UPDATED (see below)
Upon reflection and conversations with the Mayor, Councillors and Staff at city hall I’ve come to revise my opinion of the status of affairs related to the matters below.
I would like to apologize to the Mayor for the very angry tone of the piece below and the video associated with it. I should have talked to the Mayor first, I should not have reacted the way I did.
Over the past year the Mayor has grown and learned and is not the same person he was in his first few months. His behaviour has demonstrated that he has learned to take advice from those around him. He has and I will admit this.
I’ve been given to understand that the Contractor for the Water Meter program was contacted with regard to how and what transpired in the very beginning of the Mayor’s tenure and have no intention of going to court with us.
When I made the video at the bottom of this piece I’d had a very tiring and trying week. by the end of the week I was sick and tired of fighting accusations in social from some of the more angry and vocal supporters of Councillor Butler. The Mayor’s portrayal on CBC did nothing to help that mood.
As part of the fall out from this I’m resigning from my position broadcasting city council. To be clear, this is my decision and mine alone.
Also I would ask that the readers and viewers notice that I use the implements in my video as Props for the purpose of my art. I in no way endorse or advise anyone to take up arms or use violence to deal with anyone, especially associated with the city.
The Mayor deserves an apology from me and with respect Mayor Konrad You Have My Deepest Apology for the harsh words. I would also like to extend an apology to the Staff and citizens of the City of Grand Forks for losing my cool this way and subjecting them to the spectacle.
The original posting follows:
This past week has seen legal issues swirling around city hall like the water sluicing crap down the toilet. Except the crap isn’t going away – nope it’s sitting there. And with the attention of the CBC it’s getting more stinky by the day.
The week began with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the City’s petition to have Councilor Butler turfed from her seat on council. While it decided she actually was in a Conflict Of Interest (COI) when the city was warned of it the court didn’t see it as grievous enough to force her out of office. In fact the court felt it was an innocent mistake, the kind that might well be expected to happen when a person finds themselves in a new position with a set of rules and proscriptions they’ve never had to deal with before. And the court also found that by May 4th she was no longer COI. The final nail in the coffin of the city’s petition was how long it took for the city to get around to taking the petition to court. There was a window of time within which the filing had to be made and the city waited too long to get around to it. Now they have to pay her legal costs … oops, I mean we taxpayers have to pay all the legal costs.
This all goes back a year (or more depending on your take) to when council was still new and Councillor Butler still had a lawn care business.
Now, a year later on, the whole story has taken a sad twist: The Mayor was likely in COI from his very first day in office. A COI likely to be more grievous than the one at the root of Councillor Butler’s case. And one that opens the door to Neptune, the contract winner, possibly seeking damages from the City.
But wait – there’s more … At some time in the past a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request was made to the city regarding an event that happened on the Mayor’s first day on the job. CBC Daybreak South saw the original FOI which told a story of the Mayor requesting the Contract of the winner in the Megabuck Water Meter Program. He was informed by the acting CAO that he would possibly be COI if he did that. Because his company had filed an Expression Of Interest (EOI) on that contract the winner of the Bid was his competitor. A portion of the Contract contained proprietary information Neptune wanted kept secret. The city staffer had 5 years experience on the job and the Mayor was in his first day. Yet he decided his opinion held more weight than her advice.
This COI was not disclosed to the public and the Mayor did not recuse himself from any deliberations on the topic. Why not?
So CBC filed a FOI request of their own for a copy of that FOI’s answer. They mentioned it by number so they would get the same FOI response. When they went through both and compared them they found that they were not identical. Whoa! That’s not supposed to happen!
To answer an FOI request can take a lot of time and work, depending on the scope. And a record of the response needs to be kept around. So to respond to a request for the identical FOI the city would just have to reproduce a copy. Except the copy in this case is not identical and that’s a whole other kettle of stinky fish.
What was different?
On the page titled “Confidential Notes on meetings with Mayor Konrad” the second paragraph ends differently. In one it says “Diane said she would provide the contract for him to review.” The other has that sentence carry on so:“…provide the contract for him to review and she left the meeting to get the contract.” And that is followed by another line missing from the first: “She returned with Neptunes contract and handed it to the Mayor, who took it, keeping it in his position for the next few days while he read it.”
So one version talks about what was said but not what happened and the other adds in what happened. That might be important if you needed details like that.
Why was it changed?
Who instigated that change? UPDATE (Mar 7, 7PM): That last phrase appears to be negated by the city’s latest press release on this. Their explanation of how the process in place could produce “… a filing mistake at the time.” makes sense to me and, absence of evidence otherwise, I’ll accept the explanation.
In their investigation into this the CBC interviewed Mayor Konrad. And his answers to their questions leave some wondering if he always tells the truth.
They had a shaky start in 2015 – they were distracted with continuing a fight over a program that had already been mostly completed. Morale at city hall had hit rock bottom. Progress on regular business was grinding very slowly. After the CAO position was filled, with the previous CAO, council appeared to begin sailing smoothly. But the controversy that grew from hiring the same person that had just been let go began to grow. Then they lost one of their members to a legal issue. Then they took another member to court. In late summer we all wondered if the town would be burned to the ground. Then in the Fall they got into an argument with CUPE over positions being cancelled and people losing their jobs.
With this new year it was finally looking like council had found their way to some sort of stability and was making forward progress. Now this.
Councillor Butler has stated she’d like to see the coming by-election for a single seat turned into a full slate election – a complete do over of the election of fall 2014. The ex-mayor has stated he agrees with her on that. A number of other voices are adding theirs to the chorus.
Will that happen?
Those who have been paying attention know there’s no love lost between the Mayor and myself. When I broadcast council I get to watch them all a lot. And there have been times when I wondered if the mayor was going to blow a gasket and die right there in council chambers on camera – the strain has been that evident. Right now I cannot imagine how he feels … but it can’t be good. So how far can this go before he decides this foray into public life is taking too great a toll and retreats for his own good?