Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula takes exception to Coun. Jon Ambler’s claim that he failed to identify the problem and concerns about cronyism with respect to his idea to form a citizen finance committee.
Ambler made the comment after recently announcing he is gunning for the mayor’s seat in the Nov. 15 civic election.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Ambler has misrepresented the facts concerning the creation, makeup and function of this committee,” said Jangula, who is seeking a second term as mayor.
He first proposed the committee idea about a year ago, but it was shot down by council. Ambler did not see the sense in seeking out non-elected people to perform council’s job, suggesting a citizen committee might have its own agenda.
He recalls Jangula presented the idea at the last-minute of a council meeting.
“We don’t do business like that at council,” Ambler said. “Usually there’s a complete explanation, and then we can debate on it in an informed way, and then make a decision. This idea was not explained at all. When we asked the mayor to describe what problem that this endeavour was going to solve, he couldn’t state what the problem was.”
Jangula would like to have an advisory committee consist of three community professionals such as accountants, along with senior city staff (the CAO and CFO) and two councillors — as approved by Courtenay council. The positions would be voluntary.
“The creation of this committee was never about identifying the problem, it’s all about governance and sound decisions for our community,” Jangula said, noting accredited professionals such as CGAs and CPAs have strict codes of conduct. “To suggest cronyism would be a great disappointment to those organizations and professionals that we all rely on for important decisions and assistance every day.”
The committee would review and provide recommendations concerning short- and long-term financial plans and budgets. It would also provide input during the budget process, with recommendations for core services and capital projects.
Members would also provide council with comment and recommendations on any other relevant financial matters.
Jangula said such committees exist in municipalities throughout Canada, and are recognized as a valuable contributor to councils, city staff and taxpayers.
“This is not about cronyism,” Jangula said. “This is all about providing council with input and recommendations to allow them to make the best, informed decisions on important financial matters that affect the city, and ultimately our taxpayers, all done at no cost.”
Ambler disagrees, noting committee members would need to be trained, which takes staff time.
“I don’t mind the cost if you’ve identified the problem,” Ambler said.
“You can’t have solutions ahead of problems.”
He recalls Jangula’s proposal was not moved.
“Everyone who spoke was concerned about cronyism,” Ambler said, noting the people have elected six councillors to help the mayor on budget decisions. “I’m most unwilling to have people not responsible to our citizens with their hands on the city’s budget…It was a last-minute idea, and it failed miserably.”
Two weeks later, Ambler brought forward an idea called Citizen Budget, an online tool that enables people to provide feedback on budget priorities.