City of Nanaimo pays portion of facilitator costs

NANAIMO – No decision on whether to cover remainder of bill.

The City of Nanaimo will pay less than half of its bill for a facilitator hired to help councillors get along.

The municipality announced Tuesday council unanimously agreed in camera to pay the Integrity Group $20,000 rather than the full $48,000 invoice.

The mayor, who hired the Integrity Group, was absent from the meeting.

The press release states the $20,000 was in accordance with a 2015 agreement with the Integrity Group and “added to this amount” was $28,000 for work undertaken with the mayor.

The city has not released the 2015 agreement nor the paper trail showing authorization of the costs as requested by the News Bulletin, saying those documents are still in camera.

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

Mayor Bill McKay told the News Bulletin that council never authorized $20,000 at the beginning, saying “they authorized it yesterday,” and there was no budget for the work. The estimate for that amount was provided by the facilitator to then-city manager Ted Swabey and the mayor. McKay said he does not agree with council’s recent decision.

“A contractor has done work with us in good faith,” he said. “I followed the process that was provided to me by the previous city manager and believed that the process was being followed.”

The mayor hired the Integrity Group in June, telling the News Bulletin then that morale was at an all-time low at city hall and the business of the city was not getting done. He also said council was in favour of the process, which was about changing relationships.

It was expected to cost up to $50,000.

By September, the mayor said the cost had hit $50,000 for the first phase.

It was a number he said came from Swabey, and the mayor authorized the increase, which had to do with additional hours of work. By January, council had put the work on hold to get information on costs and results of the contract.

McKay said it was his initiative to prevent an intervention by WorkSafeB.C. He had an employee “begging” for a change in behavior.

“I took it upon myself to initiate this process to show staff, to show my city manager and his staff, that council was taking proactive steps to create a safe and respectful workplace for them,” he said, later adding that council was not informed about changing costs, but it was not their initiative to approve.

“It was the mayor as the CEO of the organization trying to take proactive steps to prevent a WorkSafe investigation.”

Bestwick said in some cases the mayor can make spending decisions on his own, but there is a procurement policy for contracts and agreements and in this circumstance the understanding was the work was a $20,000 task.

“We are doing what our citizens would wish for us to do and that is to ensure accountability for the work that was undertaken,” Bestwick said, adding there was value to the work with Integrity Group and there are positive results. “If anybody is casually observing and watching they’d agree this council is making progress,” he said.

Integrity Group’s work with city council is now complete.