Private discussion over Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen CAO bias concerns continued

Behind door CAO bias talks

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board continues to keep talks on concerns of bias by the district's chief administrative officer behind closed doors.

Bill Newell, CAO, came under scrutiny in February after it was revealed his daughter, Amanda Newell of Sundog Solutions, was awarded a plum $60,000 contract to do a "complete review of [the RDOS'] emergency management program" on Dec. 15, 2022.

Issues arose because the CAO failed to disclose his relationship to the board, and he did not recuse himself from the process to award the contract.

A review of the situation began with Newell providing the board with a timeline of the contract bidding process, and noted that as CAO, he had "no pecuniary interest." The report also acknowledged in retrospect, "there might be a perception of bias to those not having full information on the process and evaluation factors in the selection process."

Last week, at an RDOS Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday, March 8, the board met to discuss the matter. Within five minutes of the start of the meeting, the board voted to move the meeting in-camera, barring the public and media from attending.

The meeting took several hours and concluded with little new information released to the media at the time.

Then on Thursday, the discussion continued to be in camera as per the Community Charter concerning the RDOS Emergency Program Review.

The RDOS said in a news release on Thursday that the board of directors takes "all internal issues seriously and will continue to review Regional District processes and policies. Due to privacy legislation, the Board is not at liberty to comment further at this time."

A final report on the RDOS Emergency Program Review is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Directors before April 30, 2023.

"The Regional District is seeking to optimize the emergency program to serve the essential needs of citizens wherever possible within the RDOS mandate."

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