Citizen demands apology from department head
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.