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Port Clements CAO resigns over council behaviour

First one mayor quit over council’s inaction.
Kim Mushynsky (LinkedIn)

First one mayor quit over council’s inaction.

Now, under a new mayor, Port Clements is losing its chief administrative officer over council actions she calls “unethical and inappropriate.”

Kim Mushynsky filed her resignation on Sept. 19 after six years as CAO of Port Clements.

It’s a job that involves managing the village’s finances, budgets, and project studies, and Mushysnky came with experience — six years as chief financial officer for the Village of Masset, two years as site administrator for the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital, eight years as financial manager for Delmas Co-op.

But due to an attitude problem among village councillors that started in 2014 and recently grew worse, Mushynsky said she can’t continue as CAO any longer.

“I will not put myself in a position where I could potentially be held as liable for unethical and inappropriate actions taken by council,” she said in her resignation letter.

Mushynsky offered and council agreed to have her stay on in Port Clements until Oct. 31, but only to finish training the deputy clerk/treasurer to replace her.

“It’s a great town,” she said in an interview with the Observer.

“It’s got some really great people in it, who have been supportive of me, and I feel like I’ve done some good projects.”

“Sometimes it’s just an accumulation of things that reach a tipping point.”

The final straw seems to have been trouble with a $12,020 order of wood pellets for the new boiler that heats the Port Clements Multiplex.

Mayor Urs Thomas, who was elected in a March by-election, suggested the village should order a year’s supply of wood pellets from a supplier in Prince Rupert because it offered a better price than their last order, and because the pellets were of better quality.

Staff and council discussed the idea at a Sept. 5 council meeting.

At the meeting, Mushynsky said the $12,020 price seemed good, but before making the order she would need a written quote from the supplier as well as council’s permission to spend that money since it went beyond the village’s current budget.

“I will fix the budget and bring it back to council for another amendment later, but I would need that before I could even order,” she said. At the time, the village had enough wood fuel to keep the boiler going well into October.

The Observer was unable to speak with Mayor Urs Thomas about Mushynsky’s resignation by press time.

But the day after the Sept. 5 meeting, Mayor Thomas emailed the Prince Rupert supplier, Vince Amante’s Home Supplies Ltd., to say that council had agreed to buy the pellets. Thomas also offered to draft a quote for Amante to sign and fax to the village office.

Thinking the purchase was approved, Amante went ahead and ordered 44 tonnes of wood pellets from Premium Pellet in Vanderhoof, and booked trucks and a ferry to get it to Haida Gwaii.

When Mushynsky found out, she said she could not proceed with the order.

Deputy Mayor Brigid Cumming and Councillors Charleen O’Brien-Anderson and Doug Daugert later voted in a special Sept. 11 meeting to tell Amante they could not proceed with the order until proper village procedure had been followed.

According to the village’s purchasing policy, which Mayor Thomas and the new council reviewed and revised in June, all village purchases are handled either by the CAO or the superintendent of public works.

Also, any purchase between $5,000 and $15,000 requires them to try and get at least three written quotes from competing suppliers.

Thomas pointed out that the $12,020 price had not changed since council discussed it on Sept. 5, and that the original motion from that meeting said nothing about competing quotes.

That may be true, said Deputy Mayor Brigid Cumming, who raised the purchasing issue at the next regular council meeting on Sept. 18, but that doesn’t mean councillors can ignore village policy.

“Our staff our bound by it, whether or not we happen to mention it,” Cumming said.

“I have absolutely never in my life expected to hear a sitting mayor state about a quote that the village of Port Clements was expected to make payment after he had prepared it,” she added.

Several residents of Port Clements who attended the Sept. 18 meeting said they are concerned about the way council handled the issue, along with the much costlier and long-discussed question of how much repair work the village should do on Rainbow Wharf. They hoped for a good public turnout at the next Port Clements council meeting on Oct. 2.

Asked about Mushynsky’s resignation, Councillor Cumming paused and said, “I’m really sorry. I see it as a big loss for the village.”

“She was an excellent CAO.”

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