CONFLICTING ACTIONS CREATE DISTRUST
Submitted by Rick Williamson
#4 of Rick’s list of the Boards inappropriate actions:
After I issued the Update with Carleton Toews‘ campaign material, a Laker reminded me of an e-mail exchange that I had with Toews.
Toews had sent an email to several Lakers and in that e-mail he said: “DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION about the Park Management …. Ask it, write a Commissioner or the Board and you will get an answer”. Based, on this commitment, I e-mailed Toews earlier in 2014 asking him to explain a public statement that he had made as part of his announcement that he is seeking re-election. Toews replied to my question: As I have requested in the past please do not email me, I ask that you would not include me in your Newsletter.
So, if I’m not supposed to include him in my “newsletter”, why did Toews accept my offer to pass on his latest campaign material? Puzzling!
Given he asked me to pass on his campaign material, I must assume that Toews is now OK with me mentioning him in my “newsletter”, so, this Update is all about Commissioner Toews and will detail an action by him that, in my opinion, is so inappropriate and so “not in the best interests of the Community” that it makes my “Spider sense” tingle.
I’ll make some Editorial Comments and these will be noted as “EC”.
In Early 2013, Chair Peter had, what I thought was a great idea – he created the Core Services Committee (CSC) with a mandate to look at ways to reduce expenses. To me, having a fresh set of eyes reviewing an organization’s expenditures and asking “Why are you doing this and spending these $$?” is a good exercise. It is done in the corporate world all the time. Often outside contractors specializing in these types of reviews are hired, but given the size of the Park and the tight budget, Peter wisely chose to not bring in outside contractors. Instead he appointed Commissioners McCrea (named CSC Chair) and Toews (named CSC Vice-Chair).
The CSC was to have recommendations to the Board in time for the 2014 budget preparation which typically would be finalized in late November 2013.
The CSC never came up with any cost savings recommendations thanks to Toews, with support from 3 other Commissioners, and here is why:
Included in the September 11, 2013 Meeting Agenda Package (Agenda item 9(a)) is an email from Commissioner Toews recommending that the CSC be dissolved. This email is dated August 21, 2013 and is addressed to Chair Peter and Ron Campbell, CAO – not to CSC Chair McCrea. Toews rationale for dissolving the CSC is that it puts a demand on Staff time. He also states that the internal review by Staff Management have proven that effective reviews of expenses and areas of cost saving have been and are continually initiated by Staff.
(EC – remember this “internal review by Staff” comment by Toews. In other words, Toews is saying there is no need for the CSC (a fresh, independent set of eyes) to look at expenses as Staff has already done a review and Toews is happy with what Staff has come up with after Staff has reviewed its own work. This is not a sound business approach in my book – having Staff do self-reviews and then convincing the boss, or in this case, Toews, that everything is OK so no need to look further.)
Following are comments made at the Sept. 11, 2013 Board meeting when Toews recommendation was discussed:
(For the following: comments attributed to individuals are not necessarily direct quotes, but I believe that I have captured the essence of what was said.)
Toews: The CSC should be dissolved. Staff has defined the Core Services and results to date have shown that Staff has done an excellent job in cost savings. (EC – So Staff defined what is “core”, not the CSC? Seems backwards to me. Toews gave no examples of these cost savings to support his statement, so I must assume that he simply took Staff’s word for it.)
Shanks: Did you discuss this dissolution motion with McCrea, CSC Chair? Toews: No (EC – this is total disrespect of McCrea and the organization of the Committee where the 2nd in command, bypasses the Committee Chair and goes straight to the Board Chair.)
Toews: We have an amazing staff and CAO. We can’t look at files without the CAO’s approval. (EC – WHAT!!! Commissioners need the CAO’s approval to look at public Park documents? Who is in charge here?)
McCrea: The CSC had reached a point where the next step was to look at various departments working out of the office.
Here are some relevant dates:
Aug. 21: The Park’s Accountant is arrested and charged with defrauding his former employer, SFU, out of $850,000. (EC – he later pleaded guilty.)
Aug. 21: Toews, who as Board Vice-Chair has cheque signing authority, resigns from CSC and submits his recommendation (see above) to dissolve the CSC to Peter and Campbell. At this point, McCrea is unaware of Toews recommendation.
Aug. 22: The Board issues a Press release advising that the Park’s Accountant is on leave and that Staff has “completed a thorough review” of accounts, etc. and everything is OK. (EC – As was revealed in 2014, this was not true as the former Accountant actually defrauded the Park of funds. So this Staff “thorough review” turned out to be flawed. Given this fact, how much faith can we put in the “internal review by Staff” (see above) that Toews claimed warranted dissolving the CSC?)
Sept. 2: McCrea, unaware of the pending dissolution of the CSC, puts in a request to to Staff to review the cheque register (EC – this is a list of all cheques paid showing who was paid and what the $$ amount is.)
Sept. 6: The Sept. 11, 2013 Meeting Agenda Package is posted, so now McCrea sees Toews recommendation to dissolve the CSC for the first time.
Sept. 11: Board meeting – The motion to dissolve the CSC was approved by Hall, Peter, Skonberg & Toews. McCrea, Payeur & Shanks opposed dissolving the CSC.
(EC – interesting that Peter creates the CSC, but then votes to dissolve it before the CSC has come up with any recommendations.)
(EC – the above are facts that may make you ask “Hmmm?” Toews is Board Vice Chair and so, has co-signing authority for cheques. The media release announcing that the Park’s Accountant has been charged with fraud is dated Aug. 21 and was issued on the 22nd. The media release says Staff has reviewed things and all is OK. Toews resigns from CSC on Aug. 21 before CSC reviews departments working out of the Office.
Given what has gone on, you can decide how you feel about this, but here is my take on all of the above:
First, the entire process shows a complete lack of respect by Toews. Toews disrespected McCrea, The Committee and basic “chain of command” reporting within the organization.
Even more inappropriate is the fact that these 4 Commissioners, including Hall & Toews, actually voted to dissolve the CSC, especially given the recent revelations about the Park’s Accountant. Common sense says that it is a necessary precaution to have a fresh set of eyes look at financial info when your accountant has been put in jail and charged with defrauding his former employer.
For Toews to suggest that is sufficient for Staff to police itself in cost savings measures makes no sense to me as Staff has a vested interest in ensuring things remain as they currently are. Any cost cutting could result in job loss, so of course Staff may unlikely to come up with any savings that are substantial. Remember, Toews did not give any examples of Staff initiated cost saving. He makes a general statement but offered nothing to support it. 3 other Commissioners obviously bought what Toews said as they voted to dissolve the CSC.)
A big responsibility of every Park Commissioner is ensuring the financial health of the Park. Given the above, do you think Carleton Toews has met that responsibility sufficiently to warrant being re-elected?