Sanctions against Skakun on hold ... for now
City council will not be proceeding with censures and sanctions against Coun. Brian Skakun until a petition he filed at the Prince George Supreme Court Registry is dealt with.
Among other undisclosed items, the petition seeks a restraining order against council which would stop them from proceeding with sanctions until after his appeal over violating the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is heard.
Skakun was found guilty of the unauthorized release of personal information and fined $750, less than half of the maximum $2,000 fine. He has appealed the decision and his case will likely be heard in late fall or early winter.
City council had 21 days to reply to the petition, which was filed Aug. 10. Although council held its regular meeting on Aug. 22, it did not discuss the matter publicly then, but instead held a special meeting on the last day allotted for a reply.
Though council agreed that it opposes the orders being sought in the petition it will not proceed with censures until the petition is heard in court.
"I am not very happy we're required to do this," said Coun. Shari Green.
Council passed a motion to rescind its previous decision to proceed with a meeting to decide on sanctions by Sept. 14. However, Green was curious what the effect would be if the petition hearing occurs before that date.
Walter Babicz, corporate officer for the city, explained that following the petition hearing, council would be required to hold another special meeting and set another date for the sanctions meeting, one that would allow Skakun time to prepare.
"This is a delay tactic to drag us through the election season," Green said.
Councilor Cameron Stolz also expressed his displeasure.He said it has been two years since council was notified of the breach of privacy Skakun committed when he released documents given to him during a closed session of council. He said his concern is council is spending a lot of time and energy on something that, in the end, will at worst amount to a minor slap on the wrist for Skakun, who will still be able to carry on with his duties as a councillor even after sanctions are imposed.
"I think Prince George is tired of this as well," he said.
Through the city's lawyers, council is advocating that the petition be heard at the earliest possible date.Though Mayor Dan Rogers didn't want to speculate on what would happen should Skakun choose not to run in the upcoming election, he did say right now the question is whether the court system has any jurisdiction in what amounts to a political matter.