The Kamloops Voters Society has created a survey, seeking public feedback on accountability in the wake of the TNRD spending controversy.
The spending issue was reported on exclusively by KTW in February 2021, following a year-long investigation, and led to major policy changes, an RCMP investigation and a forensic audit.
The survey is available online at https://www.kamloops-voters-society.com/.
It asks regional district taxpayers in Kamloops and rural areas to review board transparency and oversight, in the wake of former TNRD CAO Sukh Gill’s departure in February 2020.
It also asks whether taxpayers support the board’s November 2021 decision to re-elect Area L (Grasslands) director Ken Gillis in a secret vote as board chair and whether he should remain chair, noting recent revelations he withheld from the board a whistleblower letter written by a senior TNRD manager containing numerous allegations against Gill.
The letter was addressed to Gillis on Jan. 29, 2020, about two weeks before Gill left the regional district with a severance packaged valued at about $520,000 and a legal agreement that mandated his departure be deemed a “retirement.”
The board did not receive the letter until December 2021.
Gillis — who told Radio NL that, in an in-camera meeting, he voted in favour of sending Gill away with the half-million-dollar payout — has said he withheld the letter to protect the whistleblower’s identity. However, TNRD board director Sally Watson — one of four directors to call for Gillis’ resignation as chair — told KTW the letter could have been grounds for dismissal of Gill with cause, potentially saving taxpayers the severance package.
Gillis has not returned calls from KTW since Feb. 1, one day prior to publishing a story on the letter and the first call from a director for him to resign. In a statement, and via other local media, Gillis has defended his actions, citing whistleblower protection.
Kamloops Voters Society member Randy Sunderman said that, as a number of TNRD board members come out in defence publicly, the society wanted to gauge how taxpayers feel about progress and accountability at the TNRD. He said optics of Gillis withholding the whistleblower letter are “horrible.”
“I think one of the key things we’re trying to get to is, do you still have confidence in this board?” Sunderman said. “The way they’re moving forward? So, we’re trying to get a sense of that.”
The survey takes about three minutes to complete and is open through Feb. 24. Sunderman said the results of the survey will be published and the society plans to meet with the TNRD to discuss the information.
Sunderman said every dollar is important when it comes to public money. He said taxpayers need to be confident their money is being spent efficiently and effectively.
“They’re held to a higher level of standard than a business is,” Sunderman said. “These people have the luxury of raising taxes, as they don’t get the money they need. I think they need to demonstrate that they’re able to spend the money they get as wisely as possible.”
The civic election will be held on Oct. 15, 2022.