Tag Archives: ombudsman

June 2016 – Celebrating 20 years of Publishing!

may 2016

Managing Editor: Dan Guetre

News Writers: Marianne Curtis and Dan Guetre

Columnists: Lee Guetre, Peter Friesen, Anni Markmann, Peter Martins

Production and design: Dan Guetre, Myriam Dyck, and Monica Guetre

Advertising: Karen Jorgenson and Dan Guetre

CONTACT

Dan Guetre: Editor, publisher, owner

editor@dawsontrail.ca

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Marianne Curtis: journalist 

mariannecurtis@dawsontrail.ca

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Karen Jorgenson, Sales 

sales@dawsontrail.ca

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La Broquerie council denies allegations

 

By Marianne Curtis

   The RM of La Broquerie council has officially denied allegations that they obtained private information regarding the employment of a previous employee without her permission and leaked it to the media.

   In a statement issued October 6, the RM of La Broquerie council publicly released their response to an investigation launched by the Ombudsman back in August. The investigation was launched after Lori Wood made a complaint alleging that the municipality and the reeve obtained and leaked her private information to a local radio station.

   The municipal council responded by saying that they have never obtained Lori Wood’s contract from the District of Stewart, British Columbia and therefore could not disclose a document that the Municipality never possessed, says the statement by council.

   Furthermore, the municipality says that until the District of Stewart contacted them looking for Wood after she did not come to work, the RM of La Broquerie was not aware that she was working there.

   “The Municipality was only aware that Lori Wood was on a paid leave of absence supported by a doctor’s note,” stated the municipality.

   An email provided by the RM of La Broquerie backs up the municipality’s claim.

   “Reeve Marielle Wiebe arid I discussed timing of Lori Woods employment with the District of Stewart on a couple of occasions, but at no time did the District of Stewart ever forward any information about Lori Wood’s employment contract or any other information from her personnel file,” stated the letter from Angela Danuser, Mayor of the District of Stewart. “At no lime was there ever a request for such information, if there was, this request would have gone through the formal freedom of information process.”     

   The RM of La Broquerie also denies allegations that the reeve was not in conflict of interest in relation even though she was named in the complaint yet she participated in the in-camera discussions.

    “There are no money issues benefiting any member of council and no conflict of interest issues exist,” stated council.

   The RM of La Broquerie council is still waiting for the Ombudsman to conclude this particular investigation.

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Ombudsman clarifies report on La Broquerie

By Marianne Curtis

   According to the Manitoba Ombudsman’s office, information recently released by the RM of La Broquerie pertaining to a recent investigation is in fact a report filled with recommendations.

   The Ombudsman’s Office has gone on record to clarify some confusion pertaining to the release of a recent report by the RM of La Broquerie.

   Last month, the Dawson Trail Dispatch, several residents and even members of the RM of La Broquerie council voiced confusion pertaining to a recent report released by the municipality.

   Reeve Marielle Wiebe released the information to the public as a “report”, however it had several recommendations and questions making it appear to be a letter to some members of council. Further confusion was added when the Ombudsman’s office itself stated to media that the investigation was ongoing and they still could not comment.

   Gail Perry, with the Manitoba Ombudsman, has confirmed that the document dated July 5 from her office “is the ombudsman’s report”.

   “The Ombudsman’s investigation has been completed as outlined in the report to Council,” stated Perry. “In the report we requested certain information from the R.M. and we are awaiting a response. After Council responds to the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman will report to the complainant about the result of the investigation.”

   She added that the Ombudsman may report publicly upon the completion of a particular case but investigation is done in private.

   “It has been the Ombudsman’s practice not to report publicly in circumstances where we are awaiting a response to the Ombudsman’s report,” she explained.  “However, once council has considered the report at the council meeting as required by the Act, it is in the council’s discretion whether or not it will release the report it received.”

   The report cited several issues within the municipality and the ombudsman made a number of recommendations. This includes ensuring that the builders who constructed a daycare center in La Broquerie remove a home that is still located on the property in contravention of the building bylaw and rezoning of one of the councilor’s properties after he constructed a dairy barn on rural residentially zoned property.

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La Broquerie reeve under investigation

By Marianne Curtis

   The Ombudsman may have completed one investigation into the actions of the RM of La Broquerie council but they have also launched another. On August 11 council was officially informed that an investigation has been launched into its actions under the Freedom of Information and Protection Act (FIPPA).

   When council met for their regularly scheduled meeting at the beginning of August, they were forced to go into camera to discuss “ombudsman issues”. When council came out of camera it passed a resolution to respond to a letter from the Ombudsman dated August 6.

   While the Ombudsman office can not discuss matters under investigation, a letter obtained by the Dawson Trail Dispatch confirms that two new cases have been opened under FIPPA. The cases stem from allegations that Reeve Marielle Wiebe collected personal information on a former employee and used that information publicly.

   Former administrator Lori Wood confirmed that she made the complaint after private employment information was obtained by the municipality and allegedly released to the public without her knowledge.

   The accusation stems from a radio broadcast that was aired on a Steinbach radio station back in May. In the broadcast four of Wood’s former employers were interviewed and the piece attacked her credibility. The radio station was included in the complaint but the Ombudsman does not investigate privately owned corporations.

   “The radio station did not contact me at all,” stated Wood. “The way they set up the sound bites to air was very unprofessional and it shows a lack of integrity by all those involved.”

   While FIPPA cannot investigate the radio station, they are investigating the reeve and looking into the municipality’s role in how the media received private information. In her complaint, Wood alleges that the reeve obtained an employment contract from the District of Stewart in BC without her knowledge and leaked it to the media.

   “I discovered that my personal employment information was obtained by the reeve without my knowledge, and it was then shared with local media in a slanderous way,” explained Wood. “Unfortunately for the Reeve, the employment contract from Stewart also made its way to another individual who saw it. Neither the reeve nor the public should have had access to that information nor was there any reason for her to have it.”

   Three other former employers were also contacted without her knowledge or permission and the information was used “in a malicious manner”, accuses the complainant.

   Allegations of conflict of interest have arisen based on how the municipality is handling this investigation. According to the minutes, Wiebe was at the meeting, but not as chairperson. They also show that after coming out of the in-camera session, two resolutions were put on the table. A recorded vote was taken on one and as reeve, Wiebe voted. Council then voted to respond to the ombudsman while, according to council minutes, Wiebe remained in her seat as reeve. The minutes do not reflect if Wiebe voted on the matter.

      The Municipal Act states that if a councilor or reeve is in conflict of interest they must remove themselves from the table and not participate in the discussion. When an issue involves a matter to be discussed in camera, the conflicted person must remove themselves from the chambers completely.

   A reliable source confirmed that Wiebe arrived at the meeting in the afternoon but did not assume her seat as reeve until after the in-camera session. However, she did not leave chambers during the closed door discussion.

   Two months ago a similar situation arose when council dealt with an investigation launched into allegations against councilor Ed Oswald. He was told that it was in his best interest to leave chambers while the matter was discussed, despite his attempts to stay and participate.

   The RM of La Broquerie has a designated officer to deal with matters pertaining to FIPPA and the municipality. This person’s duties include viewing and signing off on information requests made by all parties, including ratepayers. Wiebe is the acting designated officer for the municipality.

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Councilors ordered to apoligize

By Marianne Curtis

   The RM of La Broquerie has paid a lawyer to request that two councilors apologize for comments allegedly made to the media and ombudsman.

   Councilors Wilfred Chabot and Jean Gagnon have both received letters from the RM of La Broquerie’s lawyer demanding that they apologize to council, the public and the Ombudsman for questioning the integrity of council and the Office of the Ombudsman.

   The RM of La Broquerie council hired a lawyer to send the letters to both councilors based on information disclosed at a public meeting back in May. At that meeting the municipality’s former administrator presented the public accounts committee with a concerning list of allegations. The submission also suggested that Chabot and Gagnon both sent submissions to the ombudsman’s office which allege that the municipal council knowingly tampered with documents before providing them to investigators.

   Last month the municipality passed a resolution to censure Gagnon after he refused to comment publicly to media about the contents of the investigation’s report that was released by his council.

   “I did not want to compromise the investigation because we still needed to respond to it,” Gagnon explained. “They (council) are trying to shut me up but I am not going to stop telling the truth.”

   He admits that he did contact the ombudsman during the investigation but said that he cannot recall what he wrote.

   “There is no way that anyone other than the ombudsman knows what I wrote,” added Gagnon. “What bothers me is that with all the allegations in that submission, this is the only issue that council has officially denied.”

   Reeve Marielle Wiebe has admitted to media that she was unaware of the actual contents of Gagnon’s correspondence.

   There are a number of investigations still underway pertaining to the damaging submission made by the RM of La Broquerie’s former administrator back in May.

   Steinbach RCMP detachment head Staff Sergeant Davy Lee confirmed the existence of three ongoing investigations, including the alleged missing gun, surveillance cameras and gravel theft.

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La Broquerie releases ombudsman report

By Marianne Curtis

   The RM of La Broquerie council has released a report from the Ombudsman that was received by council even thought council is still under investigation.

   The report acknowledges that the Ombudsman has completed their investigation into administrative issues within the municipality and notified the municipality of their findings. While some issues were resolved to the ombudsman’s satisfaction, she has requested further investigation on others.

   “Just to be clear, we did not release a report on our investigation because we are not done,” stated Gail Perry from the Ombudsman’s Office.  “If the RM of La Broquerie council released anything, they did it on their own – we are still waiting for responses from the municipality and the investigation is still ongoing so we can not comment.”

   Meanwhile, on July 14 during a special meeting of council, the RM of La Broquerie accepted the report in a resolution of council and released it to the public the next day.

   “The Council of the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie is pleased with the Ombudsman’s comments and recommendations,” the resolution reads. It goes on to say that council has already identified and addressed some of the administrative concerns as outlined in the report. A recorded vote was taken and deputy reeve Jean Gagnon voted against the resolution of council to accept the letter as the final report.

   “I can not comment because the matter is still under investigation by the ombudsman,” stated Gagnon. He added that he doesn’t believe that this was the final report but actually a letter to council. The ombudsman would not comment on that suggestion.

   In the letter signed by Manitoba Ombudsman Irene A. Hamilton, four issues were found and the department has requested a response from the municipality.  The first issue involves the construction of a new daycare center in La Broquerie. The investigation confirmed that council had approved a building permit for the project “before any applications were made.”

   “In our view, by Council granting the “preliminary” Building Permit, it signaled its intent to approve this project regardless of the established processes to be followed. Had there been any objectors to the project, they would perceive that Council had pre-determined the outcome,  that this project was going ahead – regardless of whether there were legitimate concerns,” stated the report.

   While the Ombudsman was unable to determine if construction began before variances and conditional used permits were in place, they did find that the condition to remove an existing home on the property was not met and told council to enforce the removal as soon as possible.

   The letter also told council that they must deal with the matter that Councilor Ed Oswald constructed a barn on rural residential property. Investigation confirmed that Oswald had constructed a dairy barn on rural residential zoned property. The municipality was told to tell the owner to bring the property up to compliance of the zoning bylaws.

   The letter also addressed the accusation that favoritism was shown when a penalty was not charged on the building permit even though construction started before a permit was granted.

   “Based on our review of all of the information, we were unable to conclusively determine the process used in the issuance of this Permit or why the wrong fee was charged,” the letter noted. “We were unable to obtain clarification regarding why there appear to be two different versions of this Building Permit in existence.”

   The ombudsman recognized that the municipality changed their permit fees shortly afterwards would have given the applicant a refund, so they consider the matter of the fees closed.

   Thirdly, the ombudsman addressed a Stop Order that should not have been lifted by a councilor. The report noted that the councilor assumed that the stop order was in place due to non-payment of building fees while it was actually in place due to drainage issues. The investigation confirmed that the order should not have been lifted and it was recommended that council address the drainage issues.

   Finally, the ombudsman addressed the matter of unauthorized gravel expenditures during a flooding emergency last spring.

   “Ultimately, we were unable to determine definitively what transpired,” stated the letter. “There were discrepancies in the information obtained in our interviews.”

   The RM of La Broquerie council is expected to respond to the Ombudsman’s recommendations by August 16.

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Councilor under investigation

   The RM of La Broquerie council has confirmed that the Ombudsman office has launched an investigation into allegations made against one of the councilors.

   On June 6, the RM of La Broquerie council voted to go in camera to discuss an impending investigation by the Ombudsman into complaints made against councilor Ed Oswald.

   Deputy Reeve Jean Gagnon confirmed that Oswald was requested to leave chambers while council met in camera to “discuss Ombudsman issues” due to conflict of interest policies.

   “We had to tell him that it was in his best interest to leave the room,” stated Gagnon. He could not comment further due the nature of the investigation.

   However, in documents obtained anonymously by the Dawson Trail Dispatch several months ago, the Ombudsman received several allegations that indicate that Oswald may have acted in contravention of the municipality’s bylaws and regulations.

   The allegations accuse Oswald who operates a dairy farm on Ekron-Oswald Road, built a barn and silo on his property without getting the proper permits and zoning variances prior to construction. A building permit issued in April 2009 show that wife Gwen, applied for a permit to construct a barn on RR2 zoned property, which is illegal according to the municipality’s development plan. 

   “The zoning bylaw and the building bylaw were not abided by this councilor,” states the complaint.

   Council minutes confirm that the permit was applied for after construction started yet she was charged .05 per square foot for the permit instead of the regulatory .20 plus an additional .20 penalty for construction without a permit. When the matter was red flagged by staff, it was discovered that the silo was already built and no one knew that it existed until the barn application was submitted.

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