Thursday, September 04, 2008

If he's going to carry the can, somebody will want to kick it!

If Mayor Pond thought that the controversy over the hiring of consultant Tanalee Hesse was going to fade away with his declaration of ownership on it, he apparently was wrong.

The saga of municipal hiring at City Hall caught the attention of the CBC today, as the public broadcaster caught up to the news cycle and provided their own report on the events that have been under much discussion of late.

Of particular interest to Podunkians will be the growing string of comments (many of which come from far beyond Podunk) that are accumulating at the end of the website posting, comments which are providing for some very interesting interpretations of the string of events that have extended this controversial story into September now...

Prince Rupert city official's wife granted more than $100,000 in city contracts
Last Updated: Thursday, September 4, 2008 9:20 AM ET

CBC News

Documents obtained by a citizen of Prince Rupert show the wife of the city's top official was awarded $109,000 in city contracts.

The information was made public after a Prince Rupert citizen obtained it with a request made under the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

An internal city memorandum says the contracts with Tanalee Hesse, a consultant who is married to city manager Gord Howie, "appear to be contracts incurred illegally or improperly" because city council never voted on them.

Mayor Herb Pond said city council never voted on the contracts, but councillors knew about them and agreed to them in a closed-door meeting.

Pond said he had to hire Hesse because the city was struggling and needed her skills.
"Highly skilled professionals are not exactly lining up to join a paper-thin organization that's crawling its way back from bankruptcy," he said. "Yes, I feel very comfortable that I stepped in, made a decision, got the services in place to keep the city going."

Because of the possible appearance of conflict Pond said he alone handled Hesse's contract.
"There is certainly not a major breach here," he said. "I didn't benefit in any way financially. I am not socially hanging out with them. They're not in my social circle of friends. We did what we needed to do to keep the city running."

But that argument doesn't sit well with some of Prince Rupert's taxpayers.

"I don't think $109,000 worth of illegal contracts is a minor thing. To me, it's the tip of the iceberg. What else is going on?" asked local high school teacher Anna Ashley.

"I'd like to see this mess cleaned up. I'd like to see a third-party audit done. There seem to be a lot of discrepancies and a lot of weird things," said Gina Garon, who works at Custom Draperies and Blinds.

When Hesse learned the information was going to be made public, she withdrew her services and wrote a letter to the mayor saying she had "no desire to become the fodder for political cannon fire."

Calls from CBC News to both Hesse and Howie were not returned.

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