Mayor Hall must resign

Mayor Lyn Hall needs to immediately resign after it was revealed Monday night that the new downtown parkade will actually cost $34 million and additional cost overruns may have been approved without city council oversight.

It doesn’t matter if he knew what was going on or not. 

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If he did know and didn’t take action, starting with informing the rest of city council, he failed his fellow councillors and local taxpayers, so he must resign for that failure.

If he didn’t know, then he was asleep at the wheel. His fellow city councillors are part-time employees, who are paid a part-time wage to set policy and provide oversight. 

The mayor, however, is a full-time employee with a corner office on the top floor of city hall. He has the time and the space to more closely monitor important files, especially a project that was already $10 million over its original budget, even before Monday’s revelation.

If he didn’t know what he was happening, he was negligent in his duties and must resign for that negligence.

Of course, there needs to be a thorough internal investigation of who knew what and who said what and when.

Acting city manager Walter Babicz should put his lawyer hat on, get his hands on every single document and email to do with this disastrous project and set it aside for an external auditor. 

That auditor needs to be appointed by the rest of city council immediately.

But that’s a separate matter from the mayor’s resignation.

While it’s important for an audit to point to the individuals responsible for a $22 million cost overrun on a parkade that was initially budgeted to cost $12 million, that’s a secondary point.

The most important piece of an external audit will be its recommendations on the policy and oversight procedures necessary to make sure such a travesty with tax dollars isn’t ever repeated.

In the meantime, however, there is accountability.

Kathleen Soltis was already removed from her job as city manager, the city’s top bureaucrat, back in September. 

Regardless of whether she was still on the job and regardless of the extent of her knowledge and involvement in this fiasco, she should not bear sole responsibility for it.

She did not work in a vacuum.

She worked closely with other senior administrators.

She worked in an office a short walk away from the mayor’s.

While there must be bureaucratic responsibility taken for this disaster, there must also be political accountability as well.

All of city council must accept this happened on their watch.

But the members of city council are not equal in this matter.

Coun. Garth Frizzell, the chair of the finance and audit committee, should resign from that post.

The brunt of the political blame, however, needs to go to Mayor Hall and to him alone.

Being the mayor comes with being centre stage, not just in the good times for ribbon cuttings, flag raisings and community celebrations, but when things go badly, too.

Leadership means taking the blame must be accepted with as much or more willingness as taking the credit.

Mayor Hall’s resignation won’t bring the money back but it will send a clear signal to voters and to future mayors that there is a political cost that must be borne for mistakes as grievous as this one.

His resignation shouldn’t be the last step to clean up this mess.

It is, however, the essential first step needed to make it right.

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