The recorded minutes of several AbbotsfordFirst meetings were released this week by Josh Reynolds, with the council candidate saying they show the slate has misled led the public about the organization’s influence at city hall.
But AbbotsfordFirst councillor Sandy Blue says the slate isn’t trying to hide anything, and that its councillors have been truthful when they say they are empowered to vote independently.
Reynolds cited two sentences in the minutes of a meeting from January 2015 – less than three months after the 2014 election – that he said were particularly concerning.
The minutes say: “Abbotsford First Counsellor, Sandy Blue & guest Vince Dimanno joined our meeting to give an account of some of the concerns and experiences of being an Abbotsford elected Counselor. All Abbotsford First elected counsellors must keep true to our core values of governance & policy and not let their personal views cloud what this Party set out to do.”
Reynolds said that shows members of the slate are expected to vote the same way.
But Blue says that isn’t true.
“There are times, in past governments, when people have a personal agenda – they have something they’re trying to push through because it’s their pet thing,” Blue told The News. “What we were talking about was … because we’re all about governance and leadership, what we want to do is make sure that even if we personally really like something, we need to consider all the facts.”
She continued: “At the end of the day, we will vote independently, we govern independently.”
A September analysis of voting patterns found members of the slate had voted differently on multiple issues, but that such occurrences were rare, taking place fewer than a dozen times over the last four years.
Blue – who now serves on AbbotsfordFirst’s board but did not at the start of her term – said she was unfamiliar with a “resolution flowchart” released by Reynolds that indicates a way for the slate’s executive board and advisory council could bring proposals to AbbotsfordFirst councillors.
She says AbbotsfordFirst meetings “don’t form policy.”
“There’s nothing that we’re not open about. … There’s nothing there other than regular society business.”
Reynolds said the documents also indicate the party has tried to influence the governing direction of the city, with recorded minutes pointing to meetings with Mayor Henry Braun and city manager George Murray in 2015. The minutes say that in two instances, AbbotsfordFirst was seeking information about the two men’s priorities, while a third meeting with Murray was suggested in order to discuss the Official Community Plan.
Reynolds published the documents after releasing an “open letter” to AbbotsfordFirst. The slate’s president, Markus Delves, responded to the letter by saying “AbbotsfordFirst is not involved in government decision making.”
Reynolds told The News Thursday that he doesn’t like the concept slates, but doesn’t believe it wrong for them to push their policies.
“What concerns me about AbbotsfordFirst is that they deny that,” he said.
Blue, though, says AbbotsfordFirst isn’t overly secretive. She noted the society’s board of directors is available online, and said that the party’s members operate just like those who support individual candidates.
“We know that they have supporters, we know they have people who are advising them,” she said. “People who run for council in any jurisdiction have a support team.