By Lex McArthur
Thunder Bay – CITIZEN’S LEDGER – On Monday, March 22 I settled into my favourite chair in anticipation of City Manager Norm Gale’s explanation of the events that transpired at the March 8th, 2021 meeting of city council to award the tender contract for the Indoor Turf Facility. (ITF).
During the discussion to award tender, a deputation by a private citizen, and queries by councillors Ruberto, Bentz, and Aiello, referred to an application for funding through the Invest in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).
Questions were specific to whether funding would be jeopardized if the Tender were awarded on the project before the ICIP application was approved.
General Manager of Community Services Kelly Robertson responded twice to councillors, even went off camera at one point to take time to review the application. She returned to confirm that the funding opportunity would be lost if a Tender were awarded that evening.
The Indoor Turf Facility discussion went on for a couple hours and then just before the vote, Mayor Mauro requested ‘a point of privilege’ to express his confusion.
City Treasurer Linda Evans was called upon by the Mayor to confirm that the city had been denied the ICIP funding in August 2020.
Within 30 seconds of being posed the question by the Mayor, Evans revealed that the funding had been denied, and went on to say that she saw nothing in the letter that made it confidential.
There had been no need for an “embargo” on the information. The Mayor responded that confusion in confidentially over ICIP funding was an administrative error.
In the days following. I sent an email to members of council simply asking, ‘Who knew prior to the meeting on March 8th that the funding application had been unsuccessful’?
The lengthy email chain grew to include the city manager Norm Gale, and the city clerk Krista Power, and several other key members of administration.
The result of my query led to more questions than answers and concluded with a response that Mr. Gale would address the matter at Council on March 22, 2021.
On Monday, March 22nd citizens were informed by Mr. Gale that: “The ICIP Funding letter arrived at city hall in August 2020. The letter was read by many administrators including the city clerk, city manager, the manager of community services and all relevant staff.
“Council was informed that the ICIP funding application for the ITF was unsuccessful, and the information shared was to be confidential.”
It was decided that the public would not be informed, and the embargo began.
Mr. Gale clarified on March 22 that confidentiality only extended to the project that was funded.
As the ITF project was unsuccessful, information pertaining to that application could and should have been disclosed. ·
Mr. Gale said that in his opinion, no intrigue exists, that council and administration acted properly.
What Mr. Gale failed to address is why three councillors, who all claimed to have known in August 2020 that the ICIP funding application was unsuccessful, continued to ask questions pertaining to ICIP funding on March 8, and why did Ms. Robertson continue to answer the questions pertaining to the ICIP funding as if the application was still pending?
Mr. Gale also failed to explain how all these people, over a seven-month period, agreed on a requirement of embargo related to ICIP funding, but continued to query Ms. Robertson when this embargo was still on the table before a clarification was asked for by the Mayor seconds before the vote.
The fact that Ms. Evans saw in 30 seconds what the city manager, his executive, their teams, and city council could not see in seven months needs to be explained and accounted for.
There also needs to be an explanation for the ruse that played out that evening.
It appears as if Council agreed to act out a deception with city administrators at the Committee of the Whole meeting on March 8, 2021.
No councillor appeared to have difficulty with the deception, even the councillors who remained silent and watched this deception transpire.
The only way to resolve the crisis of citizen confidence at this point is to disclose the letter from the provincial government, which they still claim is confidential, concerning the funding.
It is apparent at least to me, that Mr. Gale’s statement to citizens has failed miserably to do so.
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