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Coun. Jody Blomme disputes "the timeline" of who knew what and when about the arena scandal
"I'd like to start with a timeline of the way I see things," Coun. Jody Blomme said on Monday during the debate on whether council should request a performance audit by BC’s new Auditor General of Local Government.
We have previously reported a detailed timeline of the arena scandal events.
"How I found out about this whole story was through a letter to the auditor that Coun. Moore wrote in an email,” Blomme said. “I remember at the time being very frustrated: here I am at council, elected to deal with things, and probably the biggest atypical issue that I was going to have to deal with as a councillor just slipped right by me, out of my hands, as I found out about it, with it going to auditor. I was like, 'I guess we wait and see what the auditor says about it. I wasn't given a chance to make a decision on it, so I guess the auditor's going to."
She continued, "And then we hire a new CAO, and give the CAO time to meet staff and figure out how things work, and then there's that meeting [on Jan. 4 at the Seniors' Hall], that was awful the way that went.”
“And [then] we had an actual council meeting [on Jan. 8] about this issue, finally, we were able to deal with it. We decided as a council, ‘Whoa, yes, let's deal with this, this is very important to deal with.’"
Blomme noted council's decisions to review the Delegation Bylaw, to initiate an inspection of the arena work done by ADA, and to notify the RCMP.
"Now this, here we go again, I have a motion put in front of me, a very complex one, with eight elements in it," she said. "I basically have my own colleague putting a gun to my head and saying, 'Pass this motion or else. Whether we pass this motion or not, I'm going to forward it on.'”
“So again, I don't have the chance as a councillor to discuss this as a council,” Blomme said. “Again, it's passing it off to another outside body where we can't control how much time it's going to take, or ultimately the actions that we're going to take. We're letting go of responsibility again. I don't feel comfortable with this at all."
"I would like this council to just make decisions on things we can act on immediately," Blomme said. "I feel comfortable that we're all on the same page there. But somehow the process keeps getting so convoluted and tripped over and so, we're not actually doing anything at all, like we could do."
Coun. Moore replies
Moore responded, "On the timeline issue, just to give you the background on that, I approached Mayor Granstrom and CAO Victor Kumar in November of 2011, at the last meeting of the old council, and tried to get this in camera. I was told no, that's not going to happen. I tried again, after that, but was told no, that's not going to happen."
"There was an in camera on Jan. 9, 2012, and I don't know if you [Blomme] were here or not for that. That would have clued you in to some of the employee conflict of interest situation that was pretty much shoved under the table."
"I realized at that meeting that I wasn't likely to get a hearing from people [on council]. I was basically told, 'sit down and shut up,' in so many words. Not in those words, but in so many words."
Moore explained how she felt her last resort was to write to the auditor. "I tried to bring it up, but council didn't listen. Nothing happened out of that in camera when I was told, 'Oh, it's small amounts of money,' and I said, 'Hey guys, I don't think $150,000 is a small amount of money.' But nobody woke up and smelled the coffee."
"You say you got blindsided by an auditor's letter," Moore continued, "but actually there were other opportunities [for council to act.]"
Moore described how the rest of council "got very riled up" about Moore's letter to the auditor, telling her "how I can't write to the auditor. There was a lot of trying to get me slapped around for that. But it turns out I could write to the auditor, it was not a problem."
"Then the auditor's report came back a very general thing," she said. "To which I said, in the past the auditor's letter has responded to people's questions point-by-point. I asked, 'Are we getting that letter,' to which the auditor replied, 'Yes, and I would like to come to council to discuss this with you, there's more to talk about.'"
"I said that at a council meeting," Moore said, "and was told, 'Oh no, no, he's not coming back,' probably because we were afraid of what it would cost, I guess. He did not come back, but he wrote a fairly in-depth letter which, in my mind, would have been the basis for a forensic audit, had anybody wanted to do that."
She added, "We never discussed that letter. We had a meeting about it, but that meeting was just to discuss what we were going to write to the three people who wrote in complaints, myself being one of them. I was asked to leave the room. I did. When I came back: end of discussion, that letter never came back [to council]. I talked to a couple of you and you said, 'Nope, we're done with that.'"
"I know you feel I'm putting a gun to your head," Moore said, "but quite frankly, you think you're frustrated? I've been incredibly frustrated by this whole thing. I've been trying to get council, going through the proper channels, since November of 2011, and it hasn't happened. I'm looking for actions we can take that would get this resolved, and I got no support."
"Then there's that meeting at Seniors' Hall,” Moore said. “I don't think that meeting would ever have happened if there hadn't been a Freedom of Information request to get this stuff out of in camera. It was just going to be swept away, with nobody giving a care in the world about it, which I thought was wrong. I thought we were doing a disservice to our taxpayers."
Blomme replied, "That was a more detailed timeline, but I don't think it refutes what I said. Ultimately, I don't think this was going to be swept under the rug, I don't know how we could have let that happen; it just wouldn't have happened.”