A large group of concerned citizens showed up at Rossland council Monday to see if it would pass a motion to have an inquiry requested on the city’s conduct with regards to the arena affair.
Coun. Kathy Moore put forward the motion, which included a long list of stipulations on what should be looked into by the Auditor General of B.C. Municipalities.
These included things like a review of internal controls, a review of contractual relationships and a review of employees in positions responsible for informing council on issues.
“For me, there are a lot of issues here that need to be delved into, the auditor general is one step,” Moore said, adding that there is no guarantee that the auditor general would look at the city’s request. “But they also said they were interested, and had seen the media.”
She said council needs to get some outside help.
Coun. Jill Spearn said that this whole issue has led her into waters that she hasn’t treaded in before in her seven years on council.
“It has been disturbing,” Spearn said. “I realize that this has become a huge issue in the community. As a representative, I take that very seriously.”
Spearn wondered why Moore had asked for the inquiry to look all the way back to Jan. 1, 2007 and look at how council at that time may have limited the present council in decision making.
Moore answered that it will allow the inspector to get a good idea of the history of Rossland council and the way it has delegated decisions to the CAO and city administrators.
Moore said part of the audit would look at past and present city managers in a position to report information to council.
“If there is a structure in place for them to do that and they didn’t do it, then that’s a failure in our structure,” Moore said. “I’m not out to get people, I’m out to find out what went wrong.”
Coun. Cary Fisher said that after thinking about it it’s very difficult for him.
“In principle, this is a good idea… the problem that I see here is, if this was a board of directors or a council, then it is our responsibility to put things right, not send it off to the auditor general, or send it down the road to someone else,” Fisher said.
Coun. Kathy Wallace said she was going to defend the misrepresentation of her comments in the last council meeting, in which she said that the people who went to the senior hall meeting at the beginning of January, didn’t represent the community.
“I said that I didn’t feel that the people who attended that meeting were a fair representation of the community, I still feel that way,” Wallace said, adding that she knows a lot of people that agree with her position.
Wallace said she was not comfortable with the direction council was taking the motion and the potential cost of investigation.
Moore noted that the investigation wouldn’t cost the city, but added a note in the motion to make sure of that.
Blomme said she felt like her colleague had “a gun to her head” to make a decision, as Moore had stated at the end of the motion that if council declines to approve it, she would forward it anyway.
Moore then gave a timeline of events for Blomme, to show her own frustration.
She approached the mayor and CAO in November of 2011 to try to get the issue into an in-camera meeting.
The conflict of interest issue was then “pretty much shoved under the table” at a Jan. 9 in-camera meeting. She said there were many chances for council to do something about the issue, but it chose to silence her instead.
The auditor got back to council with a very general audit, so Moore asked for a more indepth one, which she says would have been a basis for a forensic audit.
Then, on Jan. 9, in the in-camera meeting, council discussed what it would write to the three people who wrote letters to the city on the arena issue.
Moore was asked to leave the room, then when she came back, the discussion on the entire subject of the arena was over.
“I talked to a couple of you and you said, nope, we’re done with that,” she said, then to Blomme said: “You think you’re frustrated? I’ve been trying to get council going through the proper channels since November of 2011, and it hasn’t happened.
“So I’m looking for actions that we can take to get this resolved. I got no support.”
Coun. Spearn said they need to find some peace in the community and said she would support this for the good of the community.
“I feel like this is not an awful thing to do,” she said. “I don’t want to see this as a process where heads are rolling, I want to see this as a systems analysis. I’m not afraid.”
Blomme said she disagreed that it would have been swept under the rug.
Spearn then said she wasn’t afraid of the audit, then tried to convince Blomme that other eyes on the problem could sometimes help to clear muddled issues such as this one.
The motion passed, with everyone but Wallace voting for it, which led to an eruption of aplause from the gallery.