Bill from Integrity Group remains unpaid by City of Nanaimo

NANAIMO – City council and staff not satisfied by information on invoices from consulting group.

The City of Nanaimo continues to withhold payment of $28,000 for a facilitator, as officials wait for invoice details about who authorized the expense.

The city has not fully paid the Integrity Group, hired by the mayor last year to address an employee complaint and help council get along. Still owed is $28,000.

The city announced in February that council agreed to pay the Integrity Group $20,000 instead of the $48,000 total, citing the former was in accordance with a 2015 agreement and “added to this amount” was $28,000 for work with the mayor.

Coun. Bill Bestwick, then council spokesman, told the News Bulletin the mayor has been asked to provide information on the additional expenditure and no decision has been made on whether the city will pay the rest of the cost.

More than a month later, city officials are still asking questions and the bill is unpaid.

There was no contract signed – something city officials agree – but Victor Mema, the city’s director of finance, said that is a moot point because the city engaged the Integrity Group and agreed through its actions. What he’s looking to determine, in a standard process, is who authorized the work. He has found some form of authorization for $20,000 – in a terms of reference – but said he has nothing to go by for $28,000 and has asked the Integrity Group for help on whom he can ask about it internally.

City manager Tracy Samra said some invoices pertain to work with human resources for training courses and consultation on respectful workplace policy implementation, unrelated to work with council and she asked for clarification to separate costs into different files.

According to Samra, the reason for a request for information from the mayor and Integrity Group is because the usual practice is for a proposal to be signed off by the manager of purchasing and stores and for a contract that requires invoices every 30 days.

Invoices would be reviewed, signed off and paid, but that didn’t happen, she said. The city received 12 months’ worth of invoices.

Samra said she is hopeful both parties will provide the information needed, adding that it shouldn’t be that difficult.

Coun. Gord Fuller also says he has questions and believes it should be the mayor – not council – who pays the amount owing to the Integrity Group because he initiated the furtherance of the contract without council’s knowledge.

Coun. Jerry Hong said it was supposed to be a project for council to work together and if it’s anything else, he’s not interested in paying.

Mayor Bill McKay just wants council to pay the bill.

He argues council did not authorize any amount for the work with Integrity Group and had no idea how much it was going to cost, but all members participated in the process that he and the former city manager initiated.

“The fact was, could the paperwork have been done a little neater? Absolutely, but I trust my people to do their jobs,” McKay said. “For people to now be full of righteous indignation that they didn’t approve it, then why did you participate? You knew the process was going on, you knew we needed it and you all embraced it to the point that the hours were significantly ballooned. We went from 65 hours to about 165 hours.”

According to McKay, the work was to address council behavior and a complaint from the former city manager, who felt bullied and harassed, and McKay relied on his duties under the B.C. Community Charter on assisting in the peace, order and good government of the municipality.

When asked why he doesn’t address the points of clarification being called for, McKay said it wouldn’t make a difference. The work with the Integrity Group is now being portrayed as a “witch hunt” when what it was meant to do was build relationships.

McKay doesn’t believe he’ll be on the hook for the money for Integrity Group, but in not paying the bill, “they could sue us.”