Vassilaki will recuse himself from tax exemption vote

Vassilaki did promise that he would recuse himself from the vote to adopt the bylaw, which is scheduled for the Oct. 20 council meeting.

The issue of permissive tax exemptions was back before council on Oct. 6, but not for the final adoption of this year’s bylaw.

In light of Coun. John Vassilaki admitting he was in conflict when he voted on the list on Sept. 16, city staff recommended council go back to square one, rescinding the initial three readings and voting again to give it initial approval.

Vassilaki admitted last week that he owned two properties on the list, including the Penticton Legion property, which was purchased earlier this year by his family company.

Coun. Judy Sentes moved to have the item stripped from the agenda before the meeting got fully underway, saying that it was not appropriate.

The vote was unanimous, Sentes pointed out, so regardless of Vassilaki’s vote, the initial approval would still have passed.

Dana Schmidt, Penticton’s corporate officer, explained the point was to protect the integrity of the bylaw.

“There may be no problem whatsoever, but it seemed like the safest course of action,” said Schmidt.

Coun. Katie Robinson and Andrew Jakubeit were the only council members concerned that the vote had been contaminated, and needed a revote.

“Especially since we just did this the last meeting or so, we should just rescind it and do it properly, with the person potentially declaring a conflict and leaving,” said Jakubeit.

While Vassilaki didn’t speak to Sentes’ motion, he also didn’t recuse himself from the discussion.

“I should have left the room,” said Vassilaki, explaining that he hadn’t because council wasn’t voting on the bylaw itself.

“For the last 12 years, I have been sitting here and I have been voting in favour of the exemption for the legion and many others,” said Vassilkaki. “It never ever crossed my mind to step out, because I have been doing it for so long. I can assure you it was not done on purpose. I don’t have much to gain.”

Mayor Garry Litke said rescinding the original vote would be prejudging the conflict issue, which is up to the individual councillor to decide.

“I object to the suggestion to rescind, I think we should just move forward,” said Litke. “I would prefer to move forward with adoption at our next meeting as previously scheduled. To make an assumption that someone was in conflict, that is not our place.”

Vassilaki did promise that he would recuse himself from the vote to adopt the bylaw, which is scheduled for the Oct. 20 council meeting.