The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority altered course Friday and welcomed Victoria Coun. Shellie Gudgeon to its board of directors.
Its reversal came one day after a standing-room-only crowd at a public meeting chastised the not-for-profit authority as undemocratic for its earlier rejection of Gudgeon — who city council had unanimously chosen as their appointee to the board.
The harbour authority board met in-camera and issued a statement late Friday evening saying that “it respects the city’s decision to offer a single candidate, and has accepted the nomination of Councillor Shellie Gudgeon.”
Board chairman Bill Wellburn, who last month told Victoria that Gudgeon lacked the skill-set the harbour authority needs, said in the statement that he is “looking forward to working with the new directors who will be bringing their skills, perspectives and ideas to the board.”
The authority also announced the appointments of Pete Hartman from the Victoria/Esquimalt Harbour Society and David Marshall from the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
Graham Hill from the Capital Regional District and Dave Cowen from Tourism Victoria were re-appointed.
Gudgeon said she’s humbled by the overwhelming public support shown her since the controversy became public.
“This isn’t about personalities. This is about democracy. It’s been a good discussion and I think it’s been a good outcry from the public,” she said.
“Now we have to encourage everyone to work together. That’s where the future lies. We have to listen and work with our citizenry to meet the needs of everyone.”
The issue speaks to the importance of transparency, Gudgeon said. “We have to be transparent and we have to be collaborative.”
Whether the harbour authority has the right to reject the city’s appointee is up for debate.
The authority was established in 2002 to manage harbour lands and, under the founding memorandum of understanding, one director was to be appointed from member agencies.
The harbour authority changed its bylaws in 2012 so that the board retains the sole discretion to reject or accept “nominees” from its members.
Victoria councillors unanimously passed resolutions Thursday reaffirming their appointment of Gudgeon, and calling on the harbour authority to hold a special general meeting as soon as possible to amend its bylaws so that all founding members can appoint a director of their choosing.
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