COMMENT: Arena projects revisited
A review of documents related to projects undertaken in the arena in 2010 and 2011 raises many serious questions and suggests that Mayor Granstrom and Council have not provided adequate oversight for the actions of staff.
In December 2009, the City issued a proposal call for the upgrade of the arena roof. Council did not formally authorize the roof replacement although they did budget $1,200,000 for the project. The budget was not approved until after the project started.
The project was initially scheduled to be completed by Mar. 31, 2010 meaning it would be completed during the winter at a higher cost than if it were done in the summer. The City was able to get an extension on the completion date and it was done during the spring and summer at a substantially lower cost.
There were significant, unexpended funds left in the budget and City staff undertook a number of other projects within the arena including upgrades to the curling rink roof supports, electrical and lighting, HVAC and mechanical, showers and washrooms, fire and safety, and painting of the exterior. None of this additional work was specifically authorized by council prior to initiation of the work. The work was substantially completed in 2010 and 2011.
Earlier this year, the City’s auditor, in a letter to the City, indicated they were unable to determine whether the City’s purchasing policy had been followed for a capital project. The only projects I was aware of that might not have followed the purchasing policy were those related to the arena. As a result, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
I reviewed documents made available by the City in response to my FOI request. I was shocked by what I found, or didn’t find, in those documents and in subsequent investigations of my own through other sources. The documents provided were the building permit files for the arena projects. Tracey Butler, the City’s Corporate Officer, assured me that I had viewed all the files and that no other information was available concerning the arena projects.
The files were marked by the absence of key documents. Confirming the auditor’s report, I found no tenders or request for quotations and no contracts, or even files, for several of the projects. There were no design drawings for the projects except for the initial arena roofing project. There were no building permits issued. There were no building inspection reports or electrical inspection reports. There were no final inspection reports or occupancy permits issued for any of the work.
Included in the documents was a summary of all invoices submitted by the various contractors working on the projects. The list contained several invoices totalling more than $185,000 from a company called ADA Co. Inc.
The contract issued to ADA Co. Inc. for a project to upgrade the wiring in the Curling Rink was signed on behalf of the City by Jason Ward, Chief Building & Plumbing Official and on behalf of ADA Co. Inc. by B. G. King, Partner.
The City of Trail issued an Intermunicipal Business Licence to ADA Co. Inc. on March 21, 2011. There is no record of any other business licence issued to ADA Co. Inc. in either Trail or Rossland prior to this date. The business licence was not issued until after most of the projects on the arena had been completed.
The business licence gives the address for ADA Co. Inc. as Box 687, Fruitvale, BC. Box 687, Fruitvale, BC. is the home address of Jason Ward. According to information provided by the City of Trail, the contact person listed for ADA Co. Inc. is Brad King. Reliable sources have told me that Brad King is related to Jason Ward.
Invoices from ADA Co. Inc. give the company address as 855 Spokane St., Trail, BC. The building at 855 Spokane Street is vacant, and has been for some time. The agent for the property told me that it had never been rented to ADA Co. Inc. but it had been used by the agent’s friend, Jason Ward, to store motor bikes. No one who answered the phone at the number listed on the invoices had heard of ADA Co. Inc., Brad King, or Jason Ward.
I did a company search through the Service BC Centre. They were unable to find any record of a company named ADA Co. Inc. in the files of the BC Corporate Registry. However, they did find a listing for a company called Alberni Design Associates Company Inc. Jason G. Ward is listed as the sole director for that company.
In the City files, I found another invoice from a company called Alberni Associates Co. The address on this invoice is also Box 687, Fruitvale, BC.
I did a search through the GST/HST web page of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) but found no listing for ADA Co. Inc. in the CRA data base with the GST registration number shown on the invoices from ADA Co. Inc. I was unable to do a search for either Alberni Design Associates or Alberni Associates because no GST number was available for those companies. I also did a search through the Worksafe BC website and was able to determine that no clearance letter has been issued for ADA Co. Inc.
This information raises many questions.
1. Were all the projects on the arena properly authorized and budgeted by Council before they started?
2. Does the City ensure that businesses performing services for the City are properly registered, licensed and insured?
3. If a business performing services for the City is not properly registered, licensed and insured is the City liable for any damages if problems subsequently arise from that work?
4. Does the City require and confirm the GST/HST registration number for suppliers submitting invoices to the City for payment?
5. Is the City eligible for a GST rebate for the amounts paid to ADA Co. Inc.?
6. Why did the City not issue building permits and occupancy permits for work performed on its own facilities? (The Building Bylaw provides no exceptions to the requirements of Section 5 of that bylaw.)
7. Is the City required to undertake, and record, inspections of work done on its own facilities?
8. If work on City facilities is not independently and adequately inspected and approved following completion of the work, is the City liable for any damages or insurance claims that may result from any defect or failure of that work?
9. Why does the City not maintain complete records of all projects undertaken, including as required, engineering drawings, quotes, tenders, requests for proposal, contracts, appropriate permits, inspection reports, and confirmation of compliance to City, Provincial, and Federal requirements?
10. Did Jason Ward, as Building Inspector, declare a conflict of interest before issuing a contract to his own company, ADA Co. Inc., or inspecting the work done by his company?
11. Were Victor Kumar, the former CAO, and Mayor Granstrom aware of the contracts issued by Jason Ward to his own company? If they were, when did they learn about it?
12. Was any action taken by CAO Kumar or Mayor Granstrom regarding the obvious conflict of interest of the Building Inspector issuing contracts to his own company?
13. Was Council informed of these events? If yes, did they take any action? If yes, what action?
If the citizens of Rossland are to have any confidence in their elected officials, I think Mayor Granstrom and Council owe taxpayers complete and accurate answers to these questions.
Laurie Charlton is a retired chemist who was a Rossland city councillor for 17 years between 1975 and 2011.