UPDATE Kings County council backs Best on airport bias allegation

Kirk Starratt kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca
Published on July 28, 2014
Bob Best

A Kings County councillor says he hasn’t closed his mind to airport relocation possibilities, and his peers are backing him up.

Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle brought forth a motion July 22 to recommend council confirm that the allegations of bias involving Coun. Bob Best regarding the municipal airport relocation committee are unfounded.

Coun. Jim Winsor brought the matter up at the last council session, asking for an in-camera discussion. When the solicitor indicated it would be a public matter, Winsor tried to get it added to the agenda, but the motion failed.

Hirtle said Winsor had taken the concern to the media and Hirtle wanted to give Best a chance to respond.

Responding to questions from Warden Diana Brothers, Best said he is open to discussion on any topic, including the airport, and he hasn’t closed his mind to options other than 14 Wing Greenwood for a relocated airport.

“I’ll always have an open mind,” Best said.

At the request of Coun. Emma Van Rooyen, chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan explained the difference between an allegation of bias and displeasure with the way a councillor operates on a committee.

“An allegation of bias in advance of a decision is hard to find,” MacEwan, adding that said such an allegation usually comes as a challenge to a decision. MacEwan said he believes “one councillor is trying to preempt a challenge to the decision-making process.”

Van Rooyen expressed concern that if she voted in favour of the motion, it could imply Winsor’s concern was unfounded and that he was “aggressive or wrong.” If she voted against it, it could imply Best was doing something that puts the relocation process at risk. She said she doesn’t necessarily believe Best has done so.

“We don't have to push buttons to punish someone,” Van Rooyen said.


Councillors flip-flop: Atwater

Coun. Wayne Atwater said he doesn’t think any councillor is biased.

“I flip-flop all the time,” he said as he held up a single flip-flop sandal. “Everyone should have one in their desk.”

Atwater described what he was seeing in the council chambers as “a little like Grand Prix Wrestling,” as councillors seem to get along better with each other out of session. He suggested an amendment to make the motion “softer.”

Atwater asked for assistance from MacEwan to write an amendment to the motion. Hirtle and his seconder, Coun. Mike Ennis, instead withdrew their motion to be replaced with the motion worded by MacEwan.

Councillors voted to recommend approval of confirming council is satisfied based on debate and discussion that Best doesn’t have a closed mind with respect to the relocation of the municipal airport. Coun. Pauline Raven abstained from the vote and Coun. Kim MacQuarrie voted against it.

A special meeting of Kings County council has been set for July 29 at 5 p.m. Agenda items include an in-camera discussion concerning the Waterville municipal airport followed by a public discussion.


Best and Winsor react

Following the vote, Best said he has no bias and what precipitated the allegation from Winsor was “just a conversation at dinner.”

Best said he’s upset that Winsor would make such an allegation against him or anyone else.

“I’m very pleased with my fellow councillors who backed me up,” Best said. “We’re here to make Kings County a better place to live.”

Winsor said he wouldn’t have voted in favour of the first motion as presented. Although he voted in favour of the revised motion, he said he probably should have abstained. This would have counted as a negative vote.

“I supported it because Best said he would try to follow good process and keep an open mind,” Winsor said, adding he has to take his fellow councillor “at his word.”

Winsor said he tried to deal with the matter confidentially and followed up with emails before he requested publicly that the item be discussed as an in-camera agenda item.