Mayor speaks on governance audit findings, recommendations

Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt says he welcomed the findings and recommendations identified in a governance audit of operations at city hall that was completed by a consultant late last year.

The audit, conducted by George Cuff, identified a series of issues with respect to role clarity, policy development and administration challenges such as low morale and employee turnover.

Mayor Pratt said city council requested that Cuff be brought in to help provide guidance on updating and modernizing city bylaws and policies, which has been an ongoing process dating back to the 2014 municipal election.

“We started out in that term making some changes, trying to become more customer service [friendly] for our citizens,” said Mayor Pratt. “So we made some changes there and, of course, some people weren’t happy with it. There were some disgruntled employees, because they’ve been doing it this way for years and they didn’t like the change. But that’s human nature.

“But the other thing, we realized early on, that there were a lot of policies and bylaws that were outdated or should have been changed with the changing of the times and whatnot. We started working on it, but it was a very slow process.”

The report was compiled through survey feedback and on-site interviews with staff and council conducted in September.

Are the issues and recommendations identified in the report an accurate reflection of the situation at city hall?

Yes and no, according to Mayor Pratt.

“He [Cuff] came in one day and interviewed a number of people and then he gave his report, which a lot of it is accurate,” Mayor Pratt said. “But some of it was inaccurate and not validated. So some of it included some personal information from third parties, and that’s a lot of the stuff that was redacted, because we didn’t have permission from those people to release that information.

“So that was the redaction; it’s not like we’re trying to hide anything.

“The general audit of governance is there and we’re going to be going to work on implementing it as time goes forward. We have a new HR [Human Resources] person in that department — two people actually — and they’ve been looking in-depth at the organization structure and the new policies which we should have in place and then we will go forward to implement those.

“The bylaws, some of them we can get rid of right away if they’re redundant. If they’re not, as we do new bylaws, we’ll make sure they’re up to what we think should be today’s standard.”

READ: Report sheds new light on Cranbrook city hall

Much of the audit focused on the principles of good governance while investigating how council and administration are functioning and highlighting the differences between policy development and implementation.

The report findings illustrate the challenges for council to develop and set a policy agenda, while then allowing administration to carry out policy directives.

Further issues in the report identified a ‘loss of trust’ in and amongst council, and low administration staff morale.

Mayor Pratt agreed to the suggestion that the council conflict amounted to a “clash of personalities” and blamed the heated community debate over the indoor sports facility.

“A lot of it, which was pointed at me, was because I didn’t agree with the sports dome going in at Balment Park, and I still don’t,” Mayor Pratt said. “But the vote was 6-1 and that’s what they’re talking about there, is that mayor and council aren’t getting along — well, it was one issue that we had a huge difference of opinion on and he [Cuff] didn’t validate what it was, just that there was a big…splitting of the council in that way.”

While the audit noted low staff morale and that a recent change in leadership was ‘very welcome by management,’ Mayor Pratt said that morale has improved.

“It wasn’t just administration, staff, or council and mayor — staff have to take some ownership in that too, and George mentioned that in his report, that it’s not about gossip and hearsay, it’s about facts and so I think that has improved,” Mayor Pratt said.

“We’re trying to implement more of a teamwork approach to things and we’re including more people in some decision-making and empowering them to make those decisions so I think…you’re not going to change the culture overnight, but we are working on it. We’re concentrating on some aspects of that.”

The conclusion of the Cuff report suggested 16 action items and 12 recommendations, covering areas such as council governance, confidence and trust, communication, strategic plan, organizational review, management and hiring processes.

“Our purpose of this was to get that direction and those recommendations, so we are working on them, it’s just some of them take a lot of time,” said Mayor Pratt, “especially when you get to the policy side, because we want to make sure we cover it off and in today’s world, I mean, some of our policies and bylaws were 30-40 years old so we are working on it, it’s taking time, but we’ve instructed staff to go to work on it and as they get each one completed, it will come to council and well be implementing them.”

The audit, which was completed last October, was released to the Townsman on Feb. 12 following a freedom of information request for the report.

Mayor Pratt said the intent was always to release the report’s findings, though ‘not necessarily page by page’.

“The idea of us doing it, all along, was to let the citizens of Cranbrook know, as our press release said, that we’re doing this to improve our service to the community and to all the citizens and the people who deal with the city — that’s what we’re here for, is to serve them,” Mayor Pratt said.

“It didn’t have to be public, word by word. The overall picture of it is what it was and the idea is, what was our goal and objective? And we’re still on track with the goals and objectives of it.”

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