An Anmore village councillor was expected to be censured for harassment Tuesday night after an argument with the mayor over automated voting machines brought accusations of bullying, impropriety and offensive behaviour from both sides.
"I believe the censure will be supported by the majority of council," Mayor Heather Anderson told The Tri-City News on Monday.
The blow-up happened on the morning of July 20 at a rush council meeting held to adopt a bylaw to allow the use of automated voting machines instead of paper ballots in Anmore's Nov. 19 municipal election.
An audio transcript from that meeting shows the argument between Anderson and Coun. Mario Piamonte began when Piamonte tried to give his reasons for rejecting the bylaw before the vote was taken. What the transcript doesn't show, according to the mayor, is the tirade of offensive language that Piamonte allegedly hurled at her and another councillor immediately following the meeting.
Foremost among Piamonte's concerns with the bylaw were what he said were the unnecessary costs of renting the automated voting machines for a municipality as small as Anmore.
"We did a polling of like-sized communities," Piamonte told his fellow councillors at the meeting. "Harrison Hot Springs, they don't [use voting machines]. Bowen Island has no intention of doing it. Lions Bay, no intention. Cumberland, no intention.
"The only one that has the intention of doing it is Chase, B.C., but they found that it cost them $2,000 more than their normal budget."
Village documents put the cost of renting the two required voting machines at $3,900, a price Howard Carley, Anmore's chief administrative officer, said is roughly on par with the normal cost of hiring ballot counters.
Piamonte also expressed concern at the meeting that the voting machine bylaw had not been made public or even available to council in the meeting agenda on the Friday before the vote, in accordance with the village's procedure bylaws.
Anmore's manager of corporate services, Karen-Ann Cobb, said in the meeting that Anmore staff had been considering using automated voting machines since the 2008 election as a time-saving measure to count the village's estimated 750 ballots.
But when Piamonte asked Cobb why council had not been informed of the bylaw until the day before its reading, Cobb said she had no answer to that.
It was then that Anderson interrupted the exchange, accusing Piamonte of harassing staff, while Piamonte accused the mayor of bullying council.
Anderson told The Tri-City News that according to the procedural bylaw, council should have been given more than the 24 hours allotted to review the agenda package but added that the agenda had to be rushed through because of provincial rules that all election bylaws must be set before Aug. 8.
The automated voting machine bylaw was approved 3-2, with the mayor and councillors John McEwen and Kerri Palmer Isaak voting in favour of the motion, and councillors Piamonte and Chris Sedergren opposed.
On July 29, Anderson wrote a letter to Piamonte informing him that a motion would be brought to the Aug. 9 council meeting to censure Piamonte "for his conduct towards members of council," adding that he "has made ongoing derogatory and disrespectful comments about and to other members of council and in particular at a meeting dated July 20, 2011, made coarse and offensive statements about and to members of council."
In response, Piamonte released a statement to The News on Monday saying, "If trying to get answers to questions about the new election bylaw legislation is wrong, then I am guilty as charged. Mayor Anderson rushed this legislation through council with flagrant disregard for procedural requirements. As usual, I fully expect this [censure] to pass 3-2 with councillors Isaak and McEwen rubber-stamping the mayor's motion to censure me for doing what I consider to be my duty to the people who elected me."
Councillors Isaak, Palmer, McEwen and Sedergren could not be reached for comment.
Anmore council was due to vote on censuring Piamonte at last night's council meeting, after The Tri-City News' print deadline.