Thursday night, Rossland residents packed into the Senior’s Hall in hopes of hearing the mayor clarify issues around the arena roofing project. Unfortunately, the Q & A seemed to leave more questions than answers.
The issue originally arose after documents revealed former building inspector Jason Ward’s own company, ADA Contracting, was able to bill the city for $185,000 for work on the arena project, while Ward was the project manager for the City.
Ward resigned in 2011 for “personal reasons” and prior to the information being released.
It was through Freedom of Information requests and a push by Coun. Kathy Moore that the information recently came to light.
Granstrom attempted to answer questions, but the feeling in the room pointed to those questions not being fulfilled.
“Without a doubt, this process was regrettable in some instances,” Granstrom said. “I will continue by saying that, as far as we know, there is no loss to the city. The entire process was audited very closely. Second of all the auditor made some recommendations to correct some procedures and those requests have been taken care of and implemented. I would also say that I have no knowledge of anything that is illegal.”
Elise Paré noted that after looking at the project budget summary, there was $1 – 1.2 million set aside for the roof project, but the tender came in at just over $600,000. This meant money left in the budget for other repairs.
“My question is how was the scope determined for those repairs, was there a design for a scope of work that was given to the contractors that are listed here getting paid, ADA included, but also several other local contractors, and
how do you know if the scope was completed to the fullest ability and that we, as a city, did get a good deal.”
The mayor said that he could not answer, because part of it wasn’t tendered.
“I don’t have the numbers, honestly,” he said. “The roof was tendered, the mechanical, the painting, there was one other that was tendered.”
Paré, an engineer, went on to say that the procurement policy for anything over $10,000 requires either three bids or a request for proposal.
“It appears from the actual amounts that were spent on it, that those values were exceeded and that those rewards were put out without proper public procurement policy,” Paré said
“There definitely were issues and I think that when staff became aware of the issues, staff took action immediately and dealt with the situation,” the mayor said. “So did we get value for money, yes we did.”
Pare said that as Ward is a member of the Applied Scientists, Technologists, and Technicians Association, he should be reported to them, as he breached a code of professional ethics.
Paul Picard noted that the audit was not a forensic audit, but a very basic one.
“In that audit, if we paid $100 for a pencil and $50 for an eraser, then the audit will say that everything is fine as long as you have an invoice for $100 for a pencil and $50 for an eraser,” he said.
Leigh Harrison, a former attorney, asked if the City has sought legal counsel, to which the mayor answered they hadn’t, since there was no legal problem.
The mayor said that council had decided, during an in-camera meeting, that there was also no need for a forensic audit, since the auditor’s report showed that the City got value for money and there were no problems with legalities.
“In hindsight, there was errors made, was there any financial damage to the City? We’re not aware of that. Could we proceed with a forensic audit and lay charges to the individual, could we have done that? Yes, we could have done that, but at the end of the day, what would we gain by doing that?” The mayor asked.
“Accountability,” someone yelled form the audience.
Coun. Kathy Moore said this is an important issue that the community needs to address and appreciated the mayor for coming out and doing the Q and A. “I know it’s tough.”
Moore said that it would be helpful to have a final report, detailing the actual costs of the project.
She also asked the mayor when it was that he knew there was a problem with Jason Ward.
“The day he put in his resignation,” Granstrom said.
“So that was in September,” Moore said. “So when I came to talk to you in November and you said nothing was wrong that wasn’t quite being honest.”
Moore said she asked both the mayor and, then CAO, Victor Kumar if there was something wrong and both said there wasn’t.
“He (Ward) left for personal reasons Coun. Moore,” Granstrom said. “You know full well that’s really all we can say of why he’s gone.”
Moore said she felt that this would have been better dealt with earlier on then later on.