Ron Bolin — September 6, 2010
Complaint to the Office of the BC Ombudsperson
att. Ms. Kim Carter September 6, 2010
Ms. Carter: I have attached below the email exchange which I believe covers the requirements outlined on your web page for launching a complaint, in this case against the City of Nanaimo. My complaint focuses on the negligence which I feel has been perpetrated against the citizens of Nanaimo due to a decision taken in camera by City Council to advise Staff to ignore the city’s Sign bylaw on behalf of some transgressors. The issues which I find to be raised in this matter are as follows:
- The City lacks authority to secretly, in camera, amend or ignore its own bylaws, thus conferring benefits on one group of citizens at the expense of others. I am informed of complaints about this matter which have been ignored over a long period of time;
- The interpretation given in Ms. Harrison’s response of the legislation dealing with in camera decisions is so broad as to represent a threat to the whole body of bylaw legislation which has been developed to protect the rights of citizens;
- The length of time which has transpired since the inception of that in camera decision, about 2 and one half years, without developing “…an alternate method to address this type of signage…” is prima facie evidence of the illegitimacy of the argument presented; and
- This matter calls for the immediate disclosure of any similar in camera decisions which affect citizen’s as regards their municipal rights and freedoms.
Accordingly I request that your office, using the powers granted to you in the Ombudspersons Act:
- a) find the City’s application of the Community Charter’s in camera legislation to be without basis and recommend that either the existing Sign bylaw be enforced or that it be amended or replaced forthwith and further that the City be reprimanded for refusing to act accordingly on a bylaw matter that has festered for two and half years; and
- b) require the release to Nanaimo citizens of any additional matters in which in camera privileges have been inappropriately applied so as to keep matters of operational significance from the public.
I myself have not been a complainant to the specifics of this matter, but have, since making my objections to the lack of due process known, been contacted by others who have raised these specifics and have been rebuffed by city authorities. If you would like names, I will provide them with the consent of those involved. For my part, my request that due process should be remedied remains.
First let me apologise for not responding earlier.
The motion that was made at the January 28, 2008 in camera Council meeting regarding enforcement of signs is as follows:
Temporary Signage for Real Estate Sales/Construction Site Signage
Staff’s Recommendations: That Council direct Staff to:
1. bring forward amendments to the Sign Bylaw to address the changing use of temporary signage for real estate sales/construction site signage; and,
2. temporarily suspend any enforcement action for the Palladium sign or other similar signs until an alternate method to address this type of signage is in place.
1808 It was moved and seconded that the recommendations be adopted. The motion carried unanimously.
The decision to go in camera on this issue was based to a belief that enforcement for sign removal may involve legal action and a need for Council to determine their support of legal action while the bylaw was under review.
The following sections of the Community Charter apply:
90(1) (f) law enforcement, if the Council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the conduct of an investigation under or enforcement of an enactment;
(g) litigation or potential litigation affecting the municipality
From: Ron Bolin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:12 PM
To: Joan Harrison
Subject: Sign Bylaw Enforcement
An interesting FPCOW meeting yesterday which left me with a couple of questions which I hope you can answer.
May I please have a copy of the minutes of the meeting in which Council decided to suspend enforcement of the Sign Bylaw as it pertains to the Real Estate and Construction Industries and so notified Staff.
May I also please be advised by what legislative right such a decision abridging a city bylaw could be made in an In Camera meeting.
Thanks for your prompt consideration.