Who is watching the store?

We often see parallels with Wolfville in stories around the province. We know that if irregularities are happening here, they are happening elsewhere as well, although it seems you need to get the ombudsman or the provincial auditor involved before it gets press coverage. The latest narrative is from Shelburne. [emph ours]

There are problems with how the South West Shore Development Authority handles public money, chief executive officer Frank Anderson appears to be in a conflict of interest and board members acted as a “rubber stamp” for his actions, the provincial ombudsman says in a report released Tuesday.

Ombudsman Dwight Bishop also said the province has compounded problems at the regional development authority.

Bishop said the matters he detailed after a year-long investigation were significant. The province launched an audit of the authority about two weeks ago.

“I was surprised at the number of issues that came forward,” he said Tuesday in Halifax.

It is indeed a can of worms with all kinds of improper goings on. One wonders if they had any legal advice and if so what kind! You can read the details in the CH article . They include overstepping of bounds by Anderson, the [probably well paid] CEO of the association.

Anderson is the chief executive of the association and executive director of the Yarmouth Area Industrial Commission. They also have common board members and share facilities.

Bishop said Anderson’s position with the commission seems to violate the authority’s own conflict-of-interest policy.

Bishop’s report said the commission loaned $200,000 to the association in 2004, $300,000 in 2005, $300,000 in 2006 and $150,000 in 2007. Bishop said Anderson told investigators that the 2007 loan, which was repaid, was made because the association was short on cash.

Board members said they only found out about the transfer after the fact. Bishop said such transactions without board approval were “troublesome.”

Bishop also said it wasn’t clear how Anderson was paid. Anderson told investigators the authority pays his salary, and the commission contributes to the authority’s core funding in lieu of paying for his services.

Bishop could get no documents on the arrangement, which Anderson apparently negotiates himself.

That’s a pretty sweet deal, writing your own contract, if it is a legal contract at all, but would that matter to him as long as the money goes into his account every month?.

Bishop said Anderson’s salary should be transparent.

Anderson wasn’t commenting Tuesday. He said he and others have to finish reading the 14-page report, plus appendixes, first.

“We just got it,” Anderson said. “The board will issue some sort of statement. The board issues statements, I don’t.

“It’s stamped all over, confidential, and it’s dated Friday the 19th (of February) and yet Mr. Bishop . . . has now made the thing public,” Anderson said, without making further comment.

We think all salaries over a certain amount paid with taxpayers’ money should be made public. From the report itself:

Correspondence from SWSDA CEO and Chair of the YAIC indicated that the arrangement is a verbal agreement that started a number of years ago (no date specified), and is done on a year to year basis.

In response to the consultative document, minutes from a May 2003 SWSDA Board meeting and personnel committee report indicate the RDA requested the YAIC to contribute funds towards the CEO’s salary and for the YAIC to contribute to RRSPs to compensate the CEO for past work. No further documentation has been provided to support decisions made previous to 2003 or after. The SWSDA Executive’s lack of knowledge surrounding this agreement raises concerns regarding the transparency of decisions and accountability at the senior level of the organization. It is not clear who continues to negotiate this agreement or its parameters. The matter of the relationship between the two entities, YAIC’s contribution, and how the CEO is compensated has not been explained to our satisfaction.

Some of our readers say we are too subtle but do we have to knock people on the head to see the similarity between this situation and the CAO contract issue here in Wolfville? The details differ but the lack of transparency, the deviation from the straight and narrow of policy and the over reaching of authority is the same.  It makes one wonder what the connections are hidden under the surface. In the Shelbune case there is this one that raises an eyebrow.

Hurlburt, the former Yarmouth MLA, is a business partner of Anderson’s. The two are listed as partners in the real estate holding company Yarco Holdings.

Hurlburt recently resigned over questions about his expenses.

And how did this situation come to be exposed? Citizen complaints!

Bishop’s report, which comes after Shelburne-area residents made complaints about the authority to his office, makes a dozen recommendations. …

The recommendations call for three audits — on the sale of the youth centre, the maintenance fund and associated interest; whether taxpayers are getting value for money; and authority governance. …

With Brian Medel, Yarmouth Bureau [Chronicle Herald]

We could wish for an independent audit of Wolfville. Are taxpayers getting value for money. Is Town governance according to Hoyle?

Who is watching the municipal store? There was talk at one time [2008] of having an Municipal Auditor General [PDF]who would have oversight of municipal dealings. And legislation was passed to allow itHRM now has its own. It is time the spending of other municipalities had the same scrutiny. Perhaps it takes more citizens complaining to the Ombudsman?

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3 responses to “Who is watching the store?

  1. All these “irregularities” are pretty annoying and I doubt the public will ever know half the truth. I don’t think, however, that they explain much more than the most tiny fraction of the economic damage that has been wrought by woolly-headed politicians and their special-interest-group cronies.

    $13 billion and growing… not to mention the municipal mess.

    Nova Scotia should reflect a while on Greece. A combination of too much government and spine-sapping unionism has turned the Greek economy into yet another ancient ruin.

    So long as Nova Scotian’s look to government to provide solutions, our situation will only get worse. Government is the problem, not the solution.

    I was just reading some of the “Back to Balance” guff — including the Wolfville contribution. There is the odd useful idea but it is diluted by so much nonsense that I almost cried.

    If I could find a honest politician with an ounce of analytical ability, I might be tempted to engage in the discussion. But if government had such people, they wouldn’t need me to explain that which is blatantly obvious.

    NS politics can’t seem to rise above the level of a TV popularity contest. I guess we shouldn’t expect the process to select honest analytical thinkers and problem solvers. And so the circus goes on…

  2. SDA is an interesting site. Indeed, socialist politicians are a nefarious bunch when they breed debilitating citizen dependency. There is a world of difference between a hand up and a hand out.