Appointment of new Comfor board members causes controversy

Comfor’s operations manager resigned over the appointment of two new board members.

The appointment of new board members for Comfor Management Services by the Burns Lake council has caused controversy.

At the annual general meeting (AGM) of Comfor Management Services on April 26, 2016, village council approved the appointment of two new members of the Comfor board.

The new members, Crystal Fisher of Burns Lake, and Sharon Tower of Prince George, will be replacing Jim McCormack and Ron Zayac.

During the AGM, Kerry Martin, Comfor’s Operations Manager, resigned over the appointment of the two new board members, saying that McCormack and Zayac should’ve remained on the board.

Zayac, who has been a board member for the past two years, read a letter during the AGM saying he was against council’s decision to replace him.

“I believe strongly that my replacement on the board was politically motivated and not due to performance or any other issues,” he said in the letter.

“I believe that these political motivations are misguided and that the new board members will be in a difficult position to deliver continued performance because the organization is losing a great deal of historical knowledge and operating context.”

Zayac said he also has concerns for the long-term viability of Comfor Management Services.

“I am worried that the ongoing political interference in the sound management of the company has jeopardized its future,” he told Lakes District News. “I could be wrong, but I feel that the meddling [by village council] has harmed the Comfor and jeopardized many ongoing projects and initiatives.”

The Village of Burns Lake issued a press release last week saying that the decision to appoint the new board members was based on the principle that “the shareholders prioritize relationships with the First Nations representatives on the board.”

“Relationships were being fragmented because of a struggle to negotiate partnering agreements,” says the village. “Central to council’s goals throughout this process has been improving relationship with the First Nations and creating a collaborative board working together towards a common goal.”

In addition, council says the decision was based on the principle that the village wants to support the development of new directors.

The village said Comfor has been in the midst of a restructuring process for a number of years and has been seeking to increase the efficiency of operations, donations to the community, and the effectiveness of the mountain pine beetle mitigation strategy.

“Moving forward, council is hopeful that the new board will be able to complete the restructuring process, and that Comfor will continue to be of great benefit to the community,” says the village.

Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold said the decision to appoint new board members is always “extremely difficult.”

“Everyone on the board has worked incredibly hard to move us through the restructuring process and we want to thank them for their efforts,” said Strimbold.

The two new members will join Frank Varga, as well as Wes Sam of the Burns Lake Band, Julian Wake of Wet’suwet’en First Nations, and Jeff Brown of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en on the board for the 2016/17 operating year.

Comfor Management Services Ltd. is the parent company of Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd., and it was initially created to safeguard the Village of Burns Lake from any losses the Burns Lake Community Forest could potentially incur.