City Council again at odds over press release

Quesnel city council, Mary Sjostrom, Mayor, Ron Paull, Sushil Thapar, in-camera,

Some members of council are once again butting heads after a city statement was released praising city staff.

“This is blatant misuse of city staff,” councillor and mayoral candidate Ron Paull said.

Late Thursday the City of Quesnel released a statement praising staff for “the many positives that have been achieved over the past year.” (For the press release version, See PAGE A2.)

“The progress we’ve been making all starts with having a great vision and a realistic strategic plan, both of which are supported by positive, respectful leaders and dedicated loyal staff.”

Shortly after its release, Mayor Mary Sjostrom defended council’s decision to highlight “staff’s hard work.”

“It’s pretty simple,” she said.

“After reviewing our goals and objectives we were very pleased with staff and wanted to communicate that.”

The decision was then made to direct staff to put out the letter of gratitude. A decision Paull criticized city manager John Stecyk for following.

“He should have stopped this thing in its tracks,” Paull said.

“He should have stood up for his staff and refused to let the mayor and council use them for their own political gain.”

“Council directed it be put out,” Stecyk said.

“Administration follows council direction.”

Sjostrom acknowledged not all council members were in attendance during the decision, but said all were invited.

“Be at the table when decisions are made if you want to criticize,” she said.

Coun. Mike Cave agreed.

“I, personally had to use a vacation day to attend that meeting,” he said.

“As I have unfortunately had to learn, when you miss a meeting when a decision is made, you have to live with the decision.”

But Coun. Paull said while he “may have been born at night, he wasn’t born yesterday.” Noting the meeting was a closed meeting and in his opinion did not fit the criteria of “in-camera meeting” (land, labour, legal).

“I believe they hid behind the guise of having an in-camera meeting to discuss staff performance and they used that guise to conveniently come up with a wonderful list of accomplishments over the past year and use staff as the reason to trump up those accomplishments 27 days from the election,” he said.

Coun. Sushil Thapar said, he too, chose not to attend the meeting.

“Once again four or five controlled members of council endorse a plan that is breaking the city’s own communication policy,” he said.

“The mayor and her controlled part of council have no right to use the taxpayers money for their election propaganda.”

But Sjostrom and the majority of council (Cave, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Coralee Oakes and Peter Couldwell) maintain the release was done in good faith.

“It’s unfortunate two members of council do not feel included but they “chose” not to attend the meeting after looking at the agenda and this is not the first time they have chosen not to attend,” Roodenburg said.

“Why do others always want to be negative and not share with the many successes?” Couldwell questioned.

But Paull persisted, labeling it “self-promotion” and an “unfair advantage to the incumbent candidates and an unfair advantage to the new candidates.”

Councillor candidate, Trevor Guldbransen agreed.

“I think city staff and the people of Quesnel can see through this news release for what it is worth,” he said.

“The incumbents are running scared. If you want to praise your staff for a job well done you do it on a regular basis or even daily and most times you do it personally and then it is more meaningful.”

For her part, Sjostrom maintains the need to recognize the city’s most valuable asset: “the people.”

“I stand behind council’s decision and staff,” she said.