SPN Editorial: Behind these closed doors
Commentary by Jeff Burgar
for South Peace News
It took eight months, but finally the second Archie Grover report to High Prairie town council is public information.
Taxpayer money paid for the report on problems with the workings of the town. High Prairie Mayor Rick Dumont decided the public had no business knowing what was in the report. Sort of like the same mayor saying it’s nobody’s business what he buys with the town credit card. Oh, well.
Dumont gave as a reason the Grover report dealt with “personnel” issues, thus it had to be kept secret. This might be understandable. However, other “personnel” mentioned in the report had no problem with the contents being made public. This, even though they all had both good and bad things said about them.
It’s your call whether Dumont simply can’t stand criticism, or whether he is trying to “protect” the reputations of all the other people in the report. Protecting himself is just a happy coincidence.
In the event, the report was completed in October 2011. Then it was decided to keep it a secret.
A Freedom of Information request from a citizen was filed. The request slowly worked its way past the town, up through upper government, then slowly back down to the local office. Upper government said the report can be made public.
Inexplicably, new High Prairie town manager, Keli Tamaklo sat on the report for almost two months, giving no reason.
South Peace News now has a copy. What the fuss is about is baffling. The report pretty well says what is already common knowledge.
For example, the report says council and the mayor insist on micro-managing. Council doesn’t know its role, or refuses to stick to its legislated job of setting policy.
Council has ripped through six town managers, one acting manager, and two interim managers in the past 10 years, mostly under the current mayor. Also, five treasurers in the past six years.
The report indicates that particular problem is mostly due to town managers not being allowed to do their job, over ruled or vetoed or bullied by one or more of the elected officials. All old news. So why the stonewalling?
But there is an interesting comment - a land sale by the town. The land was sold illegally, as it was not advertised. A town staff member, one of the many “favourites” who seem to populate the town work force, who signed off on the deal didn’t get the land description right. So, not only was the parcel of land sold, another chunk attached ended up included in the deal.
The actual land is not in the report. But, since the attached piece is valuable, when the whole thing surfaced, in secret, at council, the purchaser wanted to make yet another secret deal.
This time, he wanted to swap the town land back for another parcel of town land. His argument – “nobody even knows the town owns (this other land).” So it’s OK.
This deal, according to Councillor Michael Smith a year and seven months ago, is in the hands of town lawyers. So it’s still - you guessed it - a secret.