Rhino's Ramblings: Jet Lag & A Motion's Hidden Target
In what is undoubtedly a step towards greater transparency and accountability, the City is now broadcasting it’s regular Council and Executive Committee Meetings live on Shaw Cable 10 and the Internet. It’s what allowed me to do my regular beat literally from 9 time zones away in Odessa, Ukraine.
Yes, despite having to get up at 2am to watch the goings-on at City Hall, I can still continue with my regular coverage. I’m guessing there are certain powers that be who are right now trying to figure out how to cut my feed. Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?
With that said, it’s time to get serious as the issues being discussed this past Monday evening were highly important and deserve more explanation. An explanation that only digging deeper into documents is going to reveal.
The major issue considered involved Third Party Boards.
Councillor Crystal Froese put forth a two-part motion calling for all Third Party Boards to provide notice of their AGM dates, AGM minutes, articles of incorporation, lists of board members as well as their annual financials.
Things which many Council watchers may have taken for granted that the City already has in at least one case - and perhaps in many others - they don't.
The second major part in the Coun Froese motion dealt with best governance practices and having all Third Party Boards adopt Occupational Health and Safety practices when it comes to harassment.
As Councillor Froese delivered her motion most people watching may have assumed it was dealing entirely with the Downtown Facility and Field House (DFFH) scandal.
Well, I hate to tell you this but you are only partially right about this, it actually also deals with the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre Inc (MJCC Inc) and the circumstances surrounding their AGM. You know, the AGM where those in attendance were told the meeting could not continue because they had no members due to a constitutional change in 2014. The one where MJCC Inc brought along their lawyer.
So how do I know this?
It’s simple, I have the documents which can prove it and I got them as part of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
In those documents there is a series of emails from the City Clerk’s office looking for MJCC Inc's Articles of Incorporation, bylaws and constitution, as the City did not have them at that time.
Believe it or not, the City did not have these documents from a Third Party Board who operates a multi-million dollar facility and receives an operating grant in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
A Board which, if you look at their agreement with the City of Moose Jaw, must select it’s members from their membership and the City maintains the right to appoint over 50 percent of the Board from that membership. But if you look at what was said at their AGM they had no members due a 2014 Constitutional change.
It all begs the question whether the agreement with the City was being lived up to.
It's simple, it's stated that MJCC Inc. must have a membership which allows the City to appoint over 50 percent of the Board but since 2014 the Third Party Board had no membership so were they technically breaking their agreement? If so, what, if anything, was done to get MJCC Inc back into compliance with their agreement with the City? Was it all done behind closed doors?
Take an even closer analysis of what has been said about the MJCC Inc's annual audited financial statement.
In the question portion of the April 23rd Council meeting, Councillor Dawn Luhning asked Administration what happened to MJCC Inc's Audited Financial Statement and questioned whether it would be in the next package to Council, as it was emailed on April 6th to the Clerk’s office?
It may have been an oversight but I took a look at Council packages after Councillor Luhning’s request and guess what? It, never ever appears in any of the packages. How is that for Council conspiracy buffs to think about?
Now people can argue that the first portion of Councillor Froese’s motion was aimed at the DFFH but if you look at it their AGM was advertised, the former manager Graham Edge came to Council and presented their audited financial statement and additionally Council was regularly updated.
Councillor Froese's motion was obviously intended for a different, Third Party organization and there are only two which operate the same way structurally as the DFFH and those are the Cultural Centre and the Moose Jaw Art Gallery and Museum.
Councillor Dawn Luhning, who is the Council’s representative on MJCC Inc, in many ways confirmed what was largely behind Councillor Froese’s motion when she stated “I do certainly see what you are requesting” before going on to state she would agree with more reporting to Council from Third Party Boards. The question is; will this be a public report or one behind closed doors or in-camera?
Ironically, on May 15th the entire MJCC Inc Board met in-camera with Council and Administration at a rare Tuesday evening Executive Committee meeting. This fact only became public after a second FOI request into the Cultural Centre. The City has never publicly admitted as to who attended the meeting or what it was about. For the curious, simply go to the archived agenda minutes on the City website for the May 15th Executive Committee meeting. It’s all in-camera, even who attended.
Am I correct to say what Councillor Froese’s motion is aimed at and is effectively doing is a behind closed doors maneuver to repair some nasty stuff at the Cultural Centre as well? The smoke and mirrors of the DFFH scandal makes great camouflage to fix bigger issues doesn't it?
The second part of the Coun Froese motion, if you listen to what she says during debate, in my opinion all but confirms that what happened at the DFFH involved harassment.
This is something the City has never before publicly admitted, always stating what happened at the DFFH was a serious personnel matter and nothing more. If you ask them for additional information the response is they cannot comment due to privacy and legal considerations which is nothing sinister.
“(It was) never made clear to me during my experience on the DFFH Board,” Coun Froese said at Council.
Perhaps my logic is fuzzy but if you look at how often the DFFH Board reported in camera at Executive Committee and Strategic Planning Meetings their financials combined with the interim Board's membership only being three councillors it's obvious the anti-harassment policy is aimed at the DFFH.
But is there any other means to tie the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre and MJCC Inc into Froese's motion? Yes there is.
Another key fact the FOI's into the Cultural Centre showed was when informed in my questions another councillor had been contacted by the now defunct RuBarb Productions Inc Councillor Luhning sent out an email asking if any other councillor had spoken to RuBarb. All responded except for Coun Froese. I knew about her involvement from a confidential source and needed confirmation which Coun Luhning accidentally provided.
Coincidentally the now defunct RuBarb Productions Inc was part of the Downtown Business Development Group, a group Councillor Froese is closely tied to. She championed them during the 2016 Civic Election and afterwards.
So in my opinion what happened last Monday night was not only a motion partially anchored in the DFFH scandal but it also used the attention from the DFFH to quietly start repairing the problems at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre and the public is none the wiser.