Rallying for Sushil

Description: sushil.jpg

Residents came to city hall to support Councillor Sushil Thapar.

Danika M. Hebert


By Danika Hebert - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
August 08, 2012 4:00 PM
August 08, 2012 4:32 PM

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About 20 Quesnel residents came out to last Monday’s city council meeting with signs in support of Coun. Sushil Thapar. In light of his recent censure, this rally was organized and saw participants standing in front of city hall with signs in support of the councillor. Some supporters also came into the council chambers with signs, but were quickly asked to remove them by Mayor Mary Sjostrom. The rally was planned to support Coun. Thapar as he has been censured for the third time in his career as councillor.



Editorial –

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
July 18, 2012 9:00 AM
July 18, 2012 9:30 AM

“If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.” –William Tecumseh Sherman

We do not make the news, we report it.

And yes, that means, at times, gauging the “news worthiness” of a story. In the face of the Thapar VS. City Council gong-show, we at the Observer felt it apropos to gently remind our respected readers we report, we record, we print.

That’s it.

In this particular instance of the ongoing City Hall saga, we asked ourselves if we would travel the arduous path of covering the seemingly unlimited supply of accusations.

The answer was yes.

Basically it was we run it all, or we run nothing. That was, quite simply, not an option.

This newspaper is a record of the community and even if it makes our amazing little town look like it’s run by a bunch of bumbling infants, this publication could not ignore the fact a city councillor was accusing the mayor of stealing.

It was said in a public domain and repeated – a number of times.

This publication did not ignore council’s decision to censure Thapar on not one, but three occasions (the third being at last night’s meeting, see Friday’s Observer for more).

Had we ignored Thapar’s original accusation, we would have ignored his subsequent comments, council’s reaction and city backlash.

Not exactly an accurate portrayal of what’s happening, is it?

Are people sick of hearing about it?

Surely they have to be, but then tell them. They’re the ones creating the fodder. If at last night’s council meeting they decided to hug it out and move forward, we would have reported that.

Instead there were accusations, swearing and general ridiculousness.

If you think it makes the city look bad, tell them that. It’s their words, their actions, their responsibility.

We simply report.

–Autumn MacDonald, Observer


Councillor censured by city council

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
July 08, 2011 9:00 AM
July 08, 2011 9:58 AM

Coun. Sushil Thapar has been formally reprimanded by city council.

At a special meeting in late June, council made a motion to censure Thapar following what they deemed a series of events and comments “that negatively affected a number of city employees.”

A motion of censure is a formal statement that council is reprimanding one of its members for conduct it feels unacceptable.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Thapar said.

“It’s all made up, she’s [Mayor Mary Sjostrom] hiding behind staff.”

Thapar has been requesting a number of council expense documents through the Freedom of Information Act since early this year after he found issue with a fellow counselor.

Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg exceeded her 2010 allotted travel expense budget. The counselor was compensated by acting city manager Jack Marsh for $1,100 for travel costs, despite having already used the $4,000 budget allocated to each city councillor.

Since then council has adopted a travel policy.

“I’m just asking the questions, seeking information,” Thapar said, alluding his FOI requests are behind the motion of censure.

But Sjostrom says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The censure has nothing to do with Thapar’s request for information on travel, budget and/or finances,” she said.


Sjostrom added the city welcomes discussion on how council invests tax dollars and reiterated the motion deals with “a number of events and statements having a negative effect on staff in city hall, at meetings and on media.”

“We are obligated to provide a harassment-free and respectful work place,” she said.

Sjostrom added she couldn’t comment on specific instances as they are an internal human resource issue.

However, Thapar maintains his innocence, stating the censure was simply a tactic to “muddy the waters.”

“But I will not stop,” he said.

“I will keep asking the questions and if someone is offended by the questions I ask, I will not apologize.”

Sjostrom pointed to the amount of information requested and the fact “it’s all information we would have had, he’s finance chair.”

But Thapar maintains all his requests have not yet been met.

“I’m still waiting on information,” he said.

“If it had been provided in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this situation. She’s [Sjostrom] creating all the roadblocks.”

For her part, Sjostrom says she’s not quite sure what Thapar’s goal is – except an early election campaign.

“He’s trying to discredit me,” she said.

“He’s trying to build a case and there’s nothing there. I have nothing to hide. I’m just trying to work.

“He says I’m hiding? That is so false. This city and council is accountable, open and transparent.”


City of Quesnel employee says she was unjustly fired

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
June 29, 2012 11:00 AM
June 29, 2012 11:19 AM

A city employee is saying she was “unjustly let go” and Coun. Sushil Thapar is backing her claim.

“Mayor and council did not have the authority to dismiss her without cause,” Thapar said of recently-fired human resource advisor, Meriel Wild.

Wild, with the city close to 10 years, says it all began when she filed a bullying and harassment complaint against then city manager John Stecyk.

“I was on stress leave, signed off by my doctor,” she said.

Wild said when she was healthy enough to go back, she was “dismissed.”

“I can’t imagine any reason for my dismissal,” she said.

“This was certainly without cause.”

Thapar agrees, saying Wild was a “very honest, hardworking, long-time employee.”

“You do not just fire someone because they take stress leave over a harassment issue,” he said.

“She’s dedicated and by the book and these morons fire her?”

And aside from losing a qualified employee who has saved the city “tens of thousands of dollars” Thapar says the wrongful dismissal case could end up costing taxpayers “hundreds of thousands.”

“We’re looking at court costs, damages and back pay,” he said.

“The financial implications are huge. She’s [Mayor Mary Sjostrom] lost her mind.”

Thapar further alleges Sjostrom approved of Wild’s firing so she could hire an employee who would do her bidding.

Sjostrom maintains all allegations are completely false, but stated confidentiality agreements prevented her from saying more.

“City council is bound by confidentiality and we do not discuss staffing [human resource) issues in public,” she said.

“Decisions are made by the council as a whole including the mayor. Administration is currently working on this file.”

Thapar acknowledged the decision was by council consensus, but said current members are not only inexperienced but “blindly following the mayor.”

“This is a ‘yes mama’ council,” he said.

As for Wild, she says she’s stuck in a Catch 22.

“I don’t want the taxpayers to have to foot this bill,” she said.

“But I don’t want the city to screw me either. It’s so sad because I worked so hard... and this is what I get.”

Thapar is concerned the firing is an “abuse of power” for personal reasons – reasons that could see the taxpayers footing the bill.

“Frickin’ idiots,” he said.

Sjostrom reiterated her dissaproval of Thapar’s behaviour and tactics.

“Once again Coun. Thapar is using the media instead of dealing with the matter in a proper and confidential manner required under oath of an elected official,” she said.

Quesnel mayor accused of double dipping

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
June 15, 2012 10:00 AM
June 15, 2012 10:22 AM

Regarding accusations of “double-dipping” Mayor Mary Sjostrom says she is following policy.

At Monday’s council meeting resident Pat Morton presented the mayor with a letter from the minister of finance outlining tax treatment of allowances for elected municipal officials.

Morton says the minister supports her allegations Sjostrom is double-dipping, pointing to the one-third tax exemption.

The exemption is to offset expenses officials incur while performing their duties, without the need of receipts.

The letter goes on to say provinces and municipalities are shifting away from the one-third tax free ruling, requiring officials to provide proof and receipt.

Thus “requiring that expense to be accounted for and directly reimbursing the elected official on the bases of actual expense incurred,” the letter continues.

Morton says Sjostrom is doing both – handing in receipts for expenses incurred, getting reimbursed and cashing in on the one-third tax free exemption.

But Sjostrom maintains the city has practices and policies in place that outline council spending and reimbursement of expenditures.

“We are following that long-time policy,” Sjostrom said.

Morton has asked Sjostrom to “simply apologize, pay back the money and move on.”

Sjostrom says she and council are trying to move on and deal with challenges the city is facing and opportunities for the community. Sjsotrom also stated the letter does not state the minister agreed with the allegations.

But Morton maintains her position, stating enjoying the state-free exemption as well as submitting receipts and being reimbursed is the definition of “double dipping” –and on the taxpayers dime.

“The allowance is to cover the same expenses every employee is allowed to claim on their tax returns and even they cannot claim their meals within the municipality when they just go out for lunch with one of their co-workers,” she said.

“Why should taxpayers pay for local politicians and management to have meals together especially as a reimbursement when the taxpayers are already giving the politicians a non-accountable expense allowance for such expenses in addition to their remuneration?”


Coun. Thapar seeks mayor resignation a

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
May 11, 2012 9:00 AM
May 11, 2012 9:02 AM

After hearing of departing city manager John Stecyk’s severance package of more than $170,000, Coun. Sushil Thapar is asking for Mayor Mary Sjostrom’s resignation.

“If that’s the way she’s mismanaging the city, she should step down,” he said.

After last week’s press release, stating city manager John Stecyk was “resigning,” Thapar questioned the release calling it “misleading and false.”

He then filed a Freedom of Information request surrounding any severance Stecyk was receiving upon departure.

“If there are financial implications, the public should know,” he said.

This Monday, at an in-camera (private) meeting, city councillors Ed Coleman, Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, Scott Elliott, John Brisco and acting mayor Mike Cave (Mayor Mary Sjostrom is away in China) passed a motion of censure. It states:

“WHEREAS members of council have a legal duty to maintain confidentiality;

AND WHEREAS improper disclosure of confidential information, particularly involving personal information, may expose the City to liability;

AND WHEREAS Councillor Thapar has disclosed to the media confidential information in clear breach of confidentiality rules and a specific agreement;

NOW THEREFORE COUNCIL censures Councilor Thapar for his failure to comply with the Community Charter with respect to rules of confidentiality related to closed Council meeting matters.”

The release says the motion is based on “improper disclosure by Coun. Sushil Thapar.”

It then cites several sections of the Community Charter that “were of concern, most notably: Section 90, which outlines what issues municipalities may or must discuss in-camera, issues mostly related to labour, land or legal.”

Thapar is fighting censure, stating he did nothing to violate his oath.

“All I did was ask a question,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserved to know how much this was costing them. I did not disclose any information, I asked questions.”

Thapar says city council is making decisions in-camera, decisions that are costing taxpayers money.

“And they don’t want people to know about it,” he added.

Thapar also pointed to the recruitment of a fourth city manager during Sjostrom’s reign as mayor.

“Her mismanagement is costing the taxpayers money,” he said.

“All I’m doing is being honest.”

Thapar said if the severance package figure would have been available from the beginning, he would not have had to file an FOI.

“I just wanted the truth,” he said.

“I’m not the liability here, she [Sjostrom] is. Her actions are costing taxpayers money, not mine.”

Thapar says the next step is to call a public meeting. No date has yet been set.

Stecyk’s final remuneration payment from the city was $170,469.13; he was hired Jan. 4, 2011.

Quesnel Councillor Censured....Again

 250 News
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 03:58 AM

Quesnel, B.C. - For the second time in less than a year, the Council for the City of Quesnel has passed a motion of censure against Councillor Sushil Thapar.

A motion of censure is a formal statement that Council is reprimanding one of its members for conduct they feel has violated the Community Charter.

At its meeting this week, Quesnel City Council passed a motion of censure regarding improper disclosure by Coun. Sushil Thapar. Council passed the motion based on Coun. Thapar’s release of confidential information discussed during duly called and closed-to-the-public meetings.

The motion reads:

WHEREAS members of council have a legal duty to maintain confidentiality;

AND WHEREAS improper disclosure of confidential information, particularly involving personal information, may expose the City to liability;

AND WHEREAS Councilor Thapar has disclosed to the media confidential information in clear breach of confidentiality rules and a specific agreement;

NOW THEREFORE COUNCIL censures Councilor Thapar for his failure to comply with the Community Charter with respect to rules of confidentiality related to closed Council meeting matters.

Council cited several sections of the Community Charter that were of concern, most notably: Section 90, which outlines what issues municipalities may or must discuss in-camera, issues mostly related to labour, land or legal.

Last June, Quesnel Council passed a motion of censure against Thapar following a series of events and comments which negatively impacted a number of City of Quesnel employees.



 Council passes motion of censure regarding improper disclosure

For Immediate Release

May 8, 2012

Quesnel, B.C. – Quesnel City Council has passed a motion of censure regarding improper disclosure by Coun. Sushil Thapar. A motion of censure is a formal statement that Council is reprimanding one of its members for conduct they feel has violated the Charter.

Council passed the motion based on Coun. Thapar’s release of confidential information discussed during duly called and closed-to-the-public meetings.

The motion reads:

WHEREAS members of council have a legal duty to maintain confidentiality;

AND WHEREAS improper disclosure of confidential information, particularly involving personal information, may expose the City to liability;

AND WHEREAS Councilor Thapar has disclosed to the media confidential information in clear breach of confidentiality rules and a specific agreement;

NOW THEREFORE COUNCIL censures Councilor Thapar for his failure to comply with the Community Charter with respect to rules of confidentiality related to closed Council meeting matters.

Council cited several sections of the Community Charter that were of concern, most notably: Section 90, which outlines what issues municipalities may or must discuss in-camera, issues mostly related to labour, land or legal.

This is not the first time Quesnel City Council has passed a motion of censure. At a special Council meeting on June 27, 2011, Council made public a motion to censure Coun. Thapar following a series of events and comments that negatively affected a number of City employees.


Editor’s Note: This release is available online at www.quesnel.ca

For further information, please contact:

Mike Cave, Acting Mayor

Cell: 250.316.0536
E-mail: mcave@shaw.ca


City Coun. refuses to stay mum

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
May 04, 2012 11:00 AM
May 04, 2012 11:36 AM

City. Coun. Sushil Thapar has refused to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding the departure of city manager John Stecyk.

"I've never been asked to do that before," Thapar said, adding it was Mayor Mary Sjostrom who asked him to sign the legal document, vowing to remain mum on "anything Stecyk."

The city released a short press release Tuesday afternoon outlining the outgoing city manager's departure:

"Quesnel City Council has announced that it has accepted the resignation of City Manager John Stecyk, effective immediately. Stecyk, who is resigning for personal reasons, came to the City in January 2011.

The City of Quesnel wishes Mr. Stecyk well in his future endeavours.

The City will now begin the process of recruiting a new City Manager, which is expected to take several months to complete. The City will provide updates to the community when appropriate.

In the interim, Council has appointed two senior managers to oversee the City's operations and assist Council in the transition period. Those two are Director of Finance Kari Bolton and the Director of Public Works and Engineering, Ken Coombs."

Shortly after the release Thapar said he was reminded via e-mail of the confidentiality agreement.

"Just a reminder that you are all bound by your oath, the community charter, and the confidentiality agreement to not say anything beyond what was written in the press release regarding John’s departure," the e-mail reads.

"We have already been advised by our lawyer that John’s lawyer is reminding us of our obligation to keep the details of John’s departure confidential."

Thapar replied with a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all financial implications on the departure of Stecyk.

"Is he getting severance?" asked Thapar.

"If there are financial implications, the public should know."

Thapar also pointed to the city-issued press release, calling it "misleading and false."

"If Stecyk's resigning it means no severance," he said, adding that's why he filed the FOI request.

For her part, Mayor Mary Sjostrom said she stands by the city's press release.

"Mr. Stecyk resigned and we (council) accepted that," she said.

But Thapar maintains the release is "misleading" and questions the mayor's transparency.

"The mayor should just come clean," he said.

"When this (Stecyk's departure) is all said and done, we are looking at a much bill larger bill than anyone imagined. No wonder we're broke."

Thapar filled his FOI request Wednesday around 4 p.m. Check future Observer's for follow-up.

"This is the tip of the ice-burg," he said.

"Sjostrom needs to let the public know she created a monster and deal with it."

Editorial – Deal with it

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
May 04, 2012 11:00 AM
May 04, 2012 11:41 AM

Here we go again.

This week after releasing a statement on the departure of city manager John Stecyk, Coun. Sushil Thapar says he was asked to sign an agreement stating he would not discuss anything regarding the “resignation.”

Thapar maintains the release is misleading and has since filed a request for all financial implications the departure would incur under the Freedom of Information Act.

This is getting ridiculous. The in-house fighting and rumours circling city hall are making Quesnel look bad.

The legal confidentiality agreement raises eyebrows, but, more importantly, completely undermines a term used often in this political gong-show: Transparency.

“I’ve never been asked to do that before,” Thapar said, adding it was Mayor Mary Sjostrom who asked him to sign the legal document, vowing to remain mum on “anything Stecyk.”

Certainly Mr. Stecyk should enjoy his right to a private “resignation” but why the legal document? If he’s leaving for “personal reasons” fair enough. Anyone can understand and respect that.

But what’s with the gag-order?

Thapar has since filed a Freedom of Information request, requesting all financial implications of Stecyk’s departure.

Certainly if the information was initially forthcoming we could have avoided this mess.

So why isn’t it?

This needs to be dealt with once and for all.

An open, public discussion is needed on this issue. Continuing back-and-forth allegations is only going to further undermine the integrity of this community.


Financial Facts and Comments by City of Quesnel Finance Chair Councillor Sushil Thapar

posted by arthrtph on Thu, 2011-10-27 17:53

Financial Facts and Comments
City of Quesnel Finance Chair
Councillor Sushil Thapar
Released on October 27, 2011

1. Over budget - Library demolition by $11,909.00
Over budget - Wood waste drop off by $15,463.00
Over budget - Well #10 construction $439,789.00 (city has to mitigate those risks as water is essential).
Over budget - Bike underpass $75,000.00 Dragon Lake hill 1 Million dollar project.
Over budget - Newman Road project by $66,106.00. Newman Road developer did not pay a dime for development cost charges to the city. Gook Country Estates sued the city as the developer. That cost city of Quesnel tax payers over $667,000.00.
Over Budget - St. Laurent Revitalization originally budgeted for $890,000.00 with provision of $375,000.00 grant from Town of Tomorrow, Design $75,000.00 was already paid. It was supposed to be done in house locally to save money and help our economy. The Grant of $375,000.00 did not show up. Instead council, rather than wait for a different program, decided to go ahead all out of city pocket and then approved over 1 Million dollars. Now same project increased by $485,000.00. So we have to ask if this is under budget!!!.


2. Overspent –Quesnel Economic Development by $27,500.00. Mary Sjostrom chair and lot more to it. (in Camera)

3. City Hall Building Administration - 2008 – 1.5 million now 2011 - 2 million.
Director of Public Works was paid approx $100,000.00 a year and now the same job is costing approx $162,000.00 including a contractor for an increase of over $62,000.00.

4. Water and Sewer bills now $406.60 increased again this year. Committee chose to add A $74,200.00 full time employee with 5 against 2 votes. Moved Councillor Roodenberg second by Mayor Sjostrom, Cave, Oakes and Couldwell in support – opposed by Councillor Thapar and Councillor Paull.

5. City residents, (except South Hills) pay a frontage tax which is calculated on the lot size. This covers the ongoing costs for water and sewer. All frontage taxes were increased but the cost to South Hills was not because it is not a line item on their bills. South Hills pays for the connection charges to city water but they do not pay for the upkeep as the other city residents do. South Hill's water debt is $1,988,758.42 that is what they are paying for. For example: on my house I paid $120.00 for water and sewer frontage tax. Frontage tax collected in 2011 for water was $725,000.00, Sewer $208,416.00 for a total of $933,447.00 from the rest of the city. Mayor Sjostorm and council voted for this and opposed were Councillor Thapar and Councillor Paull who voted against it as it is an unfair practice.

6. WEST QUESNEL 2014 Bring back to council option for parcel taxes for phase Two on top of regular tax.

7. Transit…2008 municipal cost was $144,877.00 now in 2011 we have an increase of $158,477.00 for a total cost of Transit in 2011 of $303,354.00. There is a 7 year contract in place which has 100’s of thousands of dollars in increases coming our way.

8. Sept 3, 2010 Mayor Sjostrom and the previous manager spent over $200,000.00 of city taxpayer’s money without getting approval of council. Evidence is in the file. Never happened before in my nine years on council.

9. Expense Claims - Mayor Sjostrom overspent $570.00 in four days at Whistler UBCM. Her expense claim was for $2,333.85 while mine was $1763.85.
Mayor Sjostrom in 2009 FCM in Whistler spent $2915.15 for 4 days, once again Hotel Fairmont at $305.85 per night.
Mayor Sjostrom will not disclose her city owned and paid phone bills for last three years.
Mayor Sjostrom will not disclose her expenses claims from her other 9 different committees she sits on.

10. Spending in question: (City provided data after I went to the Cariboo Observer) local Lunch $23.17 - Windshield Claim:$200.00 - Lunch and Wine: $42.30 - Lunch $49.39 - Christmas gift Home Depot $78.94 - local mileage to Quesnel Airport $9.40 - local lunch: $17.13 - local mileage to Quesnel airport $11.52 - local lunch $49.39 - local mileage to airport $11.52 - local lunch $25.55 - local lunch $33.99 - local lunch $16.62 - picture frame, outdoor cord and plant $67.54 - Chocolates $49.46 - local lunch $30.17 - Tag (no receipt) $10.00 - Napkin receipts Mayor Sjostorm and Butch Sjostorm $20.00 - London Drugs chocolates $46.12 - chocolate $26.20 - local lunch $15.96 - Gift office supplies $85.39 - Local lunch $44.70 – fruitcup and coffee: $7.09 - roast beef $7.00, soda, turkeyblt wrap, fruit salad: $17.37 - HELLO magazine, coke, Hickory Sticks: $9.46 - Local lunch $40.37 - Greeting card 1 $7.28, jumbo Bow Curl, tissue wrapping $12.32 - Chocolate AFTER EIGHT $38.97, TURTLES $35.97,WERTHERS $9.99 TOTAL WITH TAXES $95.12(Costco) - Local lunch for TWO $56.39 - COSTCO SPLENDA $21.99, CUP$14.79 NAPKINS 6.39 Total $45.71 - Michaels $153.00 Christmas supplies - 3 Motherstone Books $113.40 gifts 108 mile - 3 SC Books $30.00 - Local lunch 29.72 - Local lunch $21.69 -Local lunch $39.61 - Richmond Cab (dinner) $35.00 - Chocolates $16.73 - pedicure Gift Certificate $62.00 -Photo Greeting Cards council $35.00 - ROCKY MOUNTAIN VACATION $58.00 DINNER FOR MAYOR Sjostorm and Spouse.

(The city provided the receipts in June, 2011 one month after Councillor Thapar provided the Check Listing for missing claims) local lunch $33.73 - GM Stadium Canucks game Mayor and Spouse - taxi bill city paid $34.00 - Gift to Priest $52.38 - Hands Free device Mayors cell $125.99 - office supply $13.12 - Fruit Basket $29.99 - local lunch $27.48 - local lunch $50.43 - office supply photo frame $102.93 - Gift $59.06 - frame/cards $33.05 - GIFT $60.00 for WHO? - Bathroom Supplies $27.99 - transit card/city 10.01 - lunch $16.40 -lunch 16.89 -thank you cards $30.21 - Ribbon Firemen’s Gift $3.85 - lunch $36.76 - local GAS $56.00 - TWO CHAIRS AND BENCH $1399.95 - IN ADDITION TO THIS $50.00 per month for electronic allowance (suppose to cover only council members who don’t have cell phone, printing needs). Mayor Sjostorm has city Black Berry paid for average over $100.00 per month which she is not disclosing the bills paid by Public Fund.

These above bills consist of local lunches consumed by the mayor and 4 councillors, Roodenburg, Cave, Couldwell, Oakes. Few business lunches and the rest is gas within the city, chocolates, gifts, flowers, candies, taxi bills while watching a hockey game, a windshield claim, local mileage, wine, bathroom supplies, office supplies etc. Feb 17, 2010 Mayor Mary traveled with her husband to the Olympics in Vancouver, booked three nights at Westin Hill Hotel for $332.35 a night, totalling $997.05, flew twice to Vancouver within three days $391.30, claimed per diems $578.50 and then accepted 2 tickets from Richmond Oval for herself and her husband Butch, for a value of $700.00 which makes her total expense to the taxpayer of $2666.85.

11. Perks and gifts: Rocky Mountain Vacations Gold Leaf Package $3652.00 consumed by Mayor Sjostrom and her spouse. The city was billed $58.00 for a meal when this was her vacation. BC Lotto Corp provided 2 tickets for a hockey game in Vancouver; Canucks vs. Ducks consumed by Mayor and her husband…City was billed and paid $34.00 for taxi. No information provided for rest of the claim. Vancouver Convention Center for BC Liberal Party fundraising Mayor Sjostrom took $350.00 gift from a local forest company, no information on the rest of the claim. Mayor Sjostrom received $400.00 for 2 tickets for Vancouver Canucks from Chris Murdy, City solicitor. Mayor Sjostrom received from Richmond Oval $700.00 for two tickets. Total of all gifts $5495.74 were consumed by Mayor Sjostrom and her husband Butch. No information has been provided as to how the rest of the expenses were paid.

Political Issues - Mayor Sjostrom’s campaign 2008 was financed by Bob Graham, Petro Canada for $5167.61, Ron Rasmussen, city auditor, $500.00 and other city contractors.

13. October 2008, before the election, Bob Graham, Petro Canada received multi-million dollar contract from a local forest company for three year term. Mary Sjostrom was elected mayor and she changed the policy to give a 1% tax break to industry where 2/3 of the break goes back to West Fraser Mills.

14. In 2011 the City wrote a cheque for $839,217.94 to West Fraser Mills for QRP tax reassessment. The city lost $683,000.00 out of tax stabilization reserve fund. The City Manager, John Steyck was preparing an appeal when Councillor Thapar asked to appeal to have the funds returned or reduced. That report never made it to council for their decision. This shows how much control Mary Sjostrom has with her executive committee.

15. Bob Graham, Petro Canada received the city oil and gas contract which Mayor Sjostrom voted on in all three years as mayor.

1. RCMP Building: $191,054.03
2. Fire Truck: $912,345.44
3. CITY HALL: $5,044,375.41
4. Soccer Fields: $126,340.87
5. Johnston Bridge: $767,438.35
Sub Total : $7,041,554.10
6. South Hills: 1,704,150.83
7. South hills: 11 $284,607.59
GRAND TOTAL: $9,030,312.52

Next year will see a potential debt to do Moffat Bridge of $ 3 M if everything stays good.

ALL THE VALUES ARE AS RECEIVED FROM CITY OF QUESNEL. Receipts and Emails are on file for evidences.
Sushil Thapar



Coun. Sushil Thapar

Letter to Editor: Ken vs Fran over Quesnel Gate issue

Oct 25 2011

October 23, 2011

Dear Editor:

In reference to the opinion expressed by Fran MacPherson in the
Quesnel Cariboo Observer dated October 14, 2011 bylined “Team Mentality Needed.” I agree with the byline heading, but respectfully disagree with some statements in her letter.

Posted By arthrtph read more

Quesnel Mayor tells Finance Chair it is none of his business regarding her expense claims
August 15, 2011



"Tough times call for tight spending" Quesnel Coun. Thapar strikes back with facts & figures

Aug 25 2011


 [Editor's Note: The following letter was received from Coun. Sushil Thapar of the City of Quesnel. Mr. Thapar has been in the local news lately in Quesnel because of his position on city council as finance chair. Being in that portfolio Coun. Thapar is naturally privy to the financial goings on of council and found himself in the unenviable position of having to scrutinize the spending habits of some council members who appear to be going over their alloted budgets as well as living high on the hog when out of the city on council business.

Such revelations have not gone unnoticed by the Mayor, Mary Sjostrom as well as other council members associated with this current tempest who have been named in other media outlets in Quesnel. The repercussions of Coun. Thapar's transparency have been volatile to say the least with allegations flying back and forth like ping pong balls. Thapar's latest letter is a vindication of the many accusations made by Coun. Roodenburg in her letter to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer of July 15, 2011.

Dear Editor:

Re: Travel budget has no bearing on censure, Observer Feedback section, July 15, 2011.

Further clarification is required concerning the many comments of Councillor Roodenburg, some misleading and others I believe are simply false.

Contrary to Roodenburg statements I was censured for asking questions publicly and it started with Roodenburg’s over-budget travel expense account.

I simply asked acting administrator, Jack Marsh why it was approved. I also asked a question of Ken Coombs regarding West Fraser Timber Park and the $18,000 as I could not recall what it was approved for.

My last concern was the Freedom of Information bill of $262 I received from the city, which I brought up at a regular council meeting. Roodenburg has a travel budget of $4,000 which she is supposed to manage and live within. It is her responsibility to decide which functions are important and to prioritize how her allotted budget is spent.

Clearly council members cannot attend every function. Her travel expenses for 2010 were actually $5639.91 (these figures were taken from cheque listings and VISA statements.)

As for it being stated city council had enough unspent budget money from other council members to cover her own financial indiscretions I would ask Roodenburg to show where in the city’s policies one councillor can transfer their unspent allowance to other council members?

Where has it been done prior to your request?

The budget is set high and just because only 63 per cent was spent does not mean councillors can spend more taxpayers’ money than their allotted $4,000.

Roodenburg’s statement I went to the media first with these concerns is false as is evidenced by the Feb. 11, 2011 front page article in the Observer headlined “Roodenburg defends overspending on travel budget.”

Further to these allegations I never stated Roodenburg stayed in a $300 a night hotel, however there was one booked for her and paid October 16, 2010 by the city VISA for $312.50 for attending the UBCM conference in 2011.

(After my questioning of this expense the expensive rooms were cancelled March 5, 2011).

Why this councillor did not file her expense claim for an event held in September, until Dec 2010 is unknown.

I would also add to this the fact a similar room was booked for me as well without my prior knowledge and I cancelled it Nov. 17, 2010 as I had a room booked for $171.35 (taxes included).

It also needs to be pointed out I did not say Marsh personally paid for Roodenburg’s expenses.

What I said was that it was a legislative item and should have come back to council for approval.

One of the most serious and misleading statements in Roodenburg’s July 15 letter was that the motion of censure was passed unanimously.

What the councillor failed to add was who actually attended this council meeting and the fact that it was an “in camera” meeting and councillors are not permitted to publicly discuss anything that goes on in camera.

The simple truth is both Coun. Ron Paull and I were not in attendance at the meeting where Mayor Sjostrom and the councillors present chose to discredit with a censure motion.

As such the public does deserve to know the motion to censure was not debated and passed at a regular council meeting. Such circumventions of the democratic process leads to the type of confusion we are now seeing.

With respect to Coun. Roodenburg’s query as to why I was bringing up expenses from 2006, as finance chair for the city I requested some expenses from as far back as 2005 as they show a pattern as to what expenses have been claimed in the past.

For example then Coun. Sjostrom, attended one event, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in St. John, NS and charged the city $1,589.87.

Then mayor, Nate Bello, attended the same event and charged $1253.56 for a difference of $336.31. As finance chair I wondered why.

Further explanation is also necessary regarding Roodenburg’s comment about there being over 40 requests made by myself and such a volume is onerous and a waste of taxpayer’s money.

In actual fact I have only made 9 requests for information.

But after months and months of waiting I found I had to keep repeating the same request over and over again due to the fact the requested information was not and still is not forthcoming.

This is why the number of requests seemed to increase so dramatically. Included in these requests was one relating to cheques written to Sjostrom which have not been backed up by any documentation.

Instead I have been provided with over 80 pages of duplicated information which makes me wonder who, in fact, is being wasteful.

It is quite obvious Roodenburg does not understand what the 1/3 tax free allowance she is provided with each month means or she would not have written she spent $2,000 of her own money in 2010.

This tax free allowance is to take the place of the actual expenses she incurs in the discharge of her duties in the Quesnel area.

Also I would like proof she spent $2,000 out of the $4,732.95 allowance she actually receives tax free to perform her duties.

She is paid $14,196 a year as remuneration. This tax free allowance is in place providing receipts for her out of pocket expenses as referred to in subsection 81(3) of the Income Tax Act. The same rules apply to councillor’s expenses as they do any employees.

Given all the errors and allegations in Roodenburg’s letter plus the fact Sjostrom and certain council members have chosen to censure me in the fashion they have, in addition to portraying me in the media as being irresponsible, I think it would only be fair at this stage to cite some further examples of the questionable travel expenses of the mayor but I realize this letter has already surpassed the suggested word count and so I will forego any further statements at this time.

In conclusion, I did vote against a city budget due to the ongoing tax increases instead of looking for efficiencies.

Coun. Roodenburg is misstating the whole situation. I have, and always will be, concerned about wasteful spending by city council.

When times are tough and taxes are on a continuous increase I care about our taxpayers. We need to stop the excessive spending of elected officials and bureaucrats.

Thank you Roodenburg for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions.

Coun. Sushil Thapar
Quesnel, B.C.

Coun. questions mayor’s expenses

By Autumn MacDonald - Quesnel Cariboo Observer
February 17, 2011 3:00 PM
February 17, 2011 3:49 PM


Observer Reporter

The city’s finance chair is claiming some members of council are misusing taxpayers’ money.

Coun. Sushil Thapar believes some members of Quesnel city council are “greedy” and only “there to make money.”

Specifically, Thapar pointed to council members staying in “five-star hotels” during annual conventions and meetings.

“Is this for luxury or for a meeting?” he asked.

Thapar says he chose to stay at a hotel “one block” from the convention centre in Vancouver [at a “fraction “of the cost.]

“Why not save money?” he asked.

“It’s not mine.”

However, Mayor Mary Sjostrom pointed to the city’s travel policy, adopted in 2009.

It states:

“At the time of booking the accommodation, discretion shall be used as to which properties are used, ensuring that the suggested government rates are utilized.

“To accommodate the traveller and safety issues, first consideration should be given to the conference location. Booking the traveller into that location or close by in another comparable property ensures ease of access to the conference while reducing secondary travel costs, (i.e. taxis, public transportation, and/or car rentals.)

“There’s a policy for a reason,” Sjostrom said, admitting choosing to stay at the convention center is more expensive.

“But this is a convenience and safety issue.”

Not for Thapar.

For him, it’s about the bottom line.

He poined to another area the city could save money.

“I could easily clawback $300,000 in administration costs with no disruption,” he said.

“And that’s on the low end.”

Sjostrom pointed to the $1 million in savings council found during last year’s budget process, adding it is city manager, John Stecyk’s responsibility to administer the city.

“He has gone over our budget line by line,” she said.

“And, for 2011, he did not see a lot of fat.

“He saw we had already cut considerably.”

Sjostrom also pointed to council members approving travel cuts to their budgets.

“Council went from $5,000 a year to $4,000,” she said.

“And the mayor went from $12,000 to $11,000. Council is doing its part.”

Not good enough, argued Thapar, highlighting the city’s consideration of a 5.5 per cent property-tax increase this year.

“We’re running out of money and increasing taxes,” he said.

“Well, of course we

are, staying in five-star hotels.”

Sjostrom noted there is “more to the story” and said she looks forward to meeting with Thapar.

“I am disappointed he chose to use the media to voice his concerns,” she said.

“We need to deal with this. There is so much to do.”