Mayor must rebuild credibility to be effective

Mayor Richard Atwell needs to restore relationships, gain trust of council if he's to pass any Saanich initiatives

Camosun College political science analyst Mona Brash says Mayor Richard Atwell has an uphill climb ahead of him if he’s to fully restore his role as a proficient mayor.

Brash said if Atwell is going to get through the current situation, which rose in part from a series of allegations he made in Monday’s bold but brief press conference, then he needs to repair his relationships with staff and council as soon as possible.

“It’s difficult to operate with departments if you’re accusing them of harassment,” said Brash, in regards to Atwell’s declaration that spyware was installed on his computer without consent, and that police leaked information about a Dec. 11 incident in which Atwell called 911.

Moving forward, if Atwell wants to initiate anything, he needs four councillors to support him and without trust and credibility he has no influence, she said.

“But police and staff will carry on and do their jobs. Saanich is more than one person, municipal hall is a big place with a lot of people who’ve been there a long time. They know their roles.”

Brash noted comparable examples such as the recent North Saanich scenario that saw four council members outnumber Mayor Alice Finall and two other councillors 4-3.

That situation has since been reversed, as Finall was re-elected in November and is now in a majority position.

Brash said it’s important to note that while Saanich residents are beginning to question Atwell’s credibility or ability to stay in power, he’s not in a conflict of interest until there is a direct monetary benefit from a decision he can influence.

“Councillors, if they’re smart, are best to sit quietly and stay out of it. One of the rules of politics, when someone else is in trouble, just step back, don’t get involved.”

As for Atwell, the moment he opened up his private life was his phone call to the police on Dec. 11, Brash said.

“There is a code, there are lots of similar things that go on in local, provincial and national politics,” she said.

“Media tend not to pay attention to something unless others are involved. Local politics is personal, whether it’s in the media or not.”

reporter@saanichnews.com