The question of Irene Perepolkin’s return to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has again raised controversy in the community.
In a letter to the Grand Forks Gazette from RDKB Chief Administrative Officer, John MacLean refuted Area D candidate (and incumbent) Irene Perepolkin’s contention that he blocked her return to duties.
“I wish to categorically, and for the record, state that at no time did I prevent director Perepolkin from returning to her duties,” he wrote in the letter. “I deeply regret having to write this letter but felt that the residents of Electoral Area D (Rural Grand Forks) were entitled to be fully informed that neither I, nor the RDKB board of directors, prevented director Perepolkin from returning to her duties.”
Perepolkin was elected Area D representative in 2011 but suffered a stroke about a year later. Her appointed alternate, Roly Russell, took over and has held the job since. Russell is running against Perepolkin (and Bob Kendel) in this year’s election.
At a recent all candidates forum, Irene’s daughter Nancy Perepolkin was on stage alongside her mother to assist with questions. It was at that meeting where the notion that she was prevented from returning to her duties was raised. In a separate interview at the Grand Forks Gazette offices on Nov 10, Irene reiterated she was prevented from returning to her duties as RDKB director. She said that after indicating that she felt ready to return earlier this year, she said she was told there could not be two Area D representatives at the table and that she was not allowed to return.
On April 29 of this year, Irene received a letter from the RDKB’s law firm. The letter from the lawyer, Sandra Carter of Valkyrie Law, stated that: “Your request for the presence of an assistant to fulfill your duties at this point presents some problematic aspects. First, your duties as an elected official require the exercise of independent thought and judgment as your input and your votes on matters being considered by the board affect both the constituents in your electoral area and the residents of the regional district generally, and, second, certain board matters are confidential by nature.”
The letter also requests that Perepolkin consult with a medical practitioner and requested a letter from the doctor “outlining what steps the board could consider to make it feasible for you to fulfill your duties as a director. These duties include the ability to review and comprehend documents, sometimes of a technical nature, communicate with board colleagues and staff, and exercise independent decision making on resolutions and bylaws. Following receipt of the letter from the medical practitioner, the board would be willing to consider if the accommodation proposal is feasible.”
MacLean explained to the Gazette the letter asked Perepolkin to consult with her medical advisors and find out what assistance would be necessary to return.
“When we talked to the ministry, the ministry (of community, sport and cultural development) was not certain that having an assistant next to someone was going to be allowed,” he said. “So we wanted something we could take to the ministry and say ‘this is what director Perepolkin and her medical advisors are saying she needs in order to come back.’”
MacLean said the RDKB never received a response from Perepolkin regarding the letter they sent her.
“We weren’t preventing her,” he said. “There’s nothing any local government can do to prevent anyone from coming back. We told her that many, many times. I told her that many, many times. We had no blocking ability. All the board ever said to Irene is that if you come back you have to do the job.”