Friday, February 15, 2013

After further review at Council, double duty for Councillor Rice is allowed

The soon to be  very busy schedule ahead for Councillor Jennifer Rice was the topic of some review at Prince Rupert City Council this past Tuesday, as Council sought clarification and further information on whether Councillor Rice could continue as as sitting councillor, while engaged in the soon to be launched provincial election campaign.

As we have noted on the blog earlier, Councillor Rice secured the nomination for the NDP riding of the North Coast last month and will carry the NDP colours into the May election campaign.

With what is expected to be a rather hectic schedule ahead, some in the community have expressed the thought that perhaps Ms. Rice should surrender her position on council as she seeks higher office.

We touched on the issue earlier this week with a look at the subject of much discussion around town.

And the theme that she should remove herself from council, was the featured item of a rather blistering editorial in the Northern View earlier this week, one that focused more on her environmental beliefs, than on civic governance for the most part.

The topic of double duty however does seem to be a popular one around City Hall these days. Judging by the comments made to Council by Acting City manager Dan Rodin prior to his presentation, the local paper, as well as some local residents, have apparently made previous inquiries to City staff about the issue.

So, with some interest apparently percolating around the community, the City Council received a report from Mr. Rodin on Tuesday (page 20) that examined and explained the situation as best that staff and legal counsel's research could determine.

From the presentation by Mr. Rodin, we learn that as it is now, there is nothing that suggests Ms. Rice should step down from her council duties as she conducts a provincial election campaign.

Nor, as Mr. Rodin recounted, it seems (and in a bit of a surprise), that  there is actually no requirement that she should surrender her seat, even if she proves successful in that May electoral campaign.

Mr. Rodin, did advise Council that should Councillor Rice, (like any councillor) miss a number of scheduled sessions (the regular sessions as outlined from the start of the year, not any special sessions called through the year) she could face disqualification from Council as per the Community Charter.

He then relayed some of the options that Council would have to consider, should they be reduced to five councillors and a Mayor for the remainder of this current council term, dependant on the timing of any potential resignation.

Even with that possibility in mind, it seems that more and more council members are relying on technology to take part in Council sessions while away, so the practice of participation could seemingly continue over the telephone lines, without actually having to be in council chambers.

In the past other councillors have taken part in sessions while out of town,  Councillors Thorkelson and Ashley come to mind, mainly over the telephone.

And in a timely twist, Councillor Rice herself took part in Tuesday's session by phone, no doubt listening in with interest  as her status as the NDP candidate for the North Coast was discussed.

You can listen in to the review yourself from the City's website, the council session is available in both audio and video format, Mr. Rodin delivers his Report to Council check in at the 1:10:00 mark and it continues on until 1:17:00.

We did notice however that the new era of long distance participation from Councillor Rice didn't exactly provide for much content on this occasion.

For the bulk of the Tuesday session, not much was heard through the telephone link and in fact, the only contribution that the Councillor made on the night's proceedings, (coincidentally right after they discussed her situation) was to inform council that she could not longer participate in the council session, as she had to depart the meeting early, as she had to catch a flight.

Which probably won't help the cause of those that support the thought that she can combine both civic duties and provincial ambitions, with the same amount of dedication, at the same time.

Should the bulk of Councillor Rice's attendance with council in the future end up coming from a long distance phone line and in between flights, we imagine the calls for her to step aside may get a little louder as we get further along towards the provincial election campaign.

CFTK- Feb 20-- Can Rice Fill Both council and NDP Candidate Shoes?
CFTK--Feb 20-- Rice Council Conflict (video)

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