Victoria council moves to ensure timely sharing of consultant’s reports

Finding out about reports and withheld information through media prompts action by councillors

After getting a nasty surprise through the media last month, city council took swift steps to ensure it learns of city-commissioned reports in a timely way from now on.

The September issue of ***Focus magazine revealed a $34-million price tag to upgrade 16 municipally-owned buildings to current seismic code. The consultant submitted its report on the issue to city staff in December 2010, but council only learned of it thanks to investigative journalism.

“My first response when I realized that we had not got this significant information was to be mad at staff,” said Coun. Lisa Helps.

Upon reflection, however, she realized council had never set guidelines for sharing reports with council.

“So really, it’s our fault,” she said.

Helps and Coun. Marianne Alto reacted to the development by crafting a motion that orders staff to forward all third-party reports to council within 30 days of their receipt.

Their initial motion cast too large a net. The city commissions 300 to 400 reports each year, many of which deal with such minutia as plumbing and arborist reports, city manager Gail Stephens told council Thursday.

Instead, council voted on a compromise. Council will now receive all third-party reports dealing with city assets with budget implications of at least $1 million within 60 days.

The reports, however, will not be shared with the public until such time as they are brought to a meeting of council, and accompanied by a staff report.

It’s a situation that left Coun. Geoff Young feeling uncomfortable.

Passing information to council without telling the public “violates the basic principle of open government,” he said. “I don’t like it at all.”

Subsequent motions were passed, however, that ensure both council and the public have access to a list of all commissioned third-party reports, as well as the value of these contracts and the name of the winning consultant.

Referring to such a list, council can vote to request to see any completed report prior to staff analysis. Theoretically, council could also vote to rise and report on the findings of any report, should it feel the public has a right to know.

The change puts the decision to share findings publicly in the hands of nine elected officials, rather than at the discretion of one city manager.

The point of the entire exercise, said Coun. Shellie Gudgeon, is to send staff a strong message that council needs to be better informed.

Council left out of the loop before

Focus magazine’s revelation about the cost to seismically upgrade city-owned buildings wasn’t the first time council found itself out of the loop.

In July, the News discovered through a Freedom of Information request that city staff were aware of a major cost escalation for the bridge replacement project well before it informed council.

rholmen@vicnews.com

 

Just Posted

420 celebrations turn over new leaf at B.C. legislature

Cannabis is legal for the first time in the 21-year existence of the 420 event in Victoria

VIDEO: ‘Stewie the Starfish’ mascot revealed at Premier League kickoff party

Pacific FC kickoff party scores in Victoria Inner Harbour

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake returns to Langford

Annual fundraising event held from April 26 to 28

Report calls on Saanich to expand multicultural programming at recreation facilities

Report also notes that Saanich could do more for sexual minorities.

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Most Read