Conflict of interest questions at Cache Creek council meeting

News from Cache Creek council

Conflict of interest questions were dealt with, and Mayor Santo Talarico recused himself from a discussion concerning businesses with which he has personal connections, during the Cache Creek council meeting which started at 7 p.m. on June 8, at which all five council members were present.

Community Foundation

The ongoing discussion about establishing a Community Foundation continued. Northern Development Initiative Trust will match funds up to $50,000 to set up a foundation, and Chief Financial Officer Cristina Martini had been asked at the May 25 meeting to see if the Village had money that could be used towards this. She stated that there were no reserves for economic development, so any funds used would have to come from the Landfill Legacy Fund.

Talarico said it was his wish to take money from the fund and use it to set up a Community Foundation as quickly as possible, and eventually a motion to use $50,000 from the Landfill Legacy Fund for this purpose was seconded and discussed. Coun. Annette Pittman wanted to know what the funds would be used for, and Coun. Wendy Coomber gave some suggestions, such as bursaries, local people who wanted to start something, and local organizations. However, Chief Administrative Officer Martin Dalsin clarified that the funds could only be used to go to non-profit organizations.

Talarico noted that only the interest from the fund could be used, not the principal, and that it could receive donations from community members. Coomber said that a local group would have to be formed to consider applications for funding and make decisions, with the foundation at arm’s-length from council.

Pittman said she would want to see a smaller sum of money taken from the Landfill Legacy Fund, citing issues with the Cache Creek pool as a reason there might be public backlash regarding the allocation of funds for the foundation. Coomber replied that in her view the foundation would be an excellent investment in Cache Creek’s future, citing a lack of funding for community groups in the past. Coun. Sue Peters added that it would mean the requests for funding would no longer come through council and would not come from the Village’s funds. Pittman replied that the amount did not sit well with her, considering the Village’s financial situation.

The motion to allocate $50,000 from the Landfill Legacy Fund for a Community Foundation passed by four votes to one, with Pittman opposed.

Five-Year Financial Plan

Mayor Talarico recused himself at this point of the meeting, with Coomber taking the chair.

A more detailed Five-Year Financial Plan was provided, with Martini noting that council had already gone through the plan and that it was being presented in the hope of satisfying Pittman’s request for more details: “I see no reason why we have to go through this commotion.” Pittman replied that she had questions, but was still going through the information. Peters clarified with Martini that council had already gone through the information line by line at a closed meeting, at which time council members had opportunities to ask questions, to which Pittman replied she still had questions, which she would bring to the next meeting.

Flood and flood-related cost questions

Pittman had asked a series of questions, which formed part of the meeting’s agenda. One concerned the 2020 flood response costs, and the response was that information is still being collected and will be provided to council when it is available.

Another asked about the costs related to the 2019 removal of a protective berm on Cache Creek that had been placed there as part of the 2017 flood response, and a motion directing staff to enquire into the cost was made. The work had been carried out by Ibex, a company with which Talarico is connected. Dalsin said that in the case of Ibex being used for the 2019 berm removal, he (Dalsin) was the one who made the call, that Ibex was the last firm on his list to call, and they were the only firm available. As the work was undertaken as part of flood recovery, 80 per cent of the cost was covered by EMBC.

The motion directing staff to look into the costs of the berm removal resulted in a split vote of two/two, and was therefore defeated.

Conflict of interest allegations

Pittman had asked for a list of the companies to which the Village paid more than $20,000 the previous year, as well as for the amounts paid by the Village to TW Dynamics and Ibex. Dalsin explained that the Province requires a list including this information each year, and that the information would be available to council and the public by mid-August 2020 at the latest.

Regarding the Village’s use of TW Dynamics and Ibex, Peters said that “There have been accusations of conflict of interest for Mayor Talarico in regards to our use of Ibex during our flood response. In order for it to have been conflict of interest, Mayor Talarico would have had to influence the decision or make those decisions to use that company.

“I am offended at the accusations. As the logistics coordinator through the whole period of time, those decisions were made by myself in conjunction with incident command and our EOC directors. Every time we used someone to do a job I phoned every one of the people on this list [a copy of which Peters had provided] and those people were called in a rotating order. The majority of the time the first person who said yes was the person who did the work on our behalf. There were days that we had every single one of those contractors working. There was no impropriety, there was no conflict of interest. Costs are set by the Blue Book which is mandated by Emergency Services BC (EMBC). It was a very level playing field and no one was given any special treatment.”

The discussion about the berm removal followed this. Martini then asked for an opportunity to speak, saying that things were getting to be “a bit of a toxic environment.” She noted that due to the nature of small communities, perceived conflicts of interest were to be expected, but pointed out that the people making the decisions were not themselves in conflict. She added that if the Village was not to use a company connected with the mayor, perhaps they should not be using Chanor (with which Pittman is connected) for fleet inspections, or the Cache Creek Machine Shop, with which a member of the Village crew is connected via their spouse.

“I don’t understand why there is this fixation. We as an organization have to employ businesses within the community.”

Pittman said that she had asked for the items to be on the agenda as she had received questions from the public about them. “You can answer them, people can read the response and make their own judgment.”

Peters replied that she had a logistics log detailing calls to all of the contractors on the list showing they had all been contacted. “It’s not one contractor that we’re using; we’re using all of them. When they didn’t come it was because they were on other jobs, didn’t have the equipment available, or just chose not to. It was a fair and equal system that was used.”

Mayor Talarico rejoined the meeting at this point.

Other items

Coun. Lisa Dafoe asked about the status of the Cache Creek park, with Dalsin replying that it was still far too wet to be used. When the park was ready to reopen, signs would be put in place at the playground equipment, exercise equipment, and picnic tables advising of the need for users to take appropriate precautions in regards to COVID-19.

Dafoe also reported that six people are now trained to use the online ESS system, with more wanting to be trained, which she could do. She added that paper-based systems would still be in place in case of loss of electricity.

The election results for the Cache Creek Volunteer Fire Fighters Association were received. Tom Moe remains fire chief, with Damian Couture as 1st assistant chief and Alana Peters as 2nd assistant chief. Talarico thanked outgoing assistant chief Gord Dafoe for his tenure in the position from 2017–2020, citing his dedicated service during a critical time and noting that Dafoe was remaining in the department.

Talarico noted that a regional housing needs assessment, which Cache Creek has opted into through the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, has been successfully tendered.

The meeting went into closed session at 7:40 p.m.

All minutes and agendas for Cache Creek council meetings can be found on the Village’s website at http://www.village.cachecreek.bc.ca/. The next scheduled regular meeting of council is on Monday, June 22 at 4:30 p.m.



editorial@accjournal.ca

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