Municipal watchdog files complaint against Langford, claiming lack of transparency, Times Colonist, Jan. 21, 2021.
Grumpy Taxpayer$ has filed a complaint with the B.C. Ombudsperson against Langford over lack of full transparency during the pandemic and online access to financial disclosure documents.
By Jan. 15 every year, the Financial Disclosure Act requires mayor and council, among other local officials, to make disclosures of assets, debts and sources of income. It’s important as the intent of the law is to identify what areas of influence and possible financial benefit an elected official might have by virtue of their office, and to ensure the public has access to the information.
“Taxpayers have many questions about the lack of transparency in Langford,” says Stan Bartlett, past-chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria.
“Is Langford immune from COVID? During a pandemic, why must residents be forced to visit city hall in-person to inspect documents, when electronic versions can easily be made available? Why is council concerned about privacy when they are required to make public the documents and that’s not an issue at other municipalities? Why isn’t Langford making its ‘best efforts’ to be fully transparent during a pandemic?”
If you live a larger community in B.C., for example Victoria, Saanich, Vancouver or Surrey – taxpayers can readily view the financial disclosures of mayor and council online. But, not in Langford.
Since Langford is a fast growing municipality of 45,000 residents with a lot of developments, it must be even more open, transparent and accountable.
It’s also argued that this is a requirement under provincial law, says Bartlett.
In normal times, the Financial Disclosure Act, Section (6(1) requires municipalities to make the documents available for viewing at city hall
but these are not normal times.
Provincial guidance directives on the pandemic, Ministerial Order 192 from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and other health directives, speak to the onus on municipalities to exercise ‘best efforts’ to communicate and engage the public during a time of pandemic.
There are various measures the city has brought in because of COVID-19: City hall is currently closed to walk-in traffic. Council chambers are closed and residents can phone-in. The number of meetings are reduced. Payments and property taxes use drop offs.
Earlier this month, Mayor Stew Young agreed to share audio recordings of meetings and consider council live streaming in the next budget. Langford has refused though to publicly release the staff report on livestreaming or defend its decision to go in-camera to discuss the issue.
Strains over growth and transparency in Langford: More Langford citizens are expressing resentment over City Hall’s modus operandi, FOCUS Magazine Online, Jan. 17, 2021.
Langford council must abandon its closed-door approach to governing, Times Colonist Comment, Dec.30, 2021.
Under pressure, Langford agrees to share audio recordings of meetings, and eventually livestream, Times Colonist, Jan. 7, 2021.
Available for Media Interviews:
John Treleaven, Chair, Grumpy Taxpayer$
250.656.7899, cell 250.588.7899
Stan Bartlett, Past-chair, Grumpy Taxpayer$