The City of Rossland is suing its former building inspector.
On Monday, Feb. 3 the city filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court against Jason George Ward. Ward was the city’s former chief building inspector.
In the fall of 2011, the city discovered that while Ward was employed by the city as chief building inspector, he was also involved with a business called ADA Co. Inc. which had been doing construction work for the city.
The city investigated and confirmed that $181,662.70 had been paid to ADA Co. Inc. in relation to work done on the Rossland Arena.
It is alleged that the value of the work done was worth substantially less than the amount paid to ADA Co. Inc., and in this lawsuit the city is seeking to recover the difference between the value of the work and what had been paid.
As this matter is now before the courts, the city will not provide any further comment.
An Attorney General for Local Government audit of Rossland’s past management practices—the report is pending—was requested by the city after its tendering, contracting and project reporting practices were brought to light by the Ward incident.
The AGLG will wade into the tangle created when Ward’s own company was able to bill the city $185,000 for arena renovations, unbeknownst to council.
In the audit the provincial office is expected to make recommendations to council on the best means to provide adequate oversight of contract services and project management and to reduce the possibility of fraud in the future.
The province has contracted with KPMG and Grant Thornton to assist in the conduct of the performance audits.
By requesting the inquiry and sharing the results, council will provide full disclosure to the citizens of Rossland and will be able adopt recommendations and best practices to improve governance in the future, said the AGLG’s office in a letter to council.
Individual audit reports for the City of Rossland can now be found on the city’s website at http://www.rossland.ca/auditor-general-local-governments-aglg-audit-information.
A long time coming
Councilor Kathy Moore first brought the Ward matter to light in council in late 2012 and a municipal auditor looked into the matter, coming back with a letter saying it wasn’t handled as it should have been, but “there was no material financial impact and did not impact the audit.”
Moore’s letter to the municipal auditor and the response at the time were not made public until a Freedom of Information request was made several weeks later.
“There were a lot of questions about what happened and council was just not that interested at the time,” said Moore last year. “There have been some things the city is doing, which are not public at this point. So it’s not a dead issue.”
In spring of 2013 council passed a motion to ask the AGLG to look at several different aspects of city operations.
Council voted in favour of asking the AGLG to look at: powers council has delegated to the chief administrative officer; adequacy of policies for tendering, contracting, project management and reporting; adequacy of accountability and management of arena project; and a review of hiring and contracts for senior staff.
However, the auditor has only agreed to look at the adequacy of city policies for tendering, contracting, project management and reporting.
“In my opinion, there were areas we needed help with, so I brought it to council’s attention and they agreed,” said Moore. “Would they have agreed had the public not got involved? I don’t think so. There was plenty of time for council to take action and they didn’t.”
On Jan. 3 Mayor Greg Granstrom held a public meeting to air concerns over the arena renovations and the city inspector’s behaviour.
Over 80 people packed the senior’s centre to hear what had happened with the $1.2-million project—which included a new roof—and what the city was going to do about it.
Although council said in the meeting the matter would be looked into it, no report has been issued to date.
In the interim, council resolved to direct staff to hire a qualified inspector to review the work contracted to ADA Co. Inc. for the Rossland Arena in 2010 and 2011. Council also directed staff to ensure “that the structural component of the work performed on the Rossland Curling Arena is inspected.”