Town council invites ministry, OPP to future meeting to discuss audit request

 

Town hall summerBy Ron Giofu

 

Town council has invited Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing officials and representatives of the Ontario Provincial Police to meet with them over concerns over the current financial review and the previous police investigation.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she was of the understanding that all aspects of the town’s finances weren’t investigated by the OPP and voiced concerns about that Monday night. She wanted a report from the OPP on what was investigated and how deep it went.

“It’s very important our residents know about this,” Pouget.

Pouget also took exception to the review not being an audit, something she said was asked for Jan. 20 and was referred to on many occasions by council members and Chief Administrative Officer Mike Phipps. Pouget said it was long assumed by herself, Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland and Councillor Bart DiPasquale that a full audit was being done rather than a municipal financial practices review, the latter being underway.

“Three of us did not know there was not an audit,” Pouget exclaimed.

No motion took place to rescind the request for an audit, she continued, so “that motion still stands.” She reiterated her desire for an audit.

“I still want an audit. Which council members changed their minds and don’t want an audit anymore?” she asked.

Pouget said council members were not corrected when asked about the progress of an audit adding that a memo from Phipps used the term audit six times.

“When did anyone ever tell this council we would not have an audit?” she pressed.

Directing her comments at Phipps, Pouget added that “not once did you tell us this is not an audit. Not once.”

Phipps acknowledged that council passed the motion requesting the audit in January with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) writing back to the town in February offering to do a management practices financial review once the OPP investigation was over. He added that council passed a motion March 24 to approve the review and that his report that night said it was a financial practices review “at least three times.”

The MMAH wanted further assurances that is what the town wanted, Phipps added, with the CAO stating he returned to council at the ministry’s request in May to confirm if that is what the elected body wanted. He said some members of council were “indignant” that he made such a request again.

“I don’t know what some on council need,” he added. “The ministry said no to an audit. They offered to do a financial practices review.”

Councillor John Sutton said the OPP investigation showed there was no malfeasance or money missing and that the objectives remain the same. Sutton said they all want to know how reserves were spent and how things were changed without council’s knowledge. He added he wanted factual information before he laid blame or pointed fingers.

“I don’t understand Councillor Pouget’s frustration on this,” said Councillor Bob Pillon.

Pillon said a letter from the MMAH offered a financial practices review and “that’s what we’ve talked about since then.”

Sutherland said it was his goal to have an audit and wanted a full investigation of the town’s books by the ministry.

“I didn’t want to do just a review,” the deputy mayor stated.

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