An angry looking man holding a mic as he looks across the table

Cortes Island Fire Department instructed all communication with the SRD must come through CAO David Leitch

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Board passed a resolution to write a letter instructing Sadhu Johnston, President of the Cortes Island Fire Fighting Association (CIFFA), that his communications with them should come through Chief Administration Officer David Leitch. 

The SRD has not renewed the Cortes Fire Department’s 5 year contract, and instead has them on a month to month basis.

Johnston requested a meeting with Leitch last month but, as he explained to Cortes Currents earlier this week, still has not had the opportunity. 

“We’re not wedded to the way it is, but we don’t really want decisions to be made behind closed doors without the community being able to know about them and have a say. If governance is going to be taken away from Cortes and the decision making for firefighting service is going to be taken away from Cortes, it would be really nice to know that and to be able to be a part of that dialogue,” he said.

Mar 15, 2023 meeting of the SRD Board – screenshot from the video

Johnston recently appears to have reached out to the entire Board. 

The ‘answer’ came at the Wednesday, Mar 15, SRD Board Meeting.

Mayor Kermit Dahl of Campbell River moved, “That a letter be written to the CIFFA President, Sadhu Johnston, instructing him that all communications between the CIFFA and the SRD in regard to operations, governance and contract renewal is done through the SRD CAO. I don’t think that it’s appropriate for staff –  I’m not sure if this is considered staff — to be sending emails to 43 individuals and the entire board. I think that’s the reason that we have staff and we have a CAO. That’s the reason for this motion.” 

This prompted Regional Director, Gerald Whalley to ask,  “The public in general has the opportunity to address this Chair and Board anytime they want. Can we actually restrict someone from doing that?” 

CAO David Leitch responded, “No, we can’t restrict them, but we can send direction and a letter.” 

SRD Chair Mark Baker added, “It’s an important motion, professionalism has to come into play and respect for the process.”   

The motion to send Johnston a letter of instruction passed with two opposing votes: Director Whalley and Alternative Director Fowler.   

Sadhu Johnston was Vancouver’s Deputy Manager and then City Manager for 11 years. Prior to that, he was Chicago’s Chief Environmental Officer for 6 years.

The Vancouver SUN article reporting his resignation from Vancouver, more than two years ago, states that former politicians and public servants describe Johnston with adjectives like ‘collegial, capable and non-partisan.’ He has a reputation for fairness, and being a team player. 

These are skills that he has not yet been able to exercise dealing with the Strathcona Regional District Board, in his new role as volunteer President of the Cortes Island Fire Fighting Association. He has not had the opportunity.

While nothing has been decided yet, the SRD is exploring the possibility of a centralized fire service with a Fire Chief based in Campbell River.  

The Cortes Island Fire Fighting Association AGM is Thursday, March 30th, 6:30 PM at Manson’s Hall. 

“We will have an ability for people to join via Zoom as well.  We’re asking people to renew their membership a week before the AGM, so by March 23rd,  then they can vote. We are really encouraging people to come to the AGM, hear the work that’s underway, give us their opinions about the efforts that the CIFFA board is are undertaking.  We’ll talk about the budget there. We’ll talk about the issues,” said Johnston.

Links of Interest:

Top image credit: Campbell River Mayor Kermit Dahl moving that a letter be sent to CIFFA – screenshot from the video

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