City council accepted several recommendations made by chief administrative officer Brian Carruthers following last week’s accusations of a lack of financial transparency at City hall.
Council members had no questions for Carruthers following his presentation that was brought about due to allegations of financial impropriety made by former director of finance Candie Laporte.
Carruthers recommended council review current financial policies and procedures to ensure reporting practices are established in policy to improve overall transparency; he further encouraged council to request the City’s auditor to review the former finance director’s claims as part of the City’s annual financial audit.
Carruthers did not respond to issues associated with Laporte’s termination from the City, due to personnel confidentiality matters, but he noted that, as CAO, he did not have the legal authority to terminate Laporte.
He said she was terminated by city council “in accordance with her employment contract and in accordance with Section 152 of the Community Charter, which included a quasi judicial hearing before council and a mandatory two-thirds majority vote of council.”
Carruthers also responded to Laporte’s claim that the City is more than $800,000 over its fire hall budget, not approximately $500,000 over budget as the City had previously stated. He said the fire hall budget that was approved by the previous council was $6.5 million, and the total cost of the fire hall came to $7,032,165.
“A simple subtraction exercise reveals that the fire hall costs were $523,165 over the $6.5 million budget that was approved by the previous council,” Carruthers said. “No matter how many times I redo this calculation, I cannot achieve Ms. Laporte’s contention that the project was $800,000 over budget.”
Addressing Laporte’s allegations that he approved expenses and payroll changes “unilaterally” without council’s knowledge and did so in contravention of the Community Charter, he said all payroll increases he authorizes are brought forward to him by the manager of human resources and are the result of recommendations from the City’s joint/union management liaison committee in accordance with the City’s collective agreement with the union.
Addressing Laporte’s claim that he approved increases totalling $49,500 without council’s consent, he said: “The City’s manager of human resources has provided a detailed report documenting every pay-rate increase that I approved in 2010, resulting in a combined annualized cost of $24,907.”
He added that following each budget year, the Community Charter requires that the City’s finances are subject to an external audit and reported publicly. The City cannot submit a deficit budget.
“As my report clearly demonstrates, the allegations and insinuations made by Ms. Laporte and which were subsequently published are blatantly false and unfounded,” Carruthers said, adding that, as an individual, he plans to pursue legal action against Laporte and others who have contributed to discrediting his personal character and professional reputation as a result of the allegations.
Mayor Kerry Cook spoke in more detail about the situation where last week packages of information outlining the former director’s dismissal from the City without cause, including her allegations, were widely distributed in the community.
Cook said the entire episode, “speaks of political games.”
“This speaks to the worst of the worst of political games,” she told council.
Cook reiterated her support of the CAO saying his willingness to submit the allegations to the yearly auditor speaks to his character.
She urged community members who are interested in the City’s operations to “write a letter or come to City hall.”
“We want open, honest and direct communications,” Cook said. “You do not need to put things in brown envelopes.”