Plain and simple: Elected officials should excuse themselves from proceedings when conflicts occur.
Recently, I have found some people are unclear about the process when I excuse myself from the Council table. For example, I may excuse myself once for a particular issue, but I also may excuse myself up to five times on any one issue. In the second instance, some people think I am leaving the table for five different reasons, when in reality I am leaving the Council table five times for the same project or application.
Allow me to clarify further.
In order for a project or application (such as a rezoning application) to be approved by Abbotsford City Council, it must work its way through a detailed review-and-approval process:
- First, a project or application is presented to the appropriate staff, who review it against current city policies and bylaws and bring a recommendation to Council for our consideration (initially introduced at our Executive Committee Meeting of Council).
- Next, later that same day, at our Regular Council meeting, we typical consider readings of the bylaw under consideration and authorize staff to schedule a public hearing.
- A public hearing is held (typically two weeks later).
- Immediately following the public hearing, at our Regular Council meeting, we consider a third reading of the bylaw (vote), unless Council decides to defer the matter to the next Council meeting so members can contemplate the feedback/input we received from citizens at the public hearing.
- Finally, the bylaw is brought back to Council for consideration of adoption (vote) at a future date, which is determined by staff, once the applicant has addressed/resolved the conditions associated with the rezoning application.
So, in effect, one project or application can come before Abbotsford City Council five or more times, and if I declare a conflict at the beginning of the process, then I have to follow it all the way through and excuse myself each and every time it appears before Council, where we discuss, or hear information regarding, the particular project or application.
From memory (without checking minutes), I have excused myself on just six land development applications during my three-plus years on Abbotsford City Council (December 2011 – present).
When I excuse myself from the table during the process identified above, I actually go far enough away so I don’t hear anything being discussed by Council. I also make sure that Council cannot see me, and I can’t see them, so that no one is influenced by body language. If you aren’t sure where we are in the process of the particular project or application, you might think I am excusing myself from 30 rather than six projects.
As always, feel free to contact me directly with your questions or concerns. My email address is MayorBraun@Abbotsford.ca and my telephone number is 604-864-5500.