Tough questions need to be asked

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Editor:

Re: Determining if your money is spent wisely, Observer, June 3, 2011

The ongoing attempts by Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom and certain council members to downplay and discredit the efforts of the city’s finance chair Sushil Thapar are regrettable.

As Mr. Thapar clearly states in his letter regarding efforts by city administration to charge him personally for obtaining information pertinent to his portfolio, “what is the point to having the position at all?”

The primary purpose of the Freedom of Information Act is to make public bodies more accountable to the people therefore attempts to charge a fee to Coun. Thapar for his FOI request suggests that there are those within council who do not want such information revealed.

Fortunately, for the financially challenged, there exists a poor man’s FOI. It’s called Google and can be accessed on the internet for free.

It was there that I obtained some additional startling information on Quesnel’s new City Manager, John Stecyk.

In the December 2010 issue of Q-City News it was stated that Stecyk’s background in public administration was “extensive” and included “such roles as Deputy Minister of Infrastructure for the Yukon Government” as well as an array of other managerial duties.  All in all a well crafted resume.

But what was missing from all the laudatory rhetoric was the fact that Stecyk, former Yukon Highways deputy minister, had been FIRED by the government through an order-in council back in January of 2007 after federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s office revealed a number of critical areas where mismanagement of both funding, planning and strategy had occurred within the ministry of Highways and Public Works.

Citing two reports from the Yukon News (available online by Googling “John Stecyk”) I found that the audit revealed an unacceptable approach to planning and maintaining government assets. Many of the construction projects went well over their original budgets and weren’t finished on schedule.

 

Infrastructure was falling apart and inspections weren’t carried out with any consistency and

up-to-date information was lacking.

 

One of the audits most striking revelations was that work on roads and bridges had commenced without contracts being signed!

Fortunately, for Stecyk, his firing prior to a later public accounts committee hearing where government officials were grilled on the wide array of issues cited in the federal audit, meant that he didn’t have to show up and answer to the taxpayers for his alleged malfeasance.

All this begs the question as to why Quesnel’s city council would have hired Stecyk to oversee their own purse-strings given this damning report.

Was council aware of Stecyk’s former firing? If not, why didn’t Mayor Sjostrom investigate his background before hiring him at an annual cost to taxpayers of more than $100,000 plus expenses?

More importantly yet, why didn’t Stecyk reveal this controversial fact to council during the course of his interview?

These are the type of tough questions that need to be asked of those on council now making disparaging accusations regarding Coun. Thapar’s motives for demanding public accountability.

Arthur Topham

Cottonwood, B.C.