An alleged sexual relationship with a senior staff member has resulted in the removal of Garry Reece from his position as Mayor of Lax Kw’alaams.
According to the band, a formal complaint “regarding the professional conduct of Mayor Reece” was submitted on July 9. The complainant alleged the relationship had been happening for years and alleged that Reece misused his position as mayor while providing “significant documentary evidence” to support the claim.
In a subsequent meeting with council, Reece admitted to the sexual relationship.
Band council met on July 29 to review the evidence and hear from both the complainant and Reece, who participated fully, and council voted to petition for his removal from office.
“It was a very serious complaint and in this complaint he violated three of the four line items where you are to remove and individual from office and that is failing to uphold the code of conduct, acting dishonestly in his role and failure to remove himself from a conflict of interest situation,” explained Coun. Chris Sankey.
“It’s really unfortunate what happened, but we followed the election code to the best of our abilities while making sure that we heard from both parties.”
Reece petitioned federal court following his removal, but the motion was dismissed as the judge noted the band process needed to be complete.
On Aug. 6, a recently appointed Complaints and Appeal Board upheld the ruling of council to remove Reece. In the ruling, board chair Rudy Kelly noted the board agreed with council.
“We believe that Mr. Reece violated conduct rules as noted by council and that, as a role model and representative of the community, his actions have had an adverse effect on council’s ability to function and on the reputation of community, and he showed little accountability and remorse for his actions,” wrote Kelly.
The Lax Kw’alaams Band website has since removed the listing of Garry Reece as mayor with the position being filled by John Helin, who received the most votes in the last election.
The Band also posted a statement on the removal of Reece and background on the decision on its website on Aug. 13. According to Sankey, the decision to go public was based on inaccurate reports being made in the community.
“Initially we weren’t going to share this information, we felt that we didn’t need to, but a letter surfaced bearing six councillors signatures on it and it was really misinformed and not true. It was not at all factual. We did have a majority of council at the time and because that letter was defamatory and discrediting us, we went back and got legal opinion on the matter. We were to respond with the information at hand because the hearings were over and the ruling was in place from the complaints board that he did not uphold the code of conduct … once that letter hit social media and was circulated in the community, I was shown [the letter] by someone not from the community and later received it from our executive secretary after she was instructed to send it out, we had to respond accordingly. That is why we had to share the information,” he said.
“I want to be clear that council did not want to share that information … it was never our intention to show the membership what had taken place, but that forced us into a corner where we had no choice.”
Response to the removal of Garry Reece was swift. The same day as the band made the announcement, protesters targeted Lax Kw’alaams band offices both in the community and in Prince Rupert. Photographs sent to the Northern View show boards being put up outside the offices in Lax Kw’alaams, with one board being spraypainted warning: “If entered you will be penalized”. People trying to attend the office in Prince Rupert were told it was closed. Both offices reopened on Friday.
The photos show RCMP in attendance as boards were being erected in Lax Kw’alaams, but Prince Rupert RCMP spokesperson Matt Ericson said there has been no formal complaint made.
“At this point we don’t have any involvement, other than our regular presence in the community, but we are monitoring the situation,” he said.
“Nothing has been formalized or brought to our attention.”
In response to concerns raised from the membership, band council has scheduled a community meeting in Lax Kw’alaams on Aug. 21 and in Prince Rupert on Aug. 22.
Garry Reece could not immediately be reached for comment.