A Central Okanagan Regional District board director was given a temporary reprieve from facing censure and sanction penalties imposed by her fellow board members.
At a special meeting Thursday, Patty Hanson, the Central Okanagan East area director, was to get an opportunity to defend herself against an accusation she divulged confidential information from the board’s strategic planning workshop held in West Kelowna back in May.
But the meeting came to an abrupt end, and was ultimately postponed because Hanson did not have her lawyer present.
According to a report by board chair Gail Given, despite the workshop facilitator gaining consensus from those attending, including Hanson, that what was said at the workshop would remain confidential and Given reminding participants of that three times over the two-day workshop, Hanson subsequently told Okanagan Film Commissioner Jon Summerland that the board did not see the value of the commission.
In a subsequent letter from Summerland to RDCO chief administration officer Brian Reardon, Summerland said he feared for his livelihood after hearing from Hanson because he sensed funding for the commission could be cut in 2016.
On Thursday, Given said the information Summerland relayed in his letter about what he said Hanson told him was not only confidential but incorrect.
Thursday’s special board meeting, despite being billed as open, was quickly closed to the public and the media following receipt of a letter from Hanson’s lawyer just 20 minutes before the board sat down to hear from Hanson and Summerland.
An hour later, when the meeting was re-opened to the public and the media, the content of Hanson’s lawyer’s letter was not revealed but she was asked if she wanted a lawyer present.
At first non-committal, saying she had come to the meeting prepared to participate without a lawyer, Hanson decided at the meeting she would feel more comfortable with her lawyer present.
It was then that West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater moved to have the meeting postponed until lawyers for both the RDCO and Hanson could be present. He said he was doing so for “procedural fairness.”
After the meeting, Hanson immediately met behind closed doors with Central Okanagan West regional director Wayne Carson and told an RDCO representative to tell reporters waiting outside she would not be making any comment on what had just transpired.
The outcome of the meeting, weeks in planning, left other board members frustrated, including Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, who asked Hanson directly during the meeting why she did not bring her lawyer with her.
Her response was “no comment.”
“This process has completely gone off the rails,” said an exasperated Basran.
Kelowna Coun. Brad Sieben echoed Basran’s frustration at the delay, and when it came time to vote on Findlater’s motion that the special meeting be reconvened at a later (but unspecified) time, Basran and Sieben were joined in opposing it by their fellow Kelowna councillors who sit on the board, Tracy Gray and Maxine DeHart.
Given, who is also a Kelowna councillor, voted in favour of reconvening later. After the meeting, she said her position was also based on wanting procedural fairness.
At Thursday’s meeting, the regional board had its lawyer—who flew in from Vancouver—in the room.
Given admitted the workshop held in May was not a formally constituted in-camera meeting.
That could be why Hanson felt free to talk to Summerland about what was said, but until she speaks publicly, it is not known what her reasoning was.
Summerland, who was also at Thursday’s RDCO special board meeting, left quickly, refusing to speak to the media.
Hanson had at least one supporter on the board who was willing to speak. Carson said he was “disappointed the issue has come to this point.”
Carson argued it should have been dealt with by Given in a meeting with Hanson and Summerland.
Later, Given said she did not deal with it alone because the board felt it should deal with the matter as a group.
This is not the first time Hanson, who has served on the RDCO board for three terms, has run afoul of the board.
In 2012, when then-Kelowna Coun. Robert Hobson was the board chair, Hanson had to publicly apologize to Hobson after calling for his resignation and that of a senior RDCO staff member over what she considered misleading comments Hobson made about the controversial Kelowna Mountain development.
Hobson suggested he may sue for libel.
If the board rules now that Hanson did divulge confidential information, in addition to publicly censuring her, the sanctions it could impose would be to order her to make a public apology to Summerland and remove her from the Economic Development Commission, Okanagan Film Commission and SIBAC boards for 12 months.