But miffed mayor didn’t let them know what she had planned
At least some members of city council are willing to support Mayor Marianne Matichuk’s plan to make the office of the auditor general permanent.
“I think in every councillors’ mind, it already is permanent,” said Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour, speaking after the Jan. 14 meeting of the planning committee. “I don’t think there’s any intention to stop or get rid of the office. I really, really believe in it, and some fantastic things have happened and will continue to happen.”
Matichuk announced yesterday she will bring forward a motion at the Jan. 29 meeting of city council to make the office of the auditor general permanent. She said language in the bylaw that created the auditor’s office in 2009 left the impression that if the current auditor – Brian Bigger – was to leave office, the entire department would cease to exist.
Matichuk said her bylaw will call for set, three-year contracts for the auditor. 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.
Kilgour said if the office was permanent, it’s likely that Jodouin wouldn’t have left.
“I think losing his staff member had more to do with the fact that the bylaw that created the auditor general's office was the same bylaw he was hired under,” he said. “So if you go strictly by the bylaw, if the auditor general was gotten rid of, the office would disappear.
“So the proposal to make the office of the auditor general a permanent one is something we definitely should be doing. If that had been in place, I don’t think we would have to be replacing an employee.”
He’s less supportive of giving the auditor three-year contracts, saying it should be part of the negotiating process. He said most city employees work under the terms of a contract at one point or another.
“One thing that I think is important to remember is that the function and the person are completely different — under no conditions would you give anybody a lifetime contract,” he said. “So I think that requires a little more thinking. The other idea is, I think, a no-brainer. It’s a very valuable function and is something I think we want to continue with.”
Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli agreed, saying the auditor has shown his worth to the corporation through his work, and Bigger has the confidence of the public.
“So I support this 100 per cent,” Belli said. “I’m hoping other councillors also believe in it, and we’ll get support for three-year terms and for making the office permanent.”
He said the security of a three-year contract is important for whomever holds the auditor general position.
“It’s very difficult to do your job as an auditor on one-year terms, right?” Belli said. “And I think if you ask the public, they’re fully in support of it, too.”
Ward 4 Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac also supports the proposal, but can’t understand why Matichuk didn’t let councillors know what she had planned.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” she said. “Learning about this from the media doesn’t sit very well with me. I think we should have been told about her media release before it was sent.”
But it’s still a motion she supports, she said, because she believes in the office.
“I think an auditor general is essential,” she said. “I was part of the other council that brought this forth.
“The auditor plays an important role in this city and I’ve always been very supportive of having an auditor general. And three years is a good starting point for someone to get things done. It’s better than one year.”