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Clearwater mayor wants TNRD board to issue an apology to residents

Merlin Blackwell said the board has not clearly stated an apology he said is “owed” to all TNRD citizens due to the spending controversy
Merlin Blackwell
Merlin Blackwell is mayor of Clearwater and a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Clearwater Mayor and Thompson Nicola Regional District director Merlin Blackwell is asking the board to issue a formal apology in the wake of spending revelations uncovered by KTW and detailed in a subsequent forensic audit.

Blackwell said the board has not clearly stated an apology he said is “owed” to all TNRD citizens.

“The role of the board, the board hires one person,” Blackwell said. “That person is the CAO. All our other employees below the CAO are generally hired by the CAO. So, we have a responsibility as a board for some level, or complete level, the actions of that CAO. And it is our duty to ensure that a CAO follows good practices, is performance-monitored on a regular basis and that applies to all past CAOs of the TNRD and the current one.”

Blackwell said “the buck stops with the board.”

Blackwell said that while he has not been a regional district director for very long, he will take responsibility, likening it to the Canadian government apologizing for incidents of the past.

As for exactly what the apology would say and how it would be presented, Blackwell said it is being drafted and he hopes that the board will support his motion. He expects the notice of motion will be presented at the Feb. 24 board meeting.

Blackwell noted that in addition to the apology, the regional district is also working to implement recommendations stemming from the forensic audit.

Meanwhile, as Blackwell seeks to have the board issue an apology, others are calling for TNRD board chair Ken Gillis to step down. Four directors — Kamloops Coun. Dale Bass, Area I (Blue Sky Country) director Steven Rice, Cache Creek mayor Santo Talarico and Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) director Sally Watson — have asked Gillis to resign.

Gillis has come under fire due to the fact a letter sent to him by a senior TNRD manager on Jan 29, 2020 — detailing numerous financial and other allegations against former CAO Sukh Gill — was never shared with the board. Two weeks later, Gill left the TNRD with a $520,000 severance package and a signed legal agreement mandating his departure be termed a “retirement.”

Gillis has refused to comment on the letter when contacted by KTW

“I think the chair stepping down is a decision of the chair or a majority of the board,” Blackwell said, calling his opinion on the matter “ambivalent.” “One, I can see benefits to it and I can see negatives to it. So, that’s going to be up to chair Gillis, how he feels as time goes on, whether he wants to retain that role.”