Mayor Greg Granstrom should resign. He apologized to council and took full responsibility for not providing information to them about the architectural and engineering studies undertaken for the proposed expansion of the swimming pool into an all-season facility. However, he did not apologize for the unauthorized expenditure of $25,000 for those studies.
Perhaps he didn’t apologize because he wasn’t aware that the studies had been initiated without his, or council’s, knowledge. If Mr. Granstrom wasn’t initially aware of the expenditure but still allowed the work to proceed when he did become aware, and chose not to notify council, he is as culpable as CAO Victor Kumar for that unauthorized expenditure. If Mr. Kumar spent the money without council’s knowledge or approval, he should be fired.
Or was it Mayor Granstrom’s idea to undertake the studies, and if so, did he direct Mr. Kumar to do so? If that’s the case, then Mr. Kumar should have said “no, we need to get approval from council first”. That obviously didn’t happen.
Maybe the two of them decided together that the studies would be done and chose not to ask for permission from council. That possibility is certainly consistent with the way the City is currently being run.
During an interview on CBC Daybreak recently, Mayor Granstrom was emphatic that it is staff’s job to do such studies. No Mr. Mayor, it’s not staff’s job to spend money without authorization. Were the mayor’s comments an indication that Mr. Kumar undertook the studies without the Mayor’s knowledge?
When asked what leeway staff had to spend money before getting council approval, Mayor Granstrom declared that “operational issues are issues of staff”. No Mr. Mayor, this is not an operational issue. It’s a capital issue or, at the very least, a special projects issue. In either case it must be identified in the Financial Plan approved by council before staff can spend any money.
When asked if he could understand how councillors might be concerned about how this money was spent Mayor Granstrom said no, he didn’t. I think this is just another indication that Mayor Granstrom simply doesn’t understand his responsibilities to the citizens of Rossland.
Contrary to the statements made by Mr. Kumar, the pool has not been transferred to the city. It still belongs to the Rossland Swimming Pool Society. The society’s assets are not controlled by the city. They would be controlled by the CAO and the mayor, assuming that changes to the bylaws of the Pool Society are approved by the Registrar of Companies.
The bylaw changes specify the only members of the society would be the Mayor, the CAO, and one councillor appointed by council. Those members would then appoint directors from among City staff to oversee operation of the pool. City staff report to Mr. Kumar not to council. I think it’s pretty obvious any such director is going to take directions from Mr. Kumar, not council. The only control council might have over the operation of the pool is the amount of money they’re prepared to grant to the Pool Society. What happens to the Pool Society when the current CAO and Mayor no longer hold their positions?
The Community Charter says any expenditure has to be identified in the Financial Plan. There was no provision in the 2011 Financial Plan for this expenditure. The expenditure was not included when the Financial Plan was amended in late November.
What are the consequences for an unauthorized expenditure?
Section 191 of the Community Charter says that any council member who votes for a resolution authorizing an expenditure contrary to the Act is personally liable for the amount. Did council members expose themselves to this liability by agreeing to submit a grant application based on the studies undertaken by the unauthorized expenditure? I don’t know.
This section of the Act does not apply if the council member relied on information provided by a municipal officer and the officer was guilty of dishonesty, gross negligence or malicious or willful misconduct in relation to the provision of the information.
In addition to any other penalty, a councillor who voted for an unauthorized expenditure is disqualified from holding office. Money owed to the city under Section 191 may be recovered for the city by the municipality (that is, by council - which is unlikely) or by an elector or taxpayer of the city.
The Offence Act says that a person who contravenes an enactment by doing an act that it forbids, or omitting to do an act that it requires to be done, commits an offence against the enactment. Since spending $25,000 for a project that was not authorized by the Financial Plan is a contravention of the Community Charter, are either the CAO or the Mayor, or both, guilty of an offence?
Whatever the true story, this episode demonstrates the Mayor’s disdain for council and the democratic process. As such he is no longer morally suited to hold his office. He should resign.
Laurie Charlton is a retired chemist who was a Rossland city councillor for 17 years between 1975 and 2011.