There seems to be three levels of governing operating in Penticton.
The first level is obvious; the mayor, city council and senior staff.
The second, lesser known level of governing, is the in-camera group who have more secret meetings than Toronto. This group consists of council members and selected individuals from the private sector and senior staff.
Using Section 90 (1) of the Community Charter, they meet regularly in sessions that are closed to the public.
This is where projects are hatched and come into fruition. The decisions are purposefully kept away from the public’s eyes and ears, and the timing of announcements are carefully orchestrated.
The Trio deal and metered parking are excellent examples.
The third level governing is disturbing and very difficult to identify. Recent history suggests that this level has the ability to sidestep controls, accountability and consequences. By ignoring or bending City bylaws, rules and codes, the success of decisions hatched in secrecy are better positioned to succeed.
In fairness to the current Council, some of the following originated in prior administrations which suggests that this pattern has existed for a long time. Here are several examples.
1. How can a large hole for a hockey dorm be dug and rebar installed without first issuing a building permit?
2. How can the lighting contract for the SOEC be let without going through the tendering process?
3. How can lighting fixtures removed from the SOEC and be sold without being advertised? Ironically, the lights could have been used at the curling rink, but instead they were sold dirt cheap to another entity.
4. When ordering tile for the community swimming pool, the first question to ask is “are they slip resistant?” Apparently that question was not asked. Two years and several lawsuits later, non-slip tiles were installed to replace the slippery tiles at more than double the cost.
5. How can a float plane be parked on Marina Beach for three days, a temporary dock installed near the SS Sicamous for two months and a Skaha Lake restaurant be allowed to sell alcohol without proper permission?
Plain and simple, I believe that the public’s trust of City Hall is so damaged that it will take another election cycle and a good flushing to regain any measure of confidence.
In the meantime, decisions coming from City Hall will continue to be closely monitored and questioned. To have a monthly public forum with James Miller and Joe Fries to discuss city matters is a great idea, and one that I hope goes forward.
C. Otto Knaak