After sitting next to one another at the Abbotsford council table for years without incident, Mayor Henry Braun and Coun. Moe Gill spoke for the first time publicly and in each other’s presence about their fractured relationship at Tuesday’s all-candidates meeting.
The exchange concluded with Braun saying Gill should be “ashamed of his words,” and Gill standing by allegations made two months ago.
Gill told the audience of more than 300 that Braun had made serving on council over the last four years unbearable and left him with the choice of running for mayor himself or retiring.
In his opening statement, Gill blasted Braun’s handling of council affairs.
“No prior mayor ever questioned how I voted on a particular issue after vote had been taken, except for Henry… Prior mayors respected that each councillor is an elected member and is entitled to vote how they feel best serves their community.”
Gill said other mayors – but not Braun – appreciated input from subcommittees and worked well with staff.
“Prior mayors never discouraged citizens from sharing their concerns with a council member … Henry insists everything must go through him.”
He said residents continue to be “concerned” about concerns regarding the fact Braun’s son, Darren, is the city’s director of development planning – a position he held prior to his father’s involvement in city politics.
“Under these circumstances, I cannot serve another four years as a councillor with Henry as a mayor,” Gill said. “I am not and will not be Henry’s pawn. I had a choice to make: retire from politics or stand for mayor. I choose to stand up.” Applause followed.
The matter receded for an hour, before an audience question was read asking if Gill would publicly apologize for a press release issued in August that said Braun’s friends and family had been favoured by city hall over the last four years. That release didn’t include any details to back up the assertion, and Braun told The News several weeks ago that Gill had apologized in private and said he had reprimanded his campaign staff.
Gill said concerns about Braun’s son being the city’s director of development and Braun himself “being a developer” have long existed.
“As I got more and more out into the community to let citizens know I was running for mayor, it became a common concern that many people shared with me. Some of these common concerns seem to be surfacing now. I was not born yesterday, and I have been around the city a long time. When you have so many people concerned around the same time, usually where there is smoke, there is always fire.”
The response drew a smattering of applause but also prompted the largest show of public disagreement of the night, with a handful of boos and several people calling from the audience.
Gill’s statement of “surfacing” concerns seemed to point to documents published Monday showing that Henry Braun was selling a vacant lot he and his son purchased in 2007, before either was involved with the city. Braun has said the original plan was to split the lot into two, with his son living on one homesite, but that the plan was abandoned after it was denied, long before he became mayor.
At the meeting, Braun responded by repeating an earlier assertion that he is “not a developer.” And he said he has met with council every six months to get feedback on his leadership.
“Moe has never voiced a concern in the entire time that I’ve been with him on council, either as a councillor and a mayor. I am a bit shocked of what I’ve heard, even tonight. And I think it’s very sad and in some ways he should be ashamed of himself.”
The answer drew lengthy applause.
Gill followed by saying, “One should never be ashamed of speaking the truth,” to some more clapping.