to cause the most problems. Yet, instead of banning only them, the entire community has been punished.

The move has angered many residents. And the lack of information is driving residents like Calder away.

Calder said she and her husband are considering selling their home and moving, which saddens her.

“We thought this would be our retirement home.”CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices|About CBC News

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/isn-t-this-canada-union-bay-residents-banned-from-public-meeting-1.4982878

UNION BAY CHAIR SAYS THURSDAY MEETING MOVED WITHOUT NOTICE DUE TO FEAR OF DISRUPTION

Holding the elections BEFORE the AGM  looks like a deliberate attempt to have two trustees (Loxam and Jacques) get re- elected by keeping voters in the dark.  This is election tampering which , in my opinion, is illegal.


James Wood

JAMES WOOD, STAFF FRIDAY, JAN. 18TH, 2019

UBID chair Ted Haraldson is pictured during the UBID trustee meeting of November 16th, 2018. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio

UNION BAY, B.C- Ted Haraldson will be keeping the doors closed.

That’s what’s been indicated by Haraldson, who is currently serving as the chair of the Union Bay Improvement District trustee board. The board functions as the local government for Union Bay, with a focus on water service.

As of January 11th, 2019, the public meetings of Union Bay’s government have been closed to the public. The reason for the decision was said to be heckling at board meetings.

Trustee Susanna Kaljur, who often opposed the rest of the trustee board, was suspended a few days later.

The latest board meeting was scheduled to be held at the Union Bay community hall on Thursday evening, and it was later moved without notice to Courtenay. According to Haraldson, who spoke with the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom on Friday, it was held at a “secure location”.

He stated that the board suspected there may have been problems, had the meeting been held as scheduled in Union Bay.

“Hopefully, this won’t be happening again, and again these meetings are closed to the public,” said Haraldson.

“The only public meeting is going to be the AGM (annual general meeting) in April, and that is one that everyone will attend, and people will be able to speak, and all the rest. That is going to happen for sure.”

Haraldson stated that a video recording of the Courtenay meeting will be going up on the Union Bay website within “the next couple of days”, and indicated the meeting’s agenda would also be released at the same time.

He added that Union Bay’s upcoming trustee election would be moved to take place a week before the AGM, with the new trustees to be introduced at that gathering.

As for whether or not the rest of the board’s public meetings (which are barred to the public) will be held in Union Bay, Haraldson indicated that would be the case.

He figured people needed time to “calm down”, and stated he wasn’t comfortable with the move in the first place. However, he maintained it was “done for a reason”.

Asked what would happen if people didn’t “calm down”, he did not have an exact answer.

“I’m hoping that there is no violence in the workplace, and harassment, and cyber bullying calms down, to where people become civilised, and to go to a meeting, without having to have this thing occur,” said Haraldson.

He still maintains the AGM will be open to all, and said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“During the AGM, people will be able to speak,” said Haraldson.

“Entering the AGM, there will be a sergeant at arms present. If there are any problems, whatsoever, those individuals will be removed. Otherwise, an AGM is a public meeting, and that is open to the public.”

Haraldson also believes he has the support of Union Bay landowners.

“Many people tell me that,” he said. https://www.mycomoxvalleynow.com/48814/union-bay-chair-says-thursday-meeting-moved-without-notice-due-to-fear-of-disruption/

More news coverage from The Comox Valley Record

Union Bay is about 20 kilometres south of Courtenay.

UBID board suspends trustee

Kaljur feeling bullied, harassed

The Union Bay Improvement District board has voted to suspend trustee Susanna Kaljur for an indefinite period of time.

Board chair Ted Haraldson — whose motion for her suspension was supported by trustees Glenn Loxam, Rick Bitten and Peter Jacques — says Kaljur has been disrespectful, and has not followed agendas or subjects at hand at meetings. He notes she has criticized the board for not following Robert’s Rules of Order — of which Haraldson claims Kaljur is guilty.

“Your actions are deliberate and planned, and several landowners in the audience get involved and support this behaviour,” Haraldson states in a letter to Kaljur. He could not be reached for comment. “These actions can be seen very clearly on our video tapes of our last two public meetings.”

Kaljur, however, says she’s the one being bullied and harassed. Last fall, she claims she was twice removed from board meetings for trying to ask a question or making a correction.

“At both of those meetings, I am given permission to speak by the chair, yet as soon as I begin to state my question or concern I am pounced upon by multiple trustees,” she said, noting multiple interruptions should be ruled ‘out of order’. “This is a blatant violation of Robert’s Rules of Order. The chair’s role is to ensure that every trustee has a chance to speak without interruption by other trustees.”

Haraldson also criticizes Kaljur and a small group of landowners for creating a hostile environment that could lead to violence.

He also accuses her of cyber bullying, saying Kaljur created a blog to openly discuss UBID actions without authorization from the chair. Haraldson says a Dec. 18 blog attacks public works superintendent Dan McGill, questioning his competency about past turbidity readings and unreported boil water notices.

“These unfounded accusations can create a liability and public safety concern to UBID, and is unacceptable treatment of our employees,” Haraldson writes.

Kaljur said she initiated her blog to bring forward matters of public interest — notably water quality and treatment plant financing — to ensure landowners have information to make informed decisions.

“I have made it very clear on my blog that I am not speaking on behalf of the board, nor have I disparaged any staff person or board member at any time,” Kaljur said. “My focus has always been about policy, decisions and actions which appear contrary to the best interest of the public and landowners.”

She notes board meetings are not open to the public until the April 11 AGM.

“This is unacceptable in my opinion and contrary to local government procedure,” Kaljur said.

The UBID website notes an increasing number of hecklers had been disrupting meetings.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which oversees local governing bodies in B.C., says legislation covering improvement districts does not include specific provisions regarding suspensions of trustees.

A ministry statement reads: “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 publicly rebuke and sanction an elected official for inappropriate behaviour would be encouraged to seek legal advice regarding its process.”

The ministry said it continues to support UBID staff with “information regarding best practices for the conduct of board meetings and other procedural matters.”

https://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/news/ubid-board-suspends-trustee/

UBID did not seek legal or procedural advice from the Ministry regarding my “indefinite suspension”..Why?

Note the last line in the article: The ministry also stated they were not consulted by UBID prior to Kaljur’s suspension.”

UNION BAY SUSPENDS TRUSTEE SUSANNA KALJUR INDEFINITELY

James Wood

JAMES WOOD, STAFF TUESDAY, JAN. 15TH, 2019

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, Rod 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.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=762&v=oYykPytP2HQ

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.