Chamber concerned by president's legal action 

Bernie Lalor-Morton's contract renewed for three months

The Chamber of Commerce has offered its interim president a three-month contract extension despite concerns she is involved in a group lawsuit against the resort municipality.

Interim President Bernie Lalor-Morton is one of 24 Barnfield Farm residents named in a petition against the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Whistler Housing Authority.

Barnfield residents are asking the Supreme Court of British Columbia to remove the employee housing covenants on their properties. Those covenants cap the resale price of the homes.

Lalor-Morton declined to comment on her contract but board chair Greg Newton confirmed that members of the board raised concerns about her involvement in the lawsuit during discussions about extending her contract.

"It was a concern – the outcome of the lawsuit (and) what potentially it could do for employee housing," he said.

Newton explained that the lawsuit could jeopardize future employee housing projects such as the large Rainbow lands development and the Olympic athletes village, which is slated to become price-restricted employee housing after the 2010 Games.

It could also impact the covenants on existing affordable housing projects.

"The municipality is one of our partners and employee housing is very important to the Chamber of Commerce," added Newton.

Lalor-Morton has been the interim president since the summer. Her contract expires at the end of December and the board discussed its renewal last week.

Initially the board had been prepared to offer her a longer contract.

In the end the 13 directors who voted decided to offer a three-month extension.

"The timing was the worst it could possibly be," said Newton.

"We’ve extended it to the end of March hoping that this thing has blown over, that it’s resolved (and) the two parties have reached some type of a consensus."

The job position will be posted this week and Newton said he hopes Lalor-Morton will apply.

"The board was unanimous on Bernie’s ability and the job that she’s done," he added.

The Chamber president’s position remains an interim position as the organization and its partners look into the possibility of creating a new position, that of an economic tourism development officer.

Among the partners involved in the economic agency review are the Chamber, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler.

"We haven’t gotten the funding for it completely," explained Newton. "We’re trying just to work through that now with our other partners…. So we weren’t really sure how the president’s position was going to shape out after all this and that’s why we were keeping it as an interim president’s position."

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