De Genova suspension remains contentious

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Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan recently suspended him from caucus for six months, but Non-Partisan Association park-board commissioner Allan De Genova says community support for him is mounting.

“My [cellphone] mailbox is filling three to four times a day,”  De Genova told the Georgia Straight on June 5. “My mailbox takes 35 calls. Some I save, because they're a morale booster, but I have to delete others so my phone can function properly.” 

De Genova, a five-term commissioner, said he has heard from members of the Italian community, the Hellenic Community Centre, the Vancouver Greens, and SUCCESS””among others””in the week since Sullivan suspended him without holding a vote of caucus.

“All sorts of people called me over the weekend to tell me they're on-side,”  he said. “It's really good, but it makes me feel low, too, because it brings me back to that whole day [May 28].” 

On May 16, De Genova told the Straight that park-board chair Heather Holden””who is also a senior Vancouver Aquarium employee””should “remove herself”  and abstain from voting when there is the remotest sniff of a conflict of interest around aquarium-related issues. On May 23, Sullivan met with De Genova and NPA president Matthew Taylor in private, and on May 25 De Genova revealed details of the meeting on Sean Holman's Public Eye Online.

Sullivan did not return Straight requests for an interview, but in a May 28 NPA news release, he explained: “I think Allan needs some time out of the caucus to determine whether he is still committed to the NPA team and whether he can work with us in a more positive and constructive way.” 

In a June 2 phone interview with the Straight, Taylor said he and Mayor Sullivan were “taken aback” .

“Certainly both the mayor and I felt coming out of that meeting that it had been a good meeting and that we were going to work on building communication at the caucus level between Al and the others,”  Taylor said. “That [revealing details to the media] is not something you would expect from somebody you would want to work with the team.” 

In local skateboarding circles, the situation has provoked outrage.

“It's horrific,”  Travis Cutler, Vancouver Skate Park Coalition director and former president, told the Straight. “I don't think there's one person who's been more there for us and who cares as deeply about the community. I'm a huge fan of Al's. Skateboarders are not exactly a huge vote-getter, but Al was a leading force. I'm quite surprised he's stuck by them [the NPA].” 

Coalition secretary Lee Ann Slade added: “He can't seem to get along with the current mayor, but he got along with the previous three just fine. We love him, and Al was instrumental in getting parks built.” 

In 2002, De Genova shepherded various community groups through the $1-million Victory Square renovations, which saw the cenotaph area upgraded at West Hastings Street and surrounding park space made skateboard- and people-friendly.

Retired lieutenant-colonel Archie Steacy remembers De Genova being a great pointperson bringing all the interests together.

“We need people like Al,”  Steacy told the Straight. “I find that [his suspension] totally wrong. All the work I ever did with Allan De Genova told me he was a tremendous team player. He helped us out immensely....I can't for the life of me work out why they [the NPA] did that. They're scared he's going to run for mayor or some damn thing, are they?” 

Gastown-based architect Richard Evans, president of Friends of Victory Square, also expressed support for De Genova. “None of this would have been possible without Al,”  Evans said, standing at the cenotaph. “I like the fact Al's independent-minded. I actually appreciate that about him.” 

Taylor added that the suspension is “not a personal attack on Al” .

“I think he obviously has a great record of public service,”  he said. “This is not to take away from that. I think the mayor's decision relates to events that have taken place in the last few months....He has indicated on several occasions that he is vacillating in terms of his loyalty. There has been a bit of talk about whether or not, and I think he has said this himself, about whether he would not feel more comfortable with another party. So he has voiced that to the media. He has also questioned some of his colleagues within the NPA caucus on a personal level in the media.” 

Taylor told the Straight he does not have a copy of the letter Sullivan wrote to De Genova, asking him to satisfy four conditions to be readmitted to caucus. De Genova would also not reveal what those conditions are but admits that he finds Sullivan's letter problematic.

“I'm soul-searching right now, because I don't know if I can abide by these [conditions], because then I basically feel like I'm selling myself out, in the sense that I won't be who I am then,”  he said. “I admit in my [May 29] press release that I am a bit out of the box and indicate I go too far from time to time, but it's always been in the best interests of the citizens of Vancouver.” 