Colwood councillor faces possible reprimand for tree protest

Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day might be reprimanded for violating the city’s code of ethics following her arrest for refusing to allow city workers to remove a rock wall and a laurel hedge she planted on public property outside her home 23 years ago.

Colwood council is scheduling a censure hearing with Day, the city said in a statement released Wednesday.

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Censure is a formal resolution by council to reprimand one of its members for a serious violation of law or city policy. It could result in sanctions that limit the council member’s appointments to committees and other opportunities to represent the municipality. It does not carry a fine or dismissal, the statement said.

Members of council are required to respect decisions made by council and to refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of council, staff or the public, said the statement.

In early December, Day set up a protest camp on the boulevard outside her Charnley Place home. She was concerned the city would cut down three giant cedar trees she had planted on city property.

On Dec. 5, the RCMP and a city bylaw officer knocked on her door and told her that public works was proceeding with removal of the retaining wall. The city cited safety reasons for removing the trees, one of which had fallen onto a neighbouring home.

Day and the officers walked up to the boulevard to see what was going on. She was asked to move her van from the boulevard, but she refused and it was towed.

Day, 57, who has been on council since 2002, stood in the hedge and yelled at city workers to stop what they were doing. She was told if she stayed in the work area, she would be arrested — and she was arrested.

She was placed in the back seat of the police car and taken to the West Shore RCMP detachment, where she spoke to her lawyer, then talked with the officer in charge. She promised him she would not re-enter the work area and was released without charges, but with a warning.

The censure hearing will consider whether Day’s obstruction of council-directed work violates the city’s code of ethics by not respecting council’s decision and directions to staff. It will also consider whether the public comments made by Day constitute a public attack on the character and motives of staff.

Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said council members were compelled to respond to residents’ concerns about Day’s conduct.

“We are committed to going into this process with an open mind and moving forward as a united council with a clear understanding of the line between what is and is not acceptable behaviour for council members,” said Martin.

The city is working to find a mutually agreeable hearing date. Day will be given ample notice along with all related information, said the statement.

Council members view this hearing as an opportunity to better understand Day’s point of view and feel it is important that she have sufficient time to review the details, prepare her statements and be heard, the Colwood statement said.

“We have a strong council that brings together a wide range of perspectives and has a proven ability to listen and come to consensus,” Martin said. “We look forward to turning our collective energy toward revitalizing Colwood with an exceptional town centre and a world-class seaside village at Royal Bay.”

Day could not be reached for comment.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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