'Cancellation raises the obvious questions: What are they afraid of and what are they trying hide?' says one Cultus Lake resident.

'Cancellation raises the obvious questions: What are they afraid of and what are they trying hide?' says one Cultus Lake resident.

Cultus Park Board shuts down question period

The decision to cancel question period at Cultus Lake Park Board meetings is not sitting well with locals.

A decision to cancel question period at Cultus Lake Park Board meetings is not sitting well with locals.

Park Board commissioners voted 4:3 at a recent meeting against a motion to reconsider the suspension of public question period, according to residents at the meeting.

It’s evidence of a board divided on this matter, said resident Gary Lister.

Even Cultus Lake Community Association asked the board to reinstate question period.

“This is a sign that quite a few people are not happy with the board’s in-camera decision,” said Lister.

The controversial decision to cancel the public question part of the meetings, was made by the board at an in-camera meeting on June 27, which means the public is not privy to the details of why, and commissioners are not at liberty to discuss it, until it’s “declassified,” according to Park Board CAO Ron Campbell.

Lister sees a number of thorny issues arising from the move. Not the least of which is the board may be in breach of their bylaws for cancelling it.

What it also means is that “there is no recourse for the residents of Cultus Lake to hold Chilliwack elected commissioners accountable for their behaviour.”

Increasingly Lakers want answers.

“Many members of the public want question period and view it as way that their voice can be heard,” said Rick Williamson, a resident and retired accountant, who has been very critical of the park board’s past financial reporting procedures.

He edits an e-mailed newsletter sent out to lake residents who want his take on a range of Cultus Park Board issues.

The board also decided to write a letter to residents or leaseholders explaining its rationale for the decision, but it has not been made public, and it’s not clear if it’s been released.

“Cancellation raises the obvious questions: What are they afraid of and what are they trying hide?” Williamson asked. “If the Board truly wants to be open and transparent with the public that they were elected to serve, they should immediately re-instate question period.”

Commissioners who voted against the motion to reconsider the decision to cancel question period included Owen Skonberg, Charlotte Hall, Sacha Peter and Carlton Toews.

Williamson said he requested an explanation from the board for the move.

“I know other Lakers have done the same. I heard back from Commissioner (Carleton) Toews, who responded in part:

“The CLPB made a decision that our community needs to be respectful and considerate.

“The vast majority of the community of Cultus Lake and Chilliwack support the CLPB and CL Staff. CLP has a gifted staff team and CAO. It is important that in written communication and public comments that respect and integrity is at the forefront.”

Lister said the cancellation decision just makes things worse.

“If they have a problem with how the public is responding to them then they need to deal with that issue. Shutting done question period is not the answer.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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