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RDOS boss in hot water over $60K contract awarded to daughter’s consulting firm

Directors discuss how to deal with alleged impropriety
The board, meeting as the corporate services committee, immediately took the matter in-camera Wednesday, Mar. 8. File photo.

A consensus was reached Wednesday, Mar. 8 regarding how the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) proposes to deal with allegations of impropriety against its chief administrative officer Bill Newell.

However, the details will not be made available until the district’s next board meeting March 16, according to chair Mark Pendergraft.

The fruits of a two-and-a-half hour in-camera session will likely be presented in the form of a resolution to the board, Pendergraft added.

Late in 2022 the regional district awarded a $60,000 contract to Sundog Solutions, a consulting firm attached to Newell’s daughter, to perform an emergency program review.

Newell is responsible for the district’s emergency management program and participated in the proposal evaluation.

According to Sundog’s website, Amanda Newell is its founder and primary consultant, holding a certificate and master’s degree in disaster and emergency management.

The issue came to light at the end of a seven-hour board meeting Feb. 16, during the CAO’s verbal report to directors.

It was not listed separately on the agenda and the supporting document was not initially made available to the media. Newell emailed it directly to board members, although some did not receive it, in what he described as a computer error.

That report stated Sundog was given the contract over Red Dragon Consulting because of the strength of its approach to community engagement, and its ability to meet a tighter deadline.

The board deferred a discussion to the March 2 regular meeting. However, on that day it was decided to hold a special meeting on March 8, as several directors were not in attendance.

On Wednesday the board, meeting as the corporate services committee, immediately took the matter in-camera.

“It was a very lively discussion,” said Pendergraft.

He said Newell was present for the first part of the meeting, when he answered questions, but did not sit in while directors debated their options.

Under the regional district’s purchasing and sales policy, no employee can benefit directly from district transactions. The policy also states that any situation which could present a perceived conflict must be identified.

In Newell’s February report to the board, he stated he had minimal participation in the selection process.

“There was no pecuniary interest in this matter for the CAO although, in hindsight, one could see that there might be a perception of bias to those not having full information on the process and evaluation factors in the selection process,”

The regional district purchasing and sales policy addresses conflicts real and perceived.

“Employees shall exercise caution when there is a possibility or perception of conflict of interest with a contractor/supplier, or potential contractor/supplier,” it states. “Employees involved in a procurement process, either directly or indirectly, must notify their direct supervisor of any potential conflict of interest with a contractor or supplier.”

Newell reports directly to the board.

Newell told the Spotlight, on Thursday, March 9, that he could not comment because the issue was still in-camera.

“(Directors) will release a statement once finished their discussions,” he said.

Newell has been the top boss at the RDOS for approximately 15 years, and in 2021 earned $184,156 according to the district’s Statement of Financial Information.

Related: Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen budget increases

Related: Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen holds survey on vacation rentals

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Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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