Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.

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Council Appointments Questioned

By Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror, December 11, 2002

The second public question and comment period at Sooke council meetings is generally quiet, but Monday night councillors John and Marcus Farmer found themselves under fire.

Sooke residents George Butcher and Lois Gardner questioned the various appointments of the father and son duo at councilís inaugural meeting Dec. 2 to a variety of positions relating to sewers. In a Tuesday interview, Mayor Ed Macgregor said he does not plan to re-examine the appointments. "I havenít any plans to change things," Macgregor said.

Marcus Farmer, along with George OBriain, was named as liaison to the liquid waste management plan public advisory committee, while both Farmers were appointed by Mayor Ed Macgregor as liaisons for sewer implementation. John Farmer was also tabbed as the sewer project ombudsman, with Marcus Farmer as an alternate. John Farmer is also councilís liaison to the Capital Regional Districtís on-site management advisory committee.

Gardner questioned if John Farmer could hold those positions. He owns a third of the commercial building at the corner of Sooke and Church Road and Gardner feels he could benefit from the potential the property has if sewers come.

"(He is) in a position to gain by the virtue of sewers going through," Gardner said, referring to the section of the Municipal Act that disqualifies representatives from voting on matters they have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest. "It is a pretty serious matter."

Sooke administrator Tom Day said a legal opinion was sought about two years ago on the matter. He said the opinion from the solicitor was that the project was of a wide scope and a number of people would benefit if sewers came. John Farmer pointed out that he himself requested the opinion, just to be sure.

Prior to Gardner, a former Metchosin councillor, speaking, Butcher questioned Macgregorís choice of the Farmers for the various committees. Butcher is the chairman of the Worried Residents Against Tax Hikes rate payers group, but did not indicate Monday he was speaking on behalf of that group.

"My concern relates to the lockhold the councillors Farmer have on matters related to sewer."

In response, Macgregor said he doesnít feel any councillor has a lock on any matter. He said all decisions are made by a consensus of council. The mayor reiterated that in a Tuesday morning interview and said in his appointments he tried to match councillorsí interest and knowledge with the jobs.

Butcher also questioned the idea of the elder Farmer as an ombudsman. According to John Farmer, in an interview last week, his job will be dealing with problems residents have relating to the sewer system that canít be dealt with at the staff level. Butcher feels an ombudsman should not be an elected politician, not be an advocate and not be a defender of action.

"I personally feel, after seeing councillor Farmer in action the last three years, that he doesnít meet any of those criteria," Butcher said, noting he feels Macgregor should look further afield on council or outside of the elected body to fill the position.

Macgregor said he was looking for someone on council who was known in the community and could deal one-on-one with residents. John Farmer did not comment on the issue.



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