Thompson-Nicola Regional District directors have issued a formal apology to current and former TNRD staff and citizens for the board’s lack of oversight and governance for the actions of former CAO Sukh Gill.
The statement was released Friday morning, after a motion was passed during a regular board meeting held the day before.
“The TNRD board of directors would like to formally apologize to all residents of the TNRD, as well as past and current employees of the TNRD, for a previous lack of accountability and board oversight of TNRD leadership, policies and practices,” the statement reads.
“The board has taken a number of steps to address these past issues. The board is fully committed to earning back the trust of its citizens going forward, through stronger oversight, good governance and ethical leadership.”
The resolution, brought forward by Clearwater Mayor and director Merlin Blackwell at the March 10 meeting, said the board has a “responsibility to protect and serve the citizens we represent and maintain their trust in our governance.”
His motion followed a TNRD audit in December that found an inappropriate culture of spending within the TNRD when Gill was in charge. Gill left the regional district suddenly on Feb. 14, 2020, with a severance package in excess of $500,000.
Many directors supported Blackwell’s motion, noting it was irrelevant whether they personally had any knowledge of the events and that they were not necessarily admitting fault by apologizing.
“Is it going to change the world? No,” said Director Mike O’Reilly, a Kamloops councillor during a discussion about the motion. “But it is the right thing to do, it’s what the residents of the TNRD deserve.”
Director Dieter Dudy noted this wouldn’t be the first time a group came forward to apologize for past wrongdoings. People were wrongfully treated, he said, and he pledged to do better.
Another director said the board wasn’t without fault and it was important to recognize that.
“This board has a long record of being generous to itself, and the board has been involved in expenses which probably could have been handled in a tighter fashion,” said Director Mel Rothenburger, who represents Electoral Area P. “I think that’s covered by the third clause (of the motion), the board’s responsibility in acknowledging its own role in this, and I think that’s an important part of it.”
Susan Swan, mayor of the Village of Clinton, noted that despite how quickly the board took action, and the changes that have been made since, the TNRD “staff went through hell…and we owe an apology to them, if no one else.”
A few directors were against the motion, however.
Carol Schaffer, director for Wells Gray Country, said the board was not made aware of the CAO’s previous actions until much later, and it was already beyond their control. She also said that when they were made aware, the board acted quickly and appropriately “and continue to do so.”
Schaffer added an apology “engages the board in the problem and links us directly to being a part of the problem” rather than the solution, and that an apology admits that the board acted in compliance.
Director Ronaye Elliott, who represents Electoral Area J, said she felt the board “did everything that they normally would have done” and the apology was not necessary. However, she did note that the board should tell the public that it is moving forward, has made changes and “will be very trustworthy…and it won’t happen again.”
The board voted in favour of the motion, with Schaffer, Elliott and Cache Creek Mayor Santo Talarico opposed.