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TNRD chair Gillis will not seek re-election

Ken Gillis, who is director of Area L (Grasslands), previously told KTW he was unlikely to run in this fall’s election, but the June 21 announcement made it official
Gillis Ken
Ken Gillis is director for Electoral Area L of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Thompson-Nicola Regional District board chair Ken Gillis will not be seeking re-election this fall.

Gillis, who is director of Area L (Grasslands) — an area south and east of Kamloops — issued a statement on Tuesday (June 21) announcing his decision. He had previously told KTW he was unlikely to run in the Oct. 15 election, but Tuesday’s announcement made it official.

“Foremost among my reasons is the fact that, during this term, I married [Merritt mayor and TNRD director Linda Brown] and moved to Merritt,” Gillis said. “However, there also comes a time when a person just knows, or should know, that it’s time to go and I want to leave knowing that my three terms have been positive for the region and for those who elected me.”

Gillis said he leaves with mixed feelings, including gratitude for confidence by a “majority of the board” who elected him chair for four years “notwithstanding the fact that we were navigating treacherous waters.”

The regional district has been embroiled in controversy in recent years after terminating in closed-door meetings its longtime CAO Sukh Gill and paying him a taxpayer-funded severance package valued at more than $500,000. The board, chaired by Gillis, also agreed to a clause in Gill’s legal agreement that stated his departure was to be officially called a “retirement.”

Subsequently, KTW reported on questionable spending under Gill’s leadership. An independent forensic audit later revealed a “culture of inappropriate spending.”

Some board members have been critical of Gillis for not showing directors a lengthy and detailed whistleblower letter from a senior staffer alleging wrongdoing by Gill, including related to the spending, before they voted on Gill’s severance package.

Nor did Gillis, a trained lawyer, provide the letter to the TNRD’s lawyer, despite solicitor-client privilege.

Gillis has said the board knew everything prior to that decision and defended his actions as protecting the whistleblower’s anonymity. He confirmed to KTW that he voted in favour of Gill’s severance package, despite having received the whistleblower letter beforehand. The information came to light during the forensic audit.

Five directors — Kamloops Coun. Dale Bass, Area I (Blue Sky Country) director Steven Rice, Area P (Rivers and the Peaks) director Mel Rothenburger, Cache Creek Mayor Santo Talarico, Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) director Sally Watson — called for Gillis to step down as chair. Gillis, however, chose to stay on.

Gillis noted the planned Monte Creek Fire Hall as a project on which he has played a “significant role” during his time at the regional district.