BRITISH COLUMBIA

Former B.C. auditor petitions court saying she was illegally fired

05/13/2015 07:04 EDT | Updated 05/13/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - British Columbia's former auditor general for local government, who was fired amid accusations she was obstructing a review of her office, is fighting her dismissal in court.

Basia Ruta says in a petition filed Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court that the minister responsible for her termination never allowed her to respond to the allegations or informed her she was being fired for cause.

"I learned I had been terminated allegedly for cause by statements made by the minister to the media," says Ruta in an accompanying affidavit.

She wants the judge to declare her termination void, rule she still has the job, and order payment of all outstanding salary and benefits.

Ruta was dismissed in March after she criticized the government for appointing Chris Trumpy, a former deputy minister, to review her work. She raised concerns he could be biased.

She said at the time the legislation governing her office maintained that any review must be done by a "qualified and truly independent person."

But her office was also under the microscope of the Opposition New Democrats who released a workplace review that outlined an inefficient and unhappy workplace. Since the office was created in April 2012, just two audits had been completed.

Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes said at the time that Ruta's "obstruction of an intended review of her office has created an intolerable situation."

Ruta says Oakes never told her she was obstructing a review, and she was called into a March 23 meeting and terminated.

Ruta says that under the act that created her position she is entitled to be given details about any alleged cause for dismissal and a chance to respond before she is removed.

Her petition names the province, the minister and the audit council, a five-member panel meant to ensure the auditor's effectiveness.

Oakes says she could not comment as the matter is before the courts.

The Liberal government created Ruta's position in 2012 to help city and municipal governments improve their operations.

In the petition, she says she sought legal advice from the Ministry of Justice in June 2014 about the scope of the council to review her office.

In December, the ministry's legal services branch wrote a letter to the council on behalf of the attorney general that said it was exceeding its jurisdiction.

The letter signed by Richard Butler says council members "are not equipped to be managers in a human resources sense," and further, "the auditor general does not 'report' to the audit council."

Ruta says in the petition that she repeatedly expressed her concerns about the legality and scope of the review, but the council never took steps to address them.

"At no time did the audit council or the minister advise (Ruta) that if she refused to participate in the proposed review that she would be terminated for cause," the petition says.

Ruta announced shortly after she was fired that she would ask a judge to review the decision.