Just over a month after her acclimation to the District of North Saanich council, Joscelyn Barnard announced her resignation Thursday claiming manipulation, litigation threats and an “unhealthy democracy.”
In an email statement sent at 1:30 p.m., Barnard said she volunteered to take a councillor position – her first term – because of “the lack of any other community members willing to do the job.”
Each of the six councillors in North Saanich were acclaimed in the Oct. 20 election due to a lack of candidates.
In her resignation letter, Barnard called on Selina Robinson Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr and the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson to “conduct a third party audit” into what she called “the corporate culture and practices of the District.”
Barnard said she listened to “a common theme of frustration” in conversations during the election campaign with community members who also expressed a lack of accountability during the election.
“What I found though was a system that can be manipulated to silence persistent councillors and suppress difficult information through the use of in-camera meetings, threats of publicly funded litigation, severance demands, and labour laws,” she wrote.
“This is not a healthy democratic environment for staff, council, or the public and I will not be a part of it,” said Barnard, calling for changes to the community charter to improve accountability and transparency.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Mayor Geoff Orr said he would need time to discuss the matter with staff before making public comment, having received Barnard’s resignation the same time media did.
“I just want to be mindful of some aspects of this,” said Orr, just a month into his mayoral duties. “This is something I don’t think most mayors have dealt with, so we’re in a unique situation.”
“There is a specific process that has to be followed on these matters,” he added, alluding to the potential for a by-election.
The District of North Saanich council next meets Dec. 3.