The City of Cranbrook has responded to Monday’s honourable mention for a government secrecy award from a group of national media partners.
Mike Peabody is serving as the Acting Mayor of Cranbrook in Lee Pratt’s absence, as Pratt is currently out of Canada with his local business. Peabody took the time to respond not only to the City’s honourable mention for the Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy, but to the governance audit by George B. Cuff & Associates Ltd. that has been the talk of the town.
On Monday, Cranbrook was listed as one of five honourable mentions for the government secrecy award by the Canadian Association of Journalists, News Media Canada, Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University, and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, who annually give out the recognition.
“You’re always a little shocked, like no one likes to receive criticism,” Peabody told MyEastKootenayNot.com after catching wind of the report. “You feel like you’re doing a good job and then it’s like, oh wow we got an honourable mention for something not good.”
The media group recognized the Town of Erin in Ontario with the award, while Cranbrook was an honourable mention alongside Morinville, AB; North Bay, ON; Cornwall, ON; and Côte-Saint-Luc, QC.
The following citation was given to Erin for the 2020 Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy:
“It has become commonplace for The Town of Erin to refuse to be transparent with the media and therefore local residents on even basic matters of public interest. Local officials regularly avoid interviews with the media, insist that all communications from media must go through a recently hired communications officer, and Chief Administrative Officer and only by email. Even these requests are then dodged or refused. Worse yet, Erin officials have failed to inform the media of meetings at which major decisions will be made.
In response to a large number of senior staff and department heads being fired a couple of years ago staff at the Wellington Advertiser submitted FOI requests for details of severance payments. Erin refused these requests and Erin Mayor Allan Alls told the media they would not release these details unless forced to by the commissioner.”
Mike Peabody believes that while Cranbrook was an honourable mention for the award, the two communities could not be more polar opposite of one another.
“How it explains the Town of Erin compared to Cranbrook, I think we’re night and day. I think the City of Cranbrook and Council and Mayor have a pretty good relationship with the press in this town. I could be wrong, but it seems like the Mayor is always open to answer questions and talk to reporters after the meeting,” Peabody told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “I know in the report about the Town of Erin they say that their City Council or their City doesn’t even want to disclose information on minor events or just things that are just general public knowledge, where I feel like that stuff that we are very open about.”
Previous: Cranbrook Receives Honourable Mention for Government Secrecy (February 24, 2020)
Peabody said the City is moving forward and is seeking solutions to the perceived issues of transparency, clarity, and inter-governmental communications. Peabody added that it is hard to say the City is taking steps such as A, B, C, and D, but feels they have a general mindset to turn things around at City Hall, believing the governance audit is a prime example of their willingness to make improvements.
“The Cuff Report is a great example. For me, this is something that the Council was doing to improve our City, these are steps that we’re taking to make the City of Cranbrook better than what it is right now and then you read some of the comments and its like Council needs to be replaced and all of this stuff but I feel like we’re the ones trying to make things better.”
Previous: Government Audit Makes Recommendations to Improve City of Cranbrook (February 18, 2020)
Although there may not be tangible steps coming out of the Cuff Report from October 2019 as of yet, Peabody said they are all working behind the scenes to adopt those recommendations.
“There will be a meeting coming up where we’re actually going to have a list of – I believe there is something like 80 recommendations. Council is going to be going through those and looking at what our plan is going to be going forward.”
“In order for us to get better we do have to be more transparent and that is one of our goals,” added Peabody.
George Cuff told the City of Cranbrook that he is willing to come back and talk about the audit with Council, and Peabody says he’s sure they will invite him back at a future date.
“We want him to come back to a City that is doing a lot better than the first time that he came back.”
More: Cuff Report – City of Cranbrook Governance Audit (George B. Cuff & Associates Ltd.)