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Posted: June 24, 2019

Is council being ignored by the Mayor and CAO?

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet and the same appears to be true at Cranbrook City Hall where the mayor and senior manager are ignoring council to pursue an agenda of their own.

As a result, the chances of a junior hockey season being played in Cranbrook in the upcoming season appear to be slim to none. Mayor Lee Pratt accuses the local media of publishing “mistruths” on the matter. A local newspaper columnist says the mayor won’t talk to him despite numerous attempts he’s made to contact him.

Meanwhile, Pratt has rebuffed a local group of prominent citizens that worked for months to bring a new junior team to town and that group has accused the city of issuing “false statements” on the matter. And while all of this has been happening council – the public’s elected representatives – has largely been left on the sidelines to watch the show.

So, who’s running Cranbrook?

The way it’s supposed to work is that the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and his staff run the city but take advice from the mayor and council in doing so. But in Cranbrook this system appears to have broken down with the CAO (David Kim) and Mayor Pratt running the show with as little input from council as possible.

In other words, city government in Cranbrook has been highjacked by a highly paid and authoritarian CAO and a mayor who heavily relies on him because he’s in over his head. I realize these are serious allegations, but I’ll explain why I think this way.

I first became aware of this several months back when someone stuffed an anonymous note into my mailbox alleging councillors were being kept out of the loop in city affairs, staff morale was low and many senior staff feared being fired.

Later I came across court proceedings where a former manager paid $107,657 annually was fired and alleged that CAO Kim’s management style amounted to “intimidating and harassing” staff. The city did not file a statement of defence in the matter and on April 24, 2017 the legal action was dropped indicating an out-of-court settlement. As for the size of the settlement on a salary of more than $100,000, you do the math.

Considering the aforementioned information, it’s easier to understand why the city dealt with the hockey situation in such a shabby manner. But don’t take it from me. Take it from a letter submitted to city councillors by the investor group trying to bring junior hockey back to Cranbrook this fall. The group consists of the following: Colin Sinclair, Kevin Epp, Scott Niedermayer, Daryl Cuthill, Trevor Gordon, Jason Meisner and Mark Salvador.

From the get-go, the group is adamant that Mayor Pratt was only interested in having a BC Hockey League (BCHL) team in Cranbrook even though that would mean no junior hockey in town this fall and the city in danger of forgoing revenue still owed to it by the new owners of the Kootenay ICE located in Winnipeg.

“The mayor was clear in those meetings that the City of Cranbrook was not interested in Junior B hockey and was interested in Junior A hockey only, specifically the BCHL,” the letter states. The letter goes on to say that “council as whole was excluded from this process” and that only the mayor, the CAO and one other city manager was involved in the decision.

So, there you have it, a clear example of when it comes to key city decisions in Cranbrook, the Mayor and the CAO decide and council is left in the dark to grow mushrooms.

Personally, I find this situation very distressing and I’m amazed why only one councillor has spoken up to any degree on this while the others remain mostly silent. Then again, it seems the civic culture in Cranbrook has always been like this because I don’t see any great outcry from the public either.

Not even over the CAO’s enormous salary or the $50,000 signing bonus based on his past “performance.” And as a resident of Calgary, he doesn’t even live in Cranbrook full time!

The modus operandi in the Key City is “let the Mayor handle it.” And if he has any questions, he can always ask the CAO. Council is only a rubber stamp and decoration. Shame on you Cranbrook!

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a retired (by the voters) former city councillor. He has become disillusioned with all things political or municipal.

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