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Letter: Municipal Affairs must re-investigate Paradise irregularities

The Town of Paradise and NAPE reach a deal. All town facilities will be open for business on Monday.
A former mayor of Paradise says the Department of Municipalities did not thoroughly investigate his concerns. — File logo

Prior to the Sept. 26, 2017 municipal election, I wrote letters to the editor of The Telegram and the Shoreline newspaper and talked to various media outlets with regard to the management of the operations of the Town of Paradise by senior management and the town council.

On Feb. 2, 2018 I was interviewed by The Telegram and indicated I wanted an investigation into the operations and management of Paradise. The same day, I met with senior officials of the Department of Municipal Affairs and expressed my concerns about the Town of Paradise. They suggested I put my request in writing.

On Feb. 9 I wrote the minister of the department, raising several serious issues that warranted an investigation, including:
• Possible irregularities related to the 2017 municipal election.
• Hiring practices for senior staff (with potential conflict of interest on the interviewing committee).
• Termination and payout for the former director of public works and former chief administration officer (CAO) without approval in a public meeting.
• Potential conflict of interest violations by members of council.

On July 26, after five months of work by Municipal Affairs, I received a letter from the department indicating they had reviewed my concerns and that a number of sections of the Municipalities Act had not been followed. The department subsequently wrote to the Town of Paradise with recommendations that had to be followed with regard to sections 207, 209, 212, 213, 59, 57 and 68 of the act.

I received a copy of that letter on July 27 along with a report pertaining to the Town of Paradise regarding the concerns I raised, authorized by Municipal Affairs.
If they had done a thorough investigation, there should have been consequences for the actions of the Town of Paradise. As well, the concerns that the privacy commissioner raised regarding the town’s use of security cameras (which he said was reckless and careless, in that the town had not retained records from the ballot boxes) were glossed over by the department.

After reading this report, along with the observations and recommendations, I concluded that Municipal Affairs failed to do its duty in handling these serious matters.

Municipal Affairs handled this report as if it was dealing with a new and inexperienced council and senior staff. They gave recommendations on legally carrying out town operations as if council and senior management were not aware of how to properly run a municipality. What the department neglected altogether was that some members of council have been there for over 20 years.  The senior managers who are being paid between $120,000 and $150,000 a year each, have been on staff for years, and if they didn’t know by now that all matters of council are not legal until they are ratified in a public meeting, then they don’t know the scope of their duties.

If Municipal Affairs had done a more thorough investigation, it would have found that the two former senior management staff did not resign as indicated by the CAO in her memos to staff. They were terminated without cause. This cost the taxpayers of Paradise approximately $400,000, which was not approved at a public meeting. A violation of sections 209, 212 and 213 of the Municipalities Act was outlined in Municipal Affairs’ letter to the town.

With regard to instances of councillors being in potential conflicts of interest, I pointed out cases to Municipal Affairs which the department ignored and/or dismissed. This is unacceptable.
From April 2016 to April 2018 there were 17 lawsuits filed against the Town of Paradise. In 2017, the cost for legal services was $380,000, with millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money paid out in settlements for various lawsuits. There are more cases yet to be settled.

To conclude, I am demanding that the Department of Municipal Affairs commence a new and proper investigation into the operations of the Town of Paradise and produce a report that more accurately reflects what is actually happening with the council and senior staff there.

Fred W. Brown, former mayor

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