Cit­i­zen de­mands apol­ogy from depart­ment head

Sackville Tribune - - COMMUNITY - Sharon Hicks Sackville, N.B.

To the ed­i­tor:

At the Sept. 4 Sackville Town Coun­cil dis­cus­sion group meet­ing, a trou­bling in­ci­dent oc­curred which has caused one for­mer deputy mayor to re­quest an apol­ogy from a Town of Sackville depart­ment head.

At that meet­ing, Pierre Plourde, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Cran­dall Engi­neer­ing, pre­sented to coun­cil and mem­bers of staff and the pub­lic, an up­date on the plans for Phase 2 of the Lorne Street Stormwa­ter Mit­i­ga­tion multi- mil­lion- dol­lar project. When he had fin­ished his pre­sen­ta­tion and an­swered ques­tions from coun­cil, he was dis­missed and left the coun­cil cham­bers.

Since this was a dis­cus­sion meet­ing, which al­lows no in­put from the au­di­ence, two cit­i­zens in the gallery fol­lowed him out to the lobby, to pro­vide help­ful back­ground in­for­ma­tion and ask for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on sev­eral facts. No sooner had they en­gaged Mr. Plourde in a friendly con­ver­sa­tion, how­ever, when our se­nior man­ager of cor­po­rate projects, Jamie Burke, stormed out of coun­cil cham­bers and abruptly in­ter­rupted their con­ver­sa­tion.

In no un­cer­tain terms, he told the two gen­tle­men – Mer­lin Estabrooks (who had been deputy mayor in the 1960s) and Percy Best – they were not al­lowed to speak with Mr .Plourde, since it was the town who had hired the con­sult­ing com­pany. He stated if they did wish to con­sult with Mr. Plourde, then they would have to pay for his time. Mr. Burke also in­sisted that all re­quests for in­for­ma­tion would have to be routed through ei­ther him­self or Dwayne Ac­ton, the town en­gi­neer.

The fact is that Mr. Best had pre­vi­ously paid a $ 200 fee to Cran­dall Engi­neer­ing to pur­chase the ten­der pack­age, which had been is­sued for this project. As a re­sult, he re­ceived sub­se­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Cran­dall’s, which in­vited him to ask for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion if needed. As the se­nior man­ager of cor­po­rate projects, Mr. Burke must surely be aware of that fact.

At the Sept. 11 reg­u­lar town coun­cil meet­ing, Mr. Estabrooks made use of the open­ing ques­tion pe­riod to re­port the in­ci­dent to coun­cil, and to re­quest an apol­ogy from Mr. Burke, for him­self and for Mr. Best. He called Mr. Burke’s ac­tions rude and ig­no­rant, and asked what Mr. Burke was try­ing to hide by not al­low­ing cit­i­zens to have any con­tact with the con­sul­tant.

In re­sponse to Mr. Estabrooks’ re­quest, Mayor John Higham ap­peared to clearly de­fend the se­nior man­ager of cor­po­rate projects, when he stated, “I be­lieve Mr. Burke was do­ing what he un­der­stood was his job …”.

Af­ter con­sid­er­able fur­ther prod­ding by Mr. Estabrooks, the mayor did even­tu­ally say the in­ci­dent would be looked into. As for the mat­ter of an apol­ogy, he made no com­ment on that re­quest.

The mayor went on to say that cit­i­zens do get a chance to ask ques­tions of con­sul­tants dur­ing pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ses­sions, such as the one that was held for the ini­tial Lorne Street Project Phase 1. In ac­tual fact, how­ever, the pre­vi­ously promised con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings for Phase 2 will not hap­pen, and the In­for­ma­tion Ses­sion will be sched­uled to oc­cur only af­ter all plans for this project are com­pleted. Thus, there is no means what­so­ever for cit­i­zens to of­fer any help­ful in­for­ma­tion or sug­ges­tions, un­less they go di­rectly to the con­sul­tants, which is what Mr. Estabrooks and Mr. Best were at­tempt­ing to do.

As for Mr. Burke’s direc­tive for all ques­tions to be sent to ei­ther him­self or the town en­gi­neer, that route has been tried be­fore, on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, with the re­sult that the vast ma­jor­ity of such ques­tions go unan­swered.

It is our un­der­stand­ing that proper meet­ing pro­to­col, in the role of a mayor, is not to pass judge­ment when such is­sues are raised dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod, but sim­ply to ar­range for the in­ci­dent in ques­tion to be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated. His over­all han­dling of the ques­tion and the re­quest by Mr. Estabrooks made it ap­pear (in the pub­lic record) that the town em­ployee had acted ap­pro­pri­ately. This was cer­tainly not the case.

We won­der how long it will take un­til such be­hav­iour will no longer be tol­er­ated.

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