Salmo council is seen shortly after being sworn in last year. From left

Former Salmo councillors break silence

Several months after the fact, two former Salmo village councillors have spoken out on their reasons for resigning.

Several months after the fact, two former Salmo village councillors have spoken out on their reasons for resigning, likening council to a “dictatorship.”

Ken Anderson and Cathy Paton previously declined to explain why they quit in June, but shed some light in separate letters to the latest issue of the Salmo Valley Newsletter.

Although neither named any specific person or incident, Anderson said during his time on council, there “did not seem to be a democratic process. There was no/little meaningful debate or discussion on the village business. I felt most decisions were predetermined and the meetings were only a formality.

“I felt that there has been no transparency or openness as was campaigned on by others. It seems like a dictatorship when council members were not allowed to make statements. It felt like a threatening/bullying atmosphere where there were ongoing warnings not to be open to the public. I felt there was manipulation and that facts were twisted to accomplish pre-determined goals.”

Anderson said he ultimately believed it was “futile” to continue on council.

Paton said she felt “left out of important decisions,” which were “based on one side of an issue [with] no option, or time, to research the other side. On several occasions, when I expressed empathy for local villagers, I was met with more anger than I have ever encountered in my life.

“I have made my life about caring for others, yet I found myself with a group of people who tried to dictate who I should and should not talk to, and who I should and should not empathize with. I began to dread every meeting and every encounter with council, anticipating another angry outburst, or the feeling of being manipulated.”

Paton said she wasn’t willing to put up with it for another 3½ years.

In an email to the Star, Mayor Stephen White said he was “shocked” by the letters and insisted Anderson and Paton never raised their concerns with him or councillors Dan Danforth and Steve Dimock.

White said the two were invited in writing to discuss their resignations, but neither responded.

“There is no question it’s a steep learning curve for new council members, especially if they have never attended a council meeting prior to election,” he said. “Council cannot act except by resolution and a democratic majority vote. While it’s true that in many cases these former council members found themselves outvoted, that’s the nature of the process.”

White confirmed, however, that a council member was cautioned not to communicate with someone involved with litigation against the village.

Paton and Anderson topped the polls when elected last November. Following their resignations, Diana Lockwood and Jonathon Heatlie were acclaimed to the vacant positions.

White said “for the first time in years” the village’s finances are in order, question period has been reinstated during council meetings, and certified minutes of meetings are available.

“Town hall meetings are held and for the first time ever items are released from closed meetings as soon as possible,” he said. “No regular council meeting has had fewer than 18 members of the public observing and over 80 attended the town hall meeting.

“In short, Salmo has made tremendous positive change since last December when the new council took office. We thanked the two former members of council for their contribution to this progress during their seven months in office and wished them well in their future endeavours. There’s no doubt the progress made by the Village of Salmo will continue.”

— With files from Tamara Hynd

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser