Kelly co­nun­drum

Peter Kelly, Char­lot­te­town’s con­tro­ver­sial CAO, ‘acted with­out proper au­thor­ity’ in his for­mer post with West­lock County, a new re­port sug­gests

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MAC­DON­ALD

Peter Kelly con­tra­vened Al­berta’s Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Act by act­ing with­out council ap­proval on a con­tro­ver­sial land deal while serv­ing as the chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer for West­lock County, ac­cord­ing to a mu­nic­i­pal in­spec­tion re­port re­leased on Wed­nes­day.

The in­spec­tion, which was con­ducted by the in­de­pen­dent third-party Strate­gic Steps Inc. on be­half of Al­berta’s depart­ment of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs, also found that Kelly ap­peared to not ex­er­cise “rea­son­able over­sight of cap­i­tal project costs” while serv­ing as CAO.

The re­port states that Kelly, who was hired last year as Char­lot­te­town’s CAO, took ac­tions such as ne­go­ti­at­ing an in­dus­trial land lease and au­tho­riz­ing site im­prove­ments “in the ab­sence of an au­tho­riz­ing council res­o­lu­tion.”

“Mr. Kelly seemed to feel that di­rec­tion given in cam­era was suf­fi­cient for ac­tion, which is not ac­cu­rate and con­tra­venes the MGA (Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Act) which re­quires a council to act by res­o­lu­tion or by­law,” said the re­port.

Kelly was taken off his pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod with the City of Char­lot­te­town in June.

The Guardian reached out to Kelly and Char­lot­te­town Mayor Clif­ford Lee for com­ment on the re­port.

“We’ve just re­ceived the re­port and are in the process of read­ing through the doc­u­men­ta­tion,” said a city spokesper­son. “And in terms of com­ment we haven’t had time to re­view the whole doc­u­ment yet.”

West­lock County Reeve Don Sav­age said the re­port was straight­for­ward in show­ing that Kelly “took public funds and spent them with­out council’s ap­proval.”

“I don’t know why he would choose to spend un­bud­geted money. It isn’t some­thing that ever went through council, he said it was in cam­era,” said Sav­age. “He did a very poor job of look­ing af­ter the peo­ple of West­lock County in my view.”

Last year, Kelly was ac­cused of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for a $200,000 bill con­nected to de­vel­op­ing an eight-acre in­dus­trial park for a de­vel­oper known as Hori­zon North.

The county spent more than $375,000 to de­velop the land but based on market trends stood to lose more than $200,000 on the deal due to cost over­runs.

Dur­ing a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with The Guardian, Kelly de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion and said council gave him the di­rec­tion to move for­ward.

How­ever, the re­port stated the project be­gan with sig­nif­i­cant work be­ing com­pleted prior to for­mal ap­proval by council.

“Records in­di­cate that re­lated site en­hance­ment work was largely com­pleted in Au­gust 2015 and that West­lock County in­curred project costs of $375,707 on the Hori­zon North lot. This project was not ap­proved in ei­ther the 2015 bud­get or by council res­o­lu­tion in 2015,” stated the re­port. “It ap­pears that for­mer CAO Kelly acted out­side his au­thor­ity by ap­prov­ing un­bud­geted site devel­op­ment work for the Hori­zon North in­dus­trial sub­di­vi­sion lot.”

The re­port also stated that, at times, it ap­peared that Kelly “did not ex­er­cise rea­son­able over­sight of cap­i­tal project costs.”

“For ex­am­ple he told the in­spec­tors that he ‘wasn’t go­ing to ques­tion the num­bers’ pro­vided by a county staff su­per­vi­sor re­lated to the Hori­zon North In­dus­trial Park lot im­prove­ments,” stated the re­port.

“At other times, Mr. Kelly ap­par­ently by­passed man­agers and di­rected sub­or­di­nate staff, such as re­quir­ing a clerk to cre­ate and can­cel cer­tain in­voices for the Hori­zon North project.”

How­ever, the re­port also notes that Kelly was held in high re­gard by some West­lock County coun­cil­lors, with one coun­cil­lor stat­ing that the CAO was “very re­spon­si­ble.”

The re­port also paints the county as hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant in­sta­bil­ity in the past council term with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity be­ing “man­aged in an ir­reg­u­lar, im­proper and im­prov­i­dent man­ner” while also ref­er­enc­ing a “council against staff” cul­ture.

“Weak lead­er­ship in both council and ad­min­is­tra­tion cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment that was ripe for chaos with site devel­op­ment work be­ing com­pleted and com­mit­ments be­ing made with­out proper au­thor­ity and council ap­proval,” said the re­port.

“In ap­par­ent en­thu­si­asm for eco­nomic devel­op­ment, for­mer CAO Kelly acted with­out proper au­thor­ity and failed to ad­vise council of their leg­isla­tive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, such as re­quir­ing advertising when con­sid­er­ing sell­ing land for less than market value, and ap­prov­ing un­bud­geted ex­pen­di­tures.”

The re­port also pro­vided a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions to pro­vide the county a “path to higher ground with a strong fo­cus on leg­isla­tive com­pli­ance and best prac­tices.”

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