Thompson-Nicola Regional District board chair Ken Gillis is defending his decision to withhold a whistleblower letter from the regional district board until December 2021, citing whistleblower protection
In a statement released to media on Monday, Feb. 14, following a special closed board meeting — and as four directors have publicly called for Gillis’ resignation — Gillis said he “will not apologize for protecting the identity and information of someone who came to me, and to me alone, in the strictest confidence.
“And I fully intend to complete my term as chair of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board,” he said in the written statement.
Gillis said the letter was addressed to him personally and not the board. He said he was also told by the letter writer it was “for your eyes only.”
“The writer made it clear that that was the specific condition upon which the information was being provided,” Gillis said. “The whistleblower did not say why. However, one can understand this person fearing that, if the letter were provided to the board, it would be leaked.”
Gillis further stated he was “disappointed” the letter was leaked after it went to the board in December 2021. Kamloops This Week has obtained that letter, but has not published it in full for legal reasons. Many of the allegations in the letter relate to financial issues connected with former CAO Sikh Gill, a number of which have been reported on by KTW.
Gillis said a reason whistleblowers seek confidentiality and protection is that not every piece of information provided is provable.
“If the information or their identity is revealed in the meantime, it can expose the person and the organization to serious repercussions, including legal liability,” Gillis’ statement reads. “This is not good for anyone, including the taxpayers.”
KTW called and emailed Gillis, asking why the letter could not have been shared with the board without revealing the source of the letter.
Gillis has not yet returned this newspaper’s call or email inquiry. In fact, Gillis has not returned a call from Kamloops This Week since Feb. 1 — the day before KTW published a story detailing Gillis’ withholding of the whistleblower letter from the board and the day before Bonaparte Plateau’s Sally Watson became first director to publicly call for him to step down as board chair. Gillis has spoken with other media outlets since Feb. 1.
(Editor's note: After this story was posted and after it was published in the Feb. 16 print edition of KTW, and in response to an email message from KTW regarding access to an interview, Gillis sent an email to KTW, agreeing to an interview, noting he is available on the afternoon of Feb. 17. KTW will publish a follow-up article after that interview.)
Watson noted the detailed whistleblower letter — 12 pages long, from a senior TNRD manager and which includes dates and additional resources to corroborate claims — could have been grounds for dismissal of Gill with cause.
The TNRD gave Gill a severance package valued at $520,000 on his way out the door. Gill departed the regional district in February 2020 with an agreement to call his departure a “retirement.” His departure came two weeks after the letter was sent to Gillis.
Since Watson’s call for Gillis to resign, three other directors — Kamloops Coun. Dale Bass, (Blue Sky Country director Steven Rice and Cache Creek Mayor Santo Talarico — have also called for him to step down.
Clinton Mayor Susan Swan also said last week she thinks it would be better for the organization if he were to step down because a lot of the board has lost confidence in Gillis’ leadership.