Deal Making in the Back Room
Ron Bolin: Feb. 23, 2016
There are a number of matters which are currently raising questions about fiscal practices at City Hall which demand answers: Answers which can shed light on the ability of the Administration to carry on business in the dark of in camera meetings, apparently without a requirement for subsequent proper authorization in an open meeting of Council. While the two of which I write today are remnants from a time previous to the arrival of our new City Manager, they unfortunately remain outstanding at this time and deserve a public explanation.
First is a matter which goes back a number of years and deals with transactions on city property. In a Press Release Dated December 17, 2012, Toby Seward, Director of Development for the City, announced the sale of 238 Franklyn Street (the old City Hall Annex) to Tectonica Management Inc. for $1 (one) dollar. For that $1 (one) dollar:
“As part of the sale, the City has agreed to pay Tectonica $40,000, the equivalent to two years worth of property tax. To receive these funds, the seismic upgrade – or alternate demolition – must occur within the window of the first two years following Tectonica taking ownership of the property. In addition, if Tectonica does not complete upgrades to render the building 60 per cent compliant with the seismic requirements or demolish the building within the first two years of taking ownership, the City has the option to buy the land and building back at no cost.”
This was the story in 2012: In the fullness of time the two years came to an end and another two year extension was given. In 2014 an extension of another five years was given which I have been officially informed by City Staff was given in an in-camera meeting, but of which I can find no public adoption by Council. Can Council deal in public property in the back room of an in-camera meeting without final adoption in Open Council?
Also in the meantime the assessed value of this property has been reduced to a grand total of $1 (one) dollar so the costs of holding the property are virtually nil, thus leaving the taxpayers of Nanaimo to absorb the costs of fire, police, water, sewer, road and other services to the property which must be maintained despite the “deal”.
In a similar case, it was reported in the Nanaimo Bulletin on February 17, that a contract for $50,000 was apparently made by the Mayor and at least partly approved by Council in an in-camera meeting but without approval in a public meeting. See: http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/369172471.html
Are we living in a democracy where the information needed to assess our gatekeepers performance is made available to all, or have we descended to a society operated by and for a few behind the veil of in-camera secrecy.
I wish to reiterate that these matters did not arise under our current City Manager who I believe is working hard to deal with apparent deficiencies in process. She will need our help.
If you have comments on this situation or have examples which you would like to bring to light (real names and documented facts only –there are more than enough rumours and innuendo to go around in Nanaimo), please do not hesitate to write.