Metchosin councillor apologizes, steps down as deputy mayor after pandemic travel

Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila has stepped down as deputy mayor and apologized for her decision to attend a friend’s wedding in Mexico in December despite public health advice to avoid non-essential travel. The issue has caused a rift within the five-member council and the District of Metchosin has hired a mediator to help resolve the dispute.

“Reflecting on the decision to go on the trip, one that was personal in nature, I would like to humbly apologize for making the wrong decision,” Kahakauwila said in a statement at Monday’s planning committee meeting. “While I had weighed the trip under a personal lens, a business lens and a safety lens, I failed to view it under an elected-official lens. I should have stayed home. I made a bad decision and this was my ­mistake.”

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Kahakauwila said she will step down as deputy mayor and propose to council that the position shift to an acting mayor role which would allow councillors to serve as acting mayor on a rotating basis.

The five-term councillor said Metchosin council has appointed a mediator “to resolve our concerns.” She said council will issue a joint statement when the mediation process concludes but no timeline was given.

Kahakauwila declined an interview with the Times Colonist, saying she does not want to speak while the mediator process is underway.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns refused to explain on Tuesday the scope of the mediator’s work or how much the mediation process will cost taxpayers. He became angry when pressed for information and railed against what he said was unfair coverage of the issue in the media.

Ranns has staunchly defended Kahakauwila, saying he knew about her trip before she left and was satisfied she was taking all the safety precautions with her quarantine plan.

At a Jan. 11 online council meeting, about a dozen Metchosin residents expressed their ­disappointment with ­Kahakauwila’s decision to travel to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and called on her to accept accountability by stepping down as deputy mayor.

The issue has split the five-member council with councillors Sharie Epp and Marie-Térèse Little publicly stating that they had no advance knowledge of Kahakauwila’s travel plans and do not support her decision to travel ­internationally.

Little said Tuesday she does not want to jeopardize the mediation process by commenting, but she said via email: “Council is working in good faith with the overall aim to resolve their concerns regarding the ramifications and community concerns regarding Councillor Kakakauwila’s travel during the pandemic. We are refocusing our efforts on the needs of our community and its residents.”

Both Kahakauwila and Ranns have said she talked about her travel plans at a Nov. 30 Zoom council meeting before she left on Dec. 1.

Kahakauwila is the second Greater Victoria municipal councillor to apologize for travelling internationally in December.

Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow apologized last week for travelling to Kenya and Somalia over the holidays.

“By travelling to see my family at a time when so many others in our community did not do the same, I let you down,” he told his fellow councillors via video link from Vancouver, where he was completing his two-week quarantine.

Dubow has also faced calls to step down but he said he does not intend to resign because he’s heard from many constituents imploring him to stay.

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