Matichuk admits she’s unsure motion has any chance of success
Matichuk made the announcement at a press conference Jan. 14 at her office, where she admitted she didn’t know whether she had enough support on council to see the measure pass.
Calling it a “mistake” by former Mayor John Rodriguez, she said the original bylaw creating the auditor’s office should have made it clear that the AG’s office was supposed to be permanent.
Matichuk said her bylaw will call for set, three-year contracts for the auditor, a post currently held by Brian Bigger.
In an interview in late December, Bigger told Northern Life that rather than renewing him for another three-year term, in 2011 councillors decided to put him on year-to-year renewals.
The temporary nature of the contracts played at least a partial role in the decision of the only other auditor in his office, Carolyn Jodouin, to leave for a more secure position elsewhere.
It also complicates efforts to replace her, since top candidates are likely to stay away if there’s no job security.
“It would be very nice if council would decide, as a group, that the audit function is here to stay in Greater Sudbury,” Bigger said in the December interview.
Matichuk said Jan. 14 she hopes to have her motion ready in time to be debated at council’s meeting Jan. 29. The motion will state clearly the AG’s office is a permanent part of municipal bureaucracy, whether it’s Bigger or someone else in charge.
While she wouldn’t talk about the specifics of the closed-door meetings when council decided to put Bigger on year-to-year contracts, Matichuk said she fought that decision.
“I’ve never supported anything less than a three-year contract,” she said. “I can’t talk about that because it was a closed meeting, and we’re talking about an identifiable individual. So I can’t reveal why, but I can tell you I did not support it.”
In the past, Matichuk has brought motions to the council table, only to receive little or no support. For example, her motion to deregulate store hours went down to defeat, and she received no support for her plan to ask the province to bring in recall legislation.
However, Matichuk said she’ll keep bringing such motions to the table, regardless of how much support they receive.
“I think I’m going to get a little bit of support, but I’m not sure how much,” she said. “I’m never going to let the fact that other people don’t support me stop me from bringing something forward.”
She said while she has talked to some on council, she’s not going to do the behind-the-scenes lobbying local politicians normally engage in to secure support for her agenda, saying it’s “not my style.
“I’ll bring things to the forefront, as I have since Day 1, and you win some and you lose some,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. It still gets out there and it’s up for debate ... It’s the only way you make change. You can’t wait for everyone to support you.”
Since the office was created in 2009 and Bigger was hired, the auditor general has conducted a number of audits. His audit of Sudbury Transit uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing ticket money, which is the subject of a still ongoing investigation by the OPP.
And Bigger’s audit of the roads department found that the city wasn’t ensuring the asphalt being used on city roads was the quality specified in the contract tenders.
It also found that inventory tracking of recycled asphalt was faulty, meaning tens of thousands of tonnes of recycled asphalt couldn’t be accounted for.
Bigger has sometimes clashed with councillors, such as when they asked him to review their healthy community initiative funds, a controversial policy in which councillors were able to spend up to $50,000 a year in their wards with little oversight.
The auditor recommended control of the funds be returned to staff, which council rejected. Bigger later signed off on a much more restrictive policy that put in a number of new rules and spending limits covering the funds.
Matichuk said Bigger’s work so far has proven the value of having an auditor in place permanently. The danger is, the way the current bylaw reads, the position is tied to Bigger himself.
“It’s more about the fact that if the person in this position left tomorrow, quit or whatever, got offered another job, we would have no office of the auditor general,” she said. “And that’s a very important function in our city and now is the time to fix it. We need to make this office permanent.”