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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FORSETH: Ultimately, the decision is on you -- if you choose to seek re-election, you will be judged on your performance overall, and on your decisions, both good and bad

Have you ever heard of the Local Government Leadership Academy, otherwise known as the LGLA?  

I hadn’t either until a couple of weeks ago, and so I checked around to find out who, and what, the LGLA was ... better yet, is it important?  It certainly seems so, which is disappointing as I feel confident saying I believe most (nearly all) British Columbians have any idea what it is.

One good source of information, on the LGLA, turned out to be right in my own back yard.  Kamloops City Councillor Arjun Singh, actually chairs the Board of the LGLA.  While unsure of when it began (I discovered it was 2005), he told me:

For many of local government elected officials, when first elected, these sessions have been incredibly helpful to learn about our new roles, and to draw on a province-wide resource of knowledge and expertise.”

And indeed, the website for the (LGLA) indicates that it is ... a leadership initiative for BC local government and First Nations elected officials and senior administrators.

It’s where participants develop the competencies needed to effectively manage and lead communities.

In the winter and spring months, immediately following local government elections, the LGLA presents programs and educational seminars for local government elected officials ... and offers these workshops in all regions of the province. Again, quoting the LGLA website, this ensures that electoral area directors, councilors, mayors and regional district chairs all start with the same solid foundational knowledge of local governance in BC.

The first of this years Elected Officials Seminar (EOS) series, held January 16th to 18th in Richmond, was attended by approximately 175 people.

Jeopardy host Frank Leonard
One of the session leaders was Frank Leonard, who had two sessions for elected officials, one of which was entitled “Political Jeopardy”.  With his ... years of governance experience in the public and private sector, he made a good choice to lead the session through a series of questions for the audience and the “contestants” in a fun but impactful game of LGLA Jeopardy.    

My nephew Steve Forseth, a Regional Director for the Cariboo Regional District (CRD), attended the Political Jeopardy session. Here’s what he had to say.

“Frank Leonard, was formerly the Chair of the Capital Regional District, and the Mayor of Saanich from 1996-2014”. 

He continued:

“In the “Political Jeopardy” session Mr. Leonard, used the TV format of the Jeopardy game show, and led through a series of local governance questions sure to come during their time as elected officials”.

Arjun Singh apparently concurs as he commented to me:

They (LGLA sessions) are not only great learning, they are also an opportunity to develop important relationships, and to share information from our own experiences”.

For returning electeds, there is an opportunity to get updates on new emerging issues, opportunities, and best practices”, he concluded.

Steve let me in on two of the ‘Jeopardy’ questions presented to attendees in Richmond.

You are going to add a sundeck and storage space to your house.  Do you: 
A) Go to city hall and apply for a building permit? 
B) Tell the CAO you are going to apply for a building permit? 
C) Advise the CAO in writing who will represent you in applying for a building permit? 
D) Build the addition and seek forgiveness later?

Steve’s answer was “C”.  It’s vital that if you want to be seen as an ethical local elected official, you must keep the governance and administration branches of local government separate.  As an elected official, you no longer have the right to have a “private” life and a “public” life.

The Police briefs Council in-camera on organized crime in your community, and you learn your nephew is hanging out with the wrong crowd.  Do you:

a) Tell his parents you’ve learned his friends are involved in organized crime?
b) Tell your nephew to smarten up?
c) Privately meet with the Police Chief and ask for advice?
d) Do nothing – hope for the best?

Steve’s answer, at least to me, ended up as ‘None of the Above’.  Here’s what he had to say:

All matters considered in-camera, or in closed local government meetings, are confidential until released by the local government.  You are required, as an elected official, to maintain secrecy until a motion is passed, before you release information on the matter. 

He continued; “Should the elected official prematurely release the information (and financial harm comes to the local government), the local government can turn around and personally sue the elected official to recover the financial loss(es) in civil court. 

I then asked him if there are there other discussions around ethics, and how they could apply to elected officials?  There was no hesitation:

“Most elected officials, I believe, do try their best to act ethically however, sometimes we make decision on imperfect information and using hindsight -- we don’t always get it right.”

He continued, “If you are unclear about how to proceed, I always encourage my colleagues, (particularly new ones), to seek out the wisdom of their Chief Administrative Officer (CAO),  Mayor, or Chair. They won’t tell you what to do, but rather will provide you advice, based upon their years of experience and wisdom. 

“The decision is on you.  If you choose to seek re-election, you will be judged on your performance overall ... and on your decisions, both good and bad.  Ultimately the voters’ decision is always final and correct, whether an elected official personally agrees with it or not”.

We may not always appreciate the decisions made by our elected officials, however I believe programs, such as the LGLA Certificate Program (designed to support and encourage elected officials to enhance their leadership skills and knowledge) is one way to allow those officials to at least have the basics they need. 

So, is the Union of BC Municipalities program, Local Government Leadership Academy, important then?

Absolutely ... however, w
hat our elected officials do with the information they receive, is a choice they have to make. Because as Steve Forseth said about the future for elected officials:

The voters’ decision is always final and correct, whether an elected official personally agrees with it or not”.

I’m Alan Forseth in Kamloops.  If you have any thoughts on this, or anything else you read on the blog, I welcome you to share them in the Comments Section below. 

Please follow me on Twitter:  Alan Forseth  @AlanForseth


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