NANAIMO — A Nanaimo city council meeting went completely off the rails Wednesday morning when a councillor shouted "screw you" at the mayor, causing staff and the rest of council to walk out.
The special open council meeting was meant to go in-camera to discuss matters related to the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, according to city clerk Jane Armstrong. However, during the open part of the meeting a motion was brought forward by Coun. Diane Brennan to allow a delegation to speak about Monday's council decision to cut four jail guard positions. Armstrong says because it was a special meeting, the motion to change the agenda required unanimous approval. She says that motion was defeated.
From there, things fell apart quickly. Mayor Bill McKay said he was trying to bring forward a motion to direct staff to not take any action on the jail guard cuts until after the public had a chance to be heard at the Nov. 7 council meeting. A video posted by a member of the public in the gallery shows Coun. Gord Fuller growing increasingly frustrated. Coun. Bill Yoachim stands up and leaves the table, followed by Coun. Bill Bestwick and Fuller.
"Council can we have order please," McKay said on the video.
Fuller then walked around McKay's chair and said "Oh shut up" to McKay.
"If that behaviour continues I'm going to ask you to leave," said McKay
"Get the RCMP here right now," said Fuller, waving his arm at McKay.
McKay then asked Fuller to leave the meeting. Fuller walked back to his chair, refusing McKay's order.
Then Fuller turned to McKay and yelled "bite me" three times, as the mayor called out "councillor".
"You're stymying this frickin' meeting just for frickin' politics and it's bullshit," said Fuller.
McKay then asked Fuller to leave the meeting, to which Fuller replied "screw you".
Story continues below the video. Tensions flare at the 25:00 mark
CAO Tracy Samra then stood up and told her staff to leave the meeting, saying they will not tolerate this kind of conduct.
More bickering carries on for several more minutes. Coun. Jim Kipp can be heard saying to Brennan "you caused the problems...you're the worst councillor I've ever worked with". Samra walks by the camera telling the mayor to "stop with the theatrics". A brief confrontation between Brennan and Samra then played out.
"When the CAO tells a councillor to shut up, we have a problem," said Brennan.
"What are you talking about?" replied Samra. Samra then turned to the camera.
"Let's not make false accusations in public," said Samra. "False allegations in public being filmed by your supporters accusing an indigenous woman of saying something inappropriate at a meeting."
"I've seen something similar to that recently in an in-camera session with respect to another councillor," said McKay during a conversation with NanaimoNewsNOW later Wednesday. "We have to manage our behaviour and we have to be respectful at council meetings...Personal issues can not be brought into the equation, it's a business meeting."
McKay says council needs to conduct their business in an efficient manner so that they can continue to have the confidence of the electorate.
"I would simply hope that in the future members of council that may or may not have acted improperly this morning, that they see the video...and citizens make it loud and clear that they expect better."
Speaking to NanaimoNewsNOW later in the afternoon, Fuller says he has apologized to city staff and a number of people. He says what happened is not like him, noting he does not usually lose his cool. Fuller says the political grandstanding on the part of the mayor and Diane Brennan incited his anger.
"We've had a lot of embarrassing scenarios play out since the hiring of our city manager and that is unfortunate," said Fuller. "Yes we look stupid. There are two people responsible for making us look stupid and those two people could easily tone down what they're doing."
Fuller says McKay is the only person in his life he has exhibited this kind of behaviour with.
"I do apologize to the public for my behaviour. I did not know I was being video taped. Would that have changed my mind? Likely not. But I accept the way I behaved and I regret it."