In a move some Victoria councillors say is outrageous, the not-for-profit Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has rejected Coun. Shellie Gudgeon as the city’s appointee to the GVHA’s board of directors.
In a letter to Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, GVHA chairman Bill Wellburn says the board’s selection committee doesn’t believe Gudgeon — the unanimous selection of Victoria council — has the skill-set the harbour authority needs.
The city’s current appointee to the board is veteran councillor Pam Madoff.
“As discussed with you, the [GVHA’s] sub-committee found Councillor Gudgeon an engaging, successful and energetic individual. Unfortunately, the skills and experience she brings are not what the board requires at the time,” Wellburn says in his letter.
Wellburn says the board is seeking individuals with expertise in cruises and tourism; terminals and transportation; marinas and harbour-related businesses; commercial marine and First Nations.
In an interview, Wellburn took issue with the view that the GVHA had “rejected” Gudgeon.
“The nominations committee has not rejected Coun. Gudgeon. The nominations committee has gone back to the mayor and asked for another nominee,” Wellburn said.
The move has upset some Victoria councillors.
Coun. Lisa Helps called the GVHA position “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”
“None of us at that [council] table would meet the criteria by which they rejected Shellie. That’s the problem,” Helps said. “They’re setting up a situation where they can say: ‘None of those councillors made it. So I guess we don’t have to appoint anyone from the city.’ ”
Coun. Geoff Young said boards such as the GVHA are able to wield control over decision-making by changing their membership requirements at will.
“What you end up with is a whole bunch of people on the board, who, if they displease a majority of people on the board, won’t be on the board any more,” Young said.
“I really think the GVHA does not want Shellie Gudgeon’s independent voice at the board table, and I think that voice is sorely needed,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.
Wellburn, himself a board appointee, said the city’s representative — Madoff — was at the annual meeting in 2012 when a change to GVHA bylaws was approved, giving the board sole discretion of whether or not to accept nominees from member groups.
“In effect, the City of Victoria approved that change or participated in the approval of that change in our bylaws,” Wellburn said.
He said there’s a benefit to continuity of service as opposed to turnover on the board. “Coun. Madoff has been serving on the board now for a couple of years, and she has learned a lot of those [requested] skills just by serving on the board and being a very well-prepared and competent director,” he said.
Madoff could not be reached for comment on Friday.
This is the second consecutive year Gudgeon’s appointment to the GVHA board, which comes with a $4,000 annual retainer and a $400 per meeting stipend, has been thwarted.
Last year, her appointment to the board was announced and then reversed two weeks later.
At the time, Gudgeon said the mayor told her that because the GVHA was in the midst of a governance review, it believed it would be counterproductive to remove Madoff from the board at that time.
That led to council’s unanimous resolution that Gudgeon be appointed to the board in 2013, she said.
“This has been a systematic attempt to remove me from this post,” said Gudgeon, who has sought legal advice on the matter. “This isn’t personal. This whole process is an erosion of democracy.”
How directors are appointed
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is a non-profit organization formed in 2002 when the federal government was divesting itself of various port properties. It owns and manages Ogden Point, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Inner Harbour Causeway, Ship Point and the waterfront from Wharf Street to the Johnson Street Bridge.
Under a 2002 memorandum of understanding, one director is to be appointed from each of Victoria, Esquimalt, the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations and the Provincial Capital Commission. In addition, one director is to be appointed by each of the Capital Regional District, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Victoria; two directors come from the Harbour Society. Three directors at large are appointed by the board.
The GVHA passed bylaw changes in 2012 that state while various members may nominate directors, the board retains the sole discretion of whether or not to accept that nominee.
Directors receive an annual retainer fee of $4,000 and $400 a meeting.
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