Extension offer 'premature,' auditor says

B.C. Auditor General John Doyle - Black Press files
B.C. Auditor General John Doyle
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – Auditor General John Doyle says an offer by a legislative committee to extend his term by two years is "premature," and the chair of the committee has a potential conflict of interest.

Doyle said Thursday he will wait for the legislature to vote in February on whether he should be reappointed, and he doesn't believe the five MLAs on the selection committee are in a position to make him such an offer.

He said the committee has incorrectly decided that his current six-year term ends in May. He didn't start until October 2007, and the period where an acting auditor general served should not be considered part of his term. That means the decision can be made after the May 14 provincial election.

"I think this entire process has been premature, and probably should be left to the next parliament to resolve," Doyle said. "No one would be disenfranchised, because it still requires a unanimous decision by both parties to appoint. But at that stage, I think calmer minds will be looking at the situation."

The committee issued a brief statement Thursday, repeating the two-year offer.

“Mr. Doyle has reapplied for the job as Auditor General and an offer is now on the table," it said. "Mr. Doyle needs to let British Columbians know if he accepts this offer or not."

The five-MLA committee announced their unanimous decision to offer the extension Wednesday, after a closed-door meeting to consider it. Premier Christy Clark said the government will present amendments in the legislature in February to create a non-renewable eight-year term for all future provincial auditors.

The committee's B.C. Liberal majority initially rejected the idea of reappointing Doyle and advertised for a replacement. Committee members are forbidden from speaking publicly about how they voted or reasons why, because it is a personnel matter.

Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster, the committee chair, said the decision to offer Doyle two more years was made Wednesday, at Clark's request.

Asked if Foster should have continued as chair after a 2010 auditor's report that raised questions about his constituency office renovations, Doyle said Foster would have been "wise" to step aside. Doyle said he also objected to a question he was asked by Foster during his interview with the committee, where Doyle asked for a second term.

"I was underwhelmed by a question I got in the conduct of the interview that made it quite clear to me that I had good reason to doubt his objectivity in respect to his role as chair," Doyle said. "I'm thinking about how to deal with that."

Doyle said the "nonsense" about the end of his term is a problem the committee caused and must solve.

"This isn't an offer-and-acceptance situation," Doyle said. "The report is issued by the committee. They make a decision. They haven't seen fit to meet with me again recently to talk through what my thoughts or wishes or concerns might be.

"I've been a bystander and found out about things probably at the same time that the media did."

The other two B.C. Liberals who form the majority are Chilliwack MLA John Les and Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom, both of whom are not seeking re-election in May.

Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston represent the NDP on the committee.

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