Rhino's Ramblings: DFFH, Who is at Fault?


For Council watchers out there, last night was one of the most astounding things in recent Moose Jaw City Council history. The sanctioning of three City Councillors for their actions in regards to what Councillor Dawn Luhning called a “serious personnel matter.”

Nowhere throughout their statements to those gathered in the Council Chambers nor on the video feed did Mayor Frasier Tolmie, Councillor Dawn Luhning and Councillor Chris Warren ever reveal exactly what had happened. The serious personal nature prevented them from revealing exactly what the entire issue was about.

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The secret and sudden nature of not releasing the report until the last possible minute to the Public was, ironically, right out of the old Multiplex handbook, as happened when the two downtown facilities were originally announced. Announced publicly and voted on at the same meeting; a textbook answer to stifle any sort of public outcry or debate. An additional irony is that the last time it happened was at that very announcement.

The report to Council revealed that indeed the complaint that had started it all had come from a third party on information provided by DFFH former GM Graham Edge. The actual complainant had gone in confidence to Mayor Frasier Tolmie with Graham Edge's information.

But there was more to this than what you think and in order to decipher it you need to just review the history and read between the lines. At the outset of introducing the report, the three councillors recused themselves as they were under investigation for violation of Bylaw No 5530 or The Elected Members Code Of Ethics Bylaw.

If you listened carefully to Mayor Frasier Tolmie and then very carefully read the report, the failure of the present DFFH Board was actually rooted in actions of a past board. Now you can ask yourself when this occurred. Well, you need to make an assumption and that is it that it happened during the ill fated board of the Deb Higgins administration, or the period between 2012-2016.

How can I say this? It’s simple. If you go back to the period before this, Mayor Tolmie was just Councillor Tolmie and if I remember correctly he sat on the DFFH Board under Bylaw No 5437 which came into effect on August 6, 2010.

Unless he was away I believe this bylaw passed with a 4-3 vote with Councillors Brian Swanson, Dawn Luhning and Don Mitchell opposed. That would mean that if it happened during 2009-2012 administration of Glenn Hagel wouldn't the present Mayor recuse himself due to his own involvement?

So here is the kicker. The Mayor stated that the personnel investigation happened regarding an incident in the past and the report quotes the September 9, 2016 Myers Norris and Penney (MNP) Report. This is the report which was highly critical of the problems at the DFFH, especially during the period after 2014 when the fall of the Canadian dollar ate away at concert revenues.

In this report it quotes major problems with former Chief Executive Officer Scott Clark controlling information going to the previous DFFH Board. Now here is the thing: exactly what type of information did the former CEO control? Was it limited to financial information only or was it also personnel matters as well? It’s a messy can of worms.

And it also points to a major problem when it comes to the MNP Report and that is, if what I was told is correct, it came in two parts. The public report but also a confidential section never released to the public. Is there any inkling if this potential problem in it?

So here you have an interim board of three councillors who are tasked with going in and cleaning up a mess and they finally rescue and re-right the ship financially. After meeting on a weekly basis the trio are successful in cleaning up a good portion of the mess.

They hire a new manager, Graham Edge, who conducts an investigation into a serious personnel matter. Not something of the Interim Board’s doing but it happened on the previous Board's watch. Now what do you do when what looks like a major issue comes up not of your own doing?

What is your ultimate responsibility? If what Graham Edge alleged, when he spoke to MJ Independent, is true how much of an impact is something as serious as this going to have? By all appearances this occurred before his tenure and it’s release is going to majorly impact a facility you are trying to get out of a mess, a mess which could easily impact the facility you just spent months trying to save. What would you do as an Interim Board member?

Can you blame the previous Council members on the Board who either resigned or were defeated in the last Civic Election? You need to understand that throughout the year the three councillors re-righted the DFFH there is no indication about any of these personnel matters occurring. It only comes onto the radar according to the information released with the arrival of GM Graham Edge.

Now here is a good one for conspiracy theorists out there: some one pointed out to me and it has to deal with the timing of the allegations reaching Mayor Tolmie.

Graham Edge's termination became publicly known May 24th, 2018. That's when we interviewed him. But none of the information he provided to an anonymous third party got to the Mayor until July 5, 2018 after Councillor Don Mitchell had resigned at the end of June.

Given that the Mayor, I'm going to assume received better information from this unidentified third party than MJ Independent received, to enact a full investigation at the July 9, 2018 Executive Committee meeting into the allegations, why didn't the anonymous party not come forward sooner? When did Edge inform this individual and was there a lag time before coming forward to the Mayor?

What this Council watcher was pointing out were that the allegations reported to the Mayor, at this time a coincidence, or were they timed to fit into the upcoming byelection? It all sounds so strange in my opinion.

No matter what the motivation in the end the three DFFH Interim Board members were sanctioned for their actions but it leaves more than a few people wondering what about the Council members on the former board? Is there any way to hold them accountable for their actions if this actually did happen, as all signs point to during their tenure? Shouldn't they share in some of the blame if it happened on their watch?

What I am getting at here is this three councillors may be punished in all of this but there may be a fourth one who may have to face the gauntlet and that’s because of when this all surfaced – less than a month before the byelection. And in the byelection former councillor and DFFH Board member Heather Ebby is running.

As another ardent Council watcher told me right after the meeting shouldn’t she be answering some of these questions considering it was during her Council and DFFH Board tenure they happened in? Should she get off with a pass or have to answer questions on the issue? Things like what was she aware of in regards to all of this? As a former DFFH Board member, as well as likely Board replacement if re-elected, what does she have to say about all of this?

He makes a very good point. Believe it or not politicians need to run not just on what they want to do but their record as well.

Should the fallout from the latest investigation fall only on the three councillors or should it’s net be cast much wider?

Or better yet do we throw away the fiscal rebound of the facilities to go to waste and allow a major shift in DFFH policy to the good old days of $1 million annual losses? It's like throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

These are questions which not only a former Council member seeking re-election but the three other candidates trying to win the same Council seat need to answer. Given two of the three sanctioned Councillors cannot sit on a third party board like the DFFH and assuming the DFFH Board is returning the newly elected councillor is a likely candidate.

Here is hoping that not only that they do but the voters ask them about it.