The January 30, 2012 council meeting, as reported by Autumn MacDonald of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer titled MORTON VS. SJOSTROM certainly reinforces the need for an independant provincial auditor.
The article indicates Ms. Morton is experiencing the same difficulties Councillor Sushil Thapar Finance Portfolio holder as well as the chair of the Audit Committee at the time, had in obtaining documentation from within his portfolio. The mayor and the city manager places numerous roadblocks in the way of Coun. Thapar at a cost of thousands of dollars to the taxpayers. Why? They attempted to charge him $262 to get access to his portfolio under the Freedom of Information Act (FOA) legislation. Why? When this attempt failed, the mayor and the city manager submitted for legal opinion City Bylaw 2397 Appendix 1, item 75(5), dealing with the FOI act. The 14 words they apparently could not interpret were “no payment is charged where the matter relates to the matter of public interest.” The city’s legal authorities took 13 hours to arrive at that conclusion at the cost to Quesnel taxpayers of $2,892.96. The entire quotes regulation consisted of 54 words. Subsequent to the election, the mayor fired Coun. Thapar from the job he has successfully performed for taxpayers for many years. Why? Fortunately, however, I do not think we have heard the last from Coun. Thapar.
This time, I think the mayor has a tiger by the tail named Pat Morton. She is a respected member of the community with a strong business background and appears not to be one to back off when challenged. She has proven to have the expertise to successfully challenge Revenue Canada when the need arises. In an article by the mayor dated Friday, June 3, 2011, the mayor stated: “If you ever have questions abou the work council is doing, please contact us.” Ms. Morton has requested documents that she is entitled to get under the FOI Act concerning expenditures by the mayor and council. So far, as in Coun. Thapar’s attempt, with little success. According to the article of Feb. 03, the flippant answers the mayor gave to Ms. Morton’s requests for the public documentation, in my opinion, makes her statement of June 3, 2011 political bafflegab. In the article regarding the mayor’s use of the business phone taxpayers pay for and in respect to making personal calls, the mayor states she “neeed to see if the city and council had a policy on the matter.” What policy? No legal policy can condone theft. If the mayor gave her purse to a trusted person and that person, without her consent, took money from it to pay a personal debt, that is theft. If the mayor used her government phone for personal calls, and I have no evidence that she did or does and I am not accusing her of doing so, but the cost of personal calls require the reimbursement to the public purse that she has been entrusted with. Otherwise, it is theft. The simple solution is to produce her public phone records and put the matter to rest. Why would she not do this? In my opinion, it would be beneficial to introduce a policy to expedite a citizen’s right regarding requests under the FOI Act to ensure the time limits to respond, comply with the Act. Until that time, the mayor’s claim to transparency should be prefixed “selective” transparency.
As Autumn MacDonald appropriately put in her column of Feb. 19, 2011: “Get involved, be informed and speak up. Surely, if politics don’t interest you, knowing where your money is being spent should.”
Pat Morton is doing just that. Taxpayers in Quesnel owe her a vote of thanks. I thank you Ms. Morton for standing up for my rights.