The invitation on the town website is clear enough, ‘The mayor and council of Esquimalt want to hear from residents and you can contact them by phone, by e-mail, in person, by attending informal coffee break meetings, or by attending council meetings.

But you couldn’t easily do that if you wanted to reach Coun.Tim Morrison during the last eight months. He was off traveling the world pursuing international volunteer opportunities  – after council granted him a six-month leave of absence without compensation starting Feb. 1.

“Citizens have a right to ask how council managed for eight months  without a resident councillor or a replacement,” says Stan Bartlett, the chair of the  advocacy group Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria. “Voters also have the expectation that when they vote for someone they will be around to represent their interests.”

As of Sept. 28, Coun. Morrison has returned and been reinstated on payroll and IT access after a two-week suspension. He’s now scheduled to return to council duties at the Oct. 2 meeting.

At the Sept. 11 council meeting, Mayor Barb Desjardins and the rest of council unanimously declined Coun. Morrison’s request for an additional 30 days leave of absence. They also did not allow him to participate by conference call during the rest of the open portion of the meeting because of technical issues and potential conflict of interest.

Subsequently, in a closed meeting Sept. 12, council suspended his IT access and compensation.

“Council has carried a heavy burden during his absence,” Mayor Desjardins told council, adding that his duties were reassigned to other councillors.

According to city council minutes, Coun. Morrison participated electronically in regular and in-camera meeting on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, and during the in-camera portion of the Sept. 11 meeting. There were no council meetings from July 24 to Aug. 21 during council’s summer recess.

In the popular vote count Coun. Morrison placed second behind Mayor Desjardins in the 2011 election and third in the 2014 municipal election. Among his current responsibilities are sitting on the CRD Regional Water Supply Commission, the Capital Regional Emergency Services Telecommunications (C.R.E.S.T.), Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and acting as the Advisory Planning Commission Liaison.

The community of Esquimalt is asking questions about the whereabouts and status of Mr. Morrison: The township website gives no e-mail information. Nor has his leave of absence or current status been outlined in any press release from the township.

Under the Community Charter (125-5), which sets out the rules of B.C.’s municipal governments, council members are disqualified from serving their four-year term if they miss four consecutive, regularly scheduled meetings or 60 consecutive days unless the absence is because of illness or injury or is with the leave of council.