In a continuation of the tension that’s plagued Langford council for months, councillors voted to try and resolve concerns of transparency over Coun. Lillian Szpak’s resignation as chair of the protective services committee in a future in-camera meeting.
Coun. Matt Sahlstrom made a motion calling on Szpak to explain her resignation as chair of the protective services committee “in the spirit of transparency,” during June 6’s council meeting, which Szpak wasn’t present for.
Szpak resigned her position because she said city staff told her there was an ombudsperson and an Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner file open involving her, relating to a dispute with a neighbour. In a letter addressed to council that was included in the meeting package, Langford resident Ed Court alleged Szpak used her position as a councillor to try and influence a parking dispute near Court’s residence.
The package for the June 20 meeting also includes a letter written by Superintendent Todd Preston, officer in charge of West Shore RCMP, addressed to Langford Mayor Stew Young, chief administrative officer Darren Kiedyk and executive assistant to mayor and council Julie Coneybeer discussing that interaction with Szpak. He said when Szpak asked if sending a police officer would help resolve the matter, Preston replied he didn’t consider it a police matter.
“Regarding my perception of appropriateness, I felt uncomfortable knowing her position as chair of protective services. I’m always cognizant of conflict of interest,” Preston wrote.
During the June 20 meeting, which at times descended into a shouting match, Szpak denied wrongdoing, disputed aspects of Preston’s account and called the process shameful while pointing fingers at Young and Sahlstrom, saying they were out to discredit her.
“This is a monkey court and you think you’re Perry Mason and so does Coun. Sahlstrom. It’s ridiculous,” said Szpak.
“I think because it’s an election year, maybe that’s why this is happening now,” she added. “There’s an urge to discredit me. I’m not perfect. I did everything with good intentions in my role as councillor.”
Young defended discussing the matter in front of council, noting it involved a complaint from a resident and council takes those seriously.
He added it was unfortunate tensions between councillors have increased in recent months. “This is the worst couple of years we’ve had with problems between councillors.”
Coun. Denise Blackwell said she thought the issue should have been discussed in-camera from the beginning.
Young motioned to move Sahlstrom’s motion in-camera and said Preston would be invited to attend the meeting to clear up any disputes.