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Coun. Josh Carey speaks during Monday night’s meeting of city council. Coun. Mary Ann Murphy is shown in the background.
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Who knew what and when did they know it?
In a last-minute add to Monday night’s Corner Brook City Council meeting agenda, Coun. Josh Carey raised his concerns of how the city came to possess two proposals from companies for a transit system study without council having gone through the request for proposal (RFP) process.
Reading from an email that was forwarded to him by Coun. Linda Chaisson, at Carey’s request, he pointed out his issue with three members of council being excluded from the transit study discussion — himself, Coun. Keith Cormier and Coun. Tony Buckle.
Chaisson, who clearly took some exception to her email being read aloud at the meeting, explained that she, Coun. Mary Ann Murphy, Deputy Mayor Bernd Staeben and Mayor Charles Pender were all involved with the committee tasked with helping city business facilitator Manas Mukhopadhyay coordinate an economic development symposium and a transit study. Once actual discussions of money arose, Chaisson said she didn’t want to discuss it any further until every council member was made aware of what was going on.
City manager Melissa Wiklund said Mukhopadhyay was asked to identify the lead companies in studies similar to what the city would be undertaking and inquire as to the services they were providing. There was no RFP requested at this time because there was no funding behind it. The inquiries took place at the same time he was speaking with federal funders on what opportunities might be available to apply for.
“Given it was already in our corporate strategic plan, council had already approved that as an action,” she stated.
Pender said it was a case of Mukhopadhyay simply doing his job.
“He brought it to the two councillors and when it got to a point it was developed enough to go to council, it was brought to council,” he said.
Pender said the proposals were never solicited by council and were the result of phone inquiries made by Mukhopadhyay. Carey said that was still soliciting proposals.
He said he and the other two councillors should not have been “left out of the loop” and questioned why the request for proposal procedure wasn’t followed.
“We didn’t do any of that process, we went right out and requested the proposals and now we probably placed ourselves in a position that when we’re trying to access public funding, we’re not going to be able to get it,” he said, saying if anything is requested before submitting funding from a funding body, they’re not allowed to offer funding.
Carey said neither he nor the other two councillors knew anything of this until March 10, but Pender said that wasn’t the case. In an email sent to The Western Star about an hour after the meeting had ended, Pender said an email was sent to every council member on Feb. 6 that included a copy of a transit proposal. There was also a memo shared to all council members on Feb. 6, he said, that indicated three members of council had agreed to assist with economic development matters.
Staeben, meanwhile, said it’s a classic case of a city employee who “got ahead of the bell curve.”
He said he, Chaisson and Murphy were asked to help Mukhopadhyay with “a difficult challenge” and that’s why they all got involved.
“There’s nothing nefarious here of anybody trying to shut somebody else out,” he said.
Chaisson said she couldn’t understand where the “big hoopla” was coming from, as nobody seemed to have any serious issues when the transit study was brought up at a council committee meeting last Monday.
“I feel like I’ve been dragged through the mud, spit on, kicked and whatever else,” she said. “I’m the one who said now that we’re involving money and the transit study is coming up, let’s get it to all of council.”