The black cloud from the last administration just won’t go away for Trail Mayor Colleen Jones.
Jones was censured by Trail council for three code of conduct violations from an incident that occurred during the previous administration when Jones was a councillor. Yet, news of the reprimand was released just last week, on June 12.
The decision stems from the results of an independent third-party investigation conducted and completed prior to the 2022 municipal election, which also included three other councillors that did not run or win a seat in the Oct. 15 election.
“The report itself was received on Sept. 16 of 2022,” Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Colin McClure, told the Trail Times. “Then you go through an election and a new council, it takes time.”
The City of Trail release said the provincial report found Jones’ conduct “showed a lack of consideration for an employee and … did not promote public confidence.”
Accompanying the release was a written apology by Jones to council, staff and the employee in question saying: “We are focusing on strong and collaborative governance as a council, and (I) wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for my part in the governance challenges of last term. The dynamics around the table today are very different from those of last council … While this relates to a complaint filed more than 15 months ago and an investigative report that the previous Council received, I am pleased to put this matter behind me.”
The Times spoke to the mayor on Thursday, and she said she could not comment on the incident, but when asked if she had considered resigning, she responded with an emphatic “No.”
The Times then asked that if the sanction had occurred prior to the election, would it have made a difference?
“I don’t know if 300 people would have changed their minds,” said Jones. “It depends whose asking.
“But I think people will see how well this new council is doing. We’re working so well together, and working hard on all the issues.
“We are doing good stuff out there, and I hope people recognize that it is different this time around.”
(Jones won her seat with 1,310 votes compared to Lisa Pasin’s 1,078.)
The Times asked the CAO, what precipitated the release of the information now, and the censuring of Mayor Jones rather than Coun. Jones eight months ago?
“It is complicated,” said McClure. “You’ve got new councillors and going through what the process is for these types of things and what kind of legal advice and working through what can be done, and how does one handle trying to respond to the findings in the report?”
McClure said that the report was released to the previous council in privacy and in camera (closed) meetings.
However, unlike former complaints against previous council, the information will remain confidential.
In the first code of conduct violations that led to former CAO David Perehudoff’s early departure, the city estimated the cost to taxpayers to be more than $369,000 in wages, benefits, and legal costs.
In the second set of complaints, the city confirmed that the investigation cost taxpayers almost $50,000.
Yet, in Jones’ case, McClure confirmed that costs of legal proceedings and those associated with the investigation will not be revealed to taxpayers.
“We have that, but we’ve been advised that that is privileged information,” explained McClure. “Each investigation is on its own merits and one of the factors you’re dealing with, as you noted, that the previous ones were all within the elected officials themselves. So its different from when you’ve got an employee.”
The Privacy Act protects public employees and is why the incident was not discussed in open city council meetings or their Governance and Operations Committee meetings.
Elected officials are not offered that same protection.
Coun. Doug Wilson responded to a Times query, offering his support of Jones.
“We are a team and a member of our team acted out of line,” said Wilson. “So what should we do? We should get together, support one another and move on in a positive direction.”
Councillors Terry Martin and Bev Benson, did not respond to the question whether they thought Jones should resign, but Benson like Wilson said she was focused on moving forward.
“All I can say is that council followed all protocol and responded to this sensitive and confidential employee/council situation with the utmost respect for both parties,” said Benson.
“I am extremely keen to move forward with council business. We have a lot to do.”
The Times asked CAO McClure if he was confident that business of council and the city would not be impacted.
“I am completely confident,” he said. “They (Trail council) are very committed and it doesn’t mean they don’t disagree on items, but it’s a healthy governance model.
“They are certainly passionate about the ideas and direction that they presently want to see happening at the city, and they all work very amicably together — it’s completely different.”