A resident’s request for greater transparency from Trail city council resulted in the release of confidential documents from a third-party investigation on a council-staff conflict.
Like the June 28 council meeting, Trail resident Lizette Tucker virtually attended Public Question Period at a July 19 council meeting to ask three follow-up questions regarding the code of conduct complaint filed by Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff against Coun. Robert Cacchioni.
Corporate Administrator Michelle McIsaac fielded the first two questions regarding additional and subsequent costs to the city for the CAO settlement.
McIsaac noted that the $40,000 to $50,000 estimate for legal fees from the June 28 meeting actually totaled approximately $67,500. Also that the city’s pending costs include salary adjustments related to the redistribution of the CAO’s responsibilities that are estimated at $5,300 monthly until a new CAO is hired.
The third question was in reference to a June 28 motion made by Counc. Sandy Santori to release the third-party Southern Butler Price Report to the public. However, it was defeated 4-3 after being voted down by councillors Cacchioni, Carol Dobie, Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson, and Colleen Jones.
It read: “Do the four councillors who voted against the release of more information believe that the voting public will simply ignore their attempt to stifle transparency? It leaves the public wondering…what is being hidden from us?”
The question gave the four councillors an opportunity to explain that throughout the investigation, they were required to sign confidentiality agreements, and were simply upholding their part of a sworn oath.
“What we had to go through, from the time we were told we were going to be interviewed, the interviewer reminded us about confidentiality, we were told that by the mayor before we went in to the interviews,” said Coun. Dobie. “We had to sign a release to get our copy of the report, which was watermarked so that the level of confidentiality could be protected in case any of us decided to copy it.
“So hearing all that, I think we took our responsibility of confidentiality very seriously.”
In light of the agreement, it was surprising that Coun. Santori, Coun. Paul Butler and Mayor Lisa Pasin attempted to breach that vow of confidentiality by voting to release the report.
When asked why a motion was made to make the report public, Mayor Pasin explained that during the council meeting two issues were conflated with respect to the release of the confidential documents.
“It was the lawyers recommendation to have a confidentiality agreement signed, and although several councillors kept referring to the ‘mayor’ aspect, it was the city’s legal council that put that request forward, it was not the mayor.
“The second issue is there is a difference between releasing information and gossiping or speaking about it out of turn in the public realm. So having an agreed upon release of information for transparency is what was put forward and voted against by a majority of council.”
According to Pasin, council has had the time to receive and analyze the report, and, for complete transparency, can now go ahead and share it with the public.
Ironically, it was Counc. Cacchioni, although reluctant to release the full 26 pages, who made a motion to release the ‘findings and recommendations’ of the investigation.
“Some of this particular information is really personal,” said Cacchioni. “I certainly don’t want it out there in terms of other people. I could care less what they say about me, but I was concerned about what they say about other people in this particular documentation.”
After the meeting, Cacchioni, who has served on council for 18 years, also told the Times that he was never afforded a chance to come to an informal resolution with the CAO.
“There was no opportunity for either me or council to come together with me or David and provide some sort of resolution prior to us having to go through this.”
For Cacchioni, Mayor Pasin, and Trail tax payers, the legal implications of the code of conduct complaint was serious enough to warrant legal advice and come to a settlement with Perehudoff.
“I think there is more that could be done as far as transparency on this matter,” said Pasin. “This is a human resources matter so we obviously have to be mindful of the potential damage, and what does that look like for people who are inadvertently or directly affected by this.
“That being said, there is an accountability piece where this is costing the city a considerable amount of money and loss of personnel, and that’s all been reported in the public domain and it will further be reported as all our finances are publicly available.”
Coun. Jones also spoke passionately about council’s collective duties, the growing animosity within council, and where their allegiances should lie.
“I’m glad the motion has been made to put this report out there,” said Jones. “I honestly hope that people do read it and understand exactly what we’ve been going through since Jan. 25 of 2021.
“It has not been a comfortable position for any of us. I guess that’s the business of doing business with city council and my hope is we can work through this and move on and start working for the people in our community; and start moving their issues forward like we’re suppose to be doing.”
A Times’ request to city staff to release the findings and recommendations is still pending.
“I am having the report redacted by our lawyers,” McIsaac replied in an email. “But as there is another party involved in the investigative report (Perehudoff), I have to consult with him further about its release.”