Saanich mayoral candidate says dispute between rival takes away from policy issues

Rob Wickson says dispute between Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Fred Haynes distracts.

A Saanich mayoral candidate refuses to be drawn into the controversy swirling around his two competitors.

“My reaction is that my campaign and my work as mayor will focus on the work that we must do to build Saanich for the future,” said Rob Wickson. “If some folks want to spend valuable time playing politics with each other, then they are distracting from what should be the focus of all of us.”

Ultimately, it is up to voters to decide, for whom they vote, he said.

Related: Gorge Tillicum’s Rob Wickson running for mayor of Saanich.

He made these comments after the public learnt that a lawyer representing incumbent Mayor Richard Atwell had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the mayoral campaign of Coun. Fred Haynes. The letter asks among other points that Haynes withdraw campaign literature which states, that “[unlike] Richard Atwell, I have never been a director of Amalgamation Yes.”

Related: Documents contradict Saanich Mayor Atwell in legal dispute with Coun. Fred Haynes

According to the cease-and-desist letter, “Mayor Atwell is not now nor has he ever been a director of Amalgamation Yes or any related society or organization.”

Documents obtained by the Saanich News appear to contradict this claim.

Documents dated Sept. 11, 2018 from the B.C. Registry Services show Atwell as a director of the Capital Region Municipal Amalgamation Society as of June 15, 2013. The society incorporated on April 5, 2013 and held a general meeting on June 15, 2013. (According to B.C. Registry Services, this information is current as of Aug. 17, 2018).

James Anderson, a founding member of the society, acknowledged Atwell’s presence on the document.

“Yes, that was for filing purposes only,” he said. “But after we were registered, Richard had no further participation in the organization after the initial [board of directors] was formed. He withdrew from all activity and became a political candidate. He resigned soon after the organization became active.”

Earle Anthony, a founding member and secretary of Amalgamation Yes, said as far as he knew, Atwell never served as a director nor was he ever elected.

While Anthony acknowledged Atwell’s name on the registry document, he does not know how Atwell ended up on the document dated April 5. Sometime after June 15, when the members elected a board, a mistake must have been in transmitting the names to the registry, he said. The group’s lawyer would be able to answer that question, he said.

The Saanich News reached out to the lawyer said to have handled the filing, but did not receive a response by deadline.

Atwell said Wednesday that he did not know his name was on the registry until the Saanich News had pointed it out to him.

“It’s a mistake in the registry,” said Atwell Wednesday. “You can get confirmation from all the past chairs of the society,” he said.

To this end, Atwell shared the respective submissions from three former society chairs dated Sept. 6, in which they denied that Atwell had ever been elected or served as a director. It is not clear though whether they had prior knowledge of the document showing Atwell’s name as a director. The Saanich News contacted the three former chairs, and received responses from two by deadline.

Shellie Gudgeon said she did not see the document with Atwell’s name. “To my knowledge, Richard Atwell was never a director of [Amalgamation Yes].”

John Vickers said he can confirm that Atwell was never present nor did he ever participate in any Amalgamation Yes meeting, which goes back well before the last municipal election.

“While I can understand why people want to know ‘the truth’ about who is telling the truth, I would say Mr. Atwell is correct in that he had no involvement with Amalgamation Yes discussions (as he didn’t), and I would say Mr. [Haynes] is also correct that the initial board does show Mr. Atwell’s name, presuming that is an official document.”

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