Monthly Archives: May 2015

Probes Will Push Tax Rate Up

In last night’s city council meeting one of the items was from City Staff. They were asking council to consider budgeting up to $20,000 to deal with a Freedom Of Information request and an Ombudsperson inquiry.

As can be heard in the discussion above the are two requests of the city to produce records. One is from a Vancouver Lawyer and the other is from the Ombudsperson.

First let’s get the Ombudsperson out of the way. When I asked the Mayor about it he said that the process requires they not speak on it. In the discussion around this budget ask it was also pointed out that there is no option to decline and no cost recovery in servicing this request. So we don’t know exactly who has instigated this and what it involves. But there has been a person agitating for some sort of investigation of city hall with regard to the CAO being let go and then rehired. A person who does not live in the city, pays no property taxes to the city and likely could not vote in the last municipal election. But they can agitate and push this sort of expensive exercise on us …

The Freedom Of Information Application comes from a Criminal Defense Attorney based in Vancouver. As stated by Councillor Thompson we do not know why this lawyer has asked for these records and what plans he may have for the future. We also do not know who hired this lawyer to do this though as the discussion happened I could not help wondering if they were in the room with us …

It is a very busy time of year for city staff (tax time). There is a Maternity leave and Medical Leave happening. And they are still struggling with moving everything back in and getting it in shape to be accessible. So when they looked at the amount of work involved in servicing these requests they realized it was going to mean bringing in help. And that’s a cost.

What we do know is what the lawyer has asked for – that is in the agenda. You can see the list at the bottom of this article.

What we do know is that it will be costly. Some of the costs can be recovered but not all. For the FOI the first 3 hours are free and then some sort of billing based on cost estimates kicks in. For the Ombudsperson there is no cost recovery. And it will be a distraction to staff. And next year come tax time you might see a 2 percent increase to pay these expenses (and others related to council’s legal issues like fighting with Councillor Butler in court). Whether you see that as a valid cost of maintaining a democratic government or a vindictive punishment for not following suggestions or something else is up to you.

Information requested by the lawyer (for more info and if you want to check the list please refer to the agenda for the meeting on the City’s website):

1. Copies of all expense reports submitted by and all amounts paid to or reimbursed to Mr. Doug Allin for the years, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 to date (actual payroll amounts not required)

2. Copies of the expense reports submitted by and reimbursed to D Heinrich for the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 to date.

3. A listing of dates and amounts for all payments made to Urban Systems Ltd., for the years 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 to date.

4. Copies of all agendas, notes, minutes, description of recordings completed at any “in camera” meetings which occurred between November 15, 2014 and December 31,2014. A listing of all individuals present at those meetings, and a listing of the individuals who voted with respect to any motions raised and their vote either in favor or opposed to the motion.

5. Copies of all agendas, notes, minutes, description of recordings completed at any “in camera” meetings which occurred between January 1, 2015 and February 10, 2015 as it related to the re-hiring of Mr. Allin. A listing of all individuals present at those meetings, and a listing of the individuals who voted with respect to any motions raised and their vote either in favor or opposed to the motion.

6. The extent of any advertisement with respect to hiring of a CAO which was made subsequent to the November 24th 2014 dismissal of Mr. Allin. Specifically, date, description of advertisement – ie., Vancouver Sun, Grand Forks Gazette, etc., and the cost of each advertisement.

7. The number of individuals who made application for the position. The number of individuals making such application who were interviewed by either Grand Forks staff or their agent, or by any individual or committee of individuals tasked with the application. The number of individuals who where interviewed in person or by telephone and the dates of such interviews.

8. The name(s) and addresses) of the corporate solicitors for the City of Grand Forks and a listing of all dates and amounts invoiced by such lawyers or law firms for the periods 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 to date. If no one firm or
individual is treated as the corporate solicitor for the City, a list of firms and or individual lawyers who provided and billed for legal advice and the amounts paid to each.

9. The name(s) and addresses(s) of any Human Resource (HR) consultants engaged by the City of Grand Forks and a listing of all dates and amounts invoiced by such any consultants with respect to HR matters for the periods 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 to date.

10. Dates of any employer claims made to Worksafe BC during 2014, either by the City of Grand Forks, or by individuals who were employees of the City of Grand Forks, and in general terms, the type of incident reported.

Council Bumping Butler

Things are heating up again down at City Hall.
(UPDATES – City issued press releases – see bottom)Butler-Unhappy

A little while ago Councillor Julia Butler issued her own ‘press release’ of sorts that stated she had engaged a law firm to give her an opinion on whether or not she was in any conflict of interest with regard to the Water Meters. And that opinion said No she was not in a Conflict Of Interest. She even dissolved her yard care business to clear the decks. One of Councillor Butler’s pet peeves has been in-camera meetings. Maybe she’s prescient …

In the last few days things have happened … new press releases have been issued and actions have been taken.

Before last night’s council meeting there was a press release from the city that said:

Conflict of Interest May 25, 2015
Grand Forks, BC – In their commitment to the public to be transparent and open Council would like to advise the public that the City of Grand Forks sought a legal opinion, from the organizations lawyers Young Anderson, regarding a conflict of interest that Mayor Konrad and Councillor Julia Butler are perceived to be in.
The opinion received advised that Mayor Konrad has an indirect pecuniary conflict of interest in relation to the Water Meter Work, and Councillor Butler has a direct pecuniary interest in relation to the Water Meter program. Both Mayor Konrad and Councillor Butler have been advised that they should recuse themselves from any further participation in relation to the respective matters in respect of which Young Anderson believes they have a conflict of interest and has advised both parties that they should obtain independent legal advice on the issue.
Young Anderson further advised that the remainder of Council should encourage Mayor Konrad and Councillor Butler to recuse themselves from any further participation in relation to the respective matters.

Then in the Late Items section of last night’s city council meeting we heard that Council has moved to have Councillor Butler ‘disqualified’ – essentially removed from office! This morning CBC radio tried interviewing both the Mayor and Councillor Butler. Councillor Butler granted an interview but the Mayor declined stating he had not read the press release. Well the room was full to capacity when the Mayor said this:

Since this is now going on to the courts and the decision was done in an in-camera meeting the city won’t talk about it more. But there are questions that left unanswered can lead to speculation and a large part of all of this stems from lack of a communication between people and the city.

When Council met to deliberate the Disqualification decision was Councillor Butler present or not? Was the Mayor?

Why now?
I suspect that this coincides with council getting the legal opinion mentioned above. The one that states Councillor Butler is in a Direct Conflict Of Interest.
But was that the trigger?
Or did they show it to her and did she then throw her own legal opinion back at them? In other words did they give her one last chance to ‘straighten up and fly right’ which she then rejected? Or did they see the decision as the next logical option?

As should be clear from the previous paragraph secrecy spurs questions and the lack of answers spawns speculation. Which spirals around the same vacuous mystery.

This is going to the Court. Council has asked the Court to take action. This morning on CBC Councillor Butler has stated she will fight this. So this is going to result in more tax dollars going to lawyers. Another burning pyre of tax dollars. Like the other pyres for the FOI and Ombudsperson requests … forests and trees are not the only things burning in BC’s interior this summer.

UPDATE: The City came out with their press release on this as well as a backgrounder press release

The Backgrounder

Download (PDF, 58KB)

The Press Release

Download (PDF, 81KB)

UPDATE 2: The city issued another press release on this

Download (PDF, 80KB)

City Council Meetings of May 4th 2015

This was a strange council day – the first of the meetings with the changed way of doing council reports is why. The evening meeting ran less than 30 minutes mainly due to that change.

In the morning they spent as much time individually discussing the Dog Park, the Deer, The Firetruck as almost the whole evening meeting. If another of councillor Wirischagin’s motions had passed the morning meeting would have been 70 minutes shorter (questions ran that long).

To watch any particular section just click on the pie slice.

gfcc150504_COTW_meeting

The evening meeting ran just under a half hour.

gfcc150504_reg_meeting

 

IF you just want to watch them from beginning to end

 

 

Fire truck Dog Park Community Engagement Session Proposed Council Technology Allowance Policy Recess Reports from Department Managers Water Meter Program QUESTION PERIOD FROM THE PUBLIC RECOMMENDATIONS FROM STAFF FOR DECISIONS RDKB REPORT COUNCIL REPORTS Minutes Adoption of Agenda QUESTIONS BYLAWS