Was it criminal? That seems to have become the question.
It’s the wrong question.
Last week’s 96-page auditor general’s report into the great concert fiasco-fandangle dissected and bisected the ever escalating series of high-level handouts that rambled merrily along—unchecked and in secret—from one faux-successful Common concert to the next fluff-the-numbers extravaganza to, oops, there goes $359,000…
The auditor general’s most damning conclusion was that the mayor, the city’s acting chief administrator and the head of the Metro Centre all made “inappropriate” decisions that violated the city’s Charter and/or common sense and—worse—knew or should have known better.
Were their actions criminal?
By week’s end, the criminality question seemed so pervasive even the auditor general mused “it would be prudent for me to seek advice” on possible charges.
There’s no question the three acted inappropriately, but it seems clear they didn’t do so for personal gain. They got caught up in what the report calls an “overwhelming desire” to match Moncton’s success as a concert venue and made some wrong-headed—wrong—decisions as a result.
In the unlikely event they were to be charged, it’s even less likely they’d be convicted.
If we want retribution/satisfaction, we need to look elsewhere.
Wayne Anstey, the city’s acting CAO, did the honourable thing and resigned last spring.
Scott Ferguson, the head of Trade Centre Limited, accepted personal responsibility, promised to do better and got a vote of confidence from his boss, provincial minister Percy Paris.
Peter Kelly? Well, the mayor did what he does best. Evaded personal responsibility with bafflegab and bluster.
His own official response began with a beside-the-point civics lesson on the role the auditor general plays in helping council be “accountable for the stewardship of public funds… I support and will continue to support this important function.” And blah blah. Ending with “I fully accept the recommendations,” without ever acknowledging—or apologizing for—his central role in making those recommendations necessary.
That may not be criminal. It probably isn’t. But it’s a political crime worthy of electoral defeat. The next municipal election is in just over a year. Let’s hope there’s a worthy alternative this time. And that we vote and deliver the verdict that really counts.