BRITISH COLUMBIA

Audit council says B.C. justified for ousting local government auditor general

06/14/2015 09:17 EDT | Updated 06/14/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - A five-member oversight panel in British Columbia is justifying its recommendation that the provincial government fire its former auditor general for local government, citing a string of broken promises, reports of unprofessional behaviour and an unwillingness to work collaboratively.

Through documents filed in the province's supreme Court, B.C.'s audit council fired back after former auditor general Basia Ruta filed a lawsuit against the group alleging wrongful dismissal.

In its response, the council said that it recommended Ruta's removal only after it "had lost all confidence" in her ability to act "effectively and credibly."

Two month's after her dismissal in March of this year, Ruta filed a petition against the council, as well as the province and Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes.

Ruta said in her lawsuit that she wasn't given a chance to respond to the allegations before being dismissed, finding out only later through the media that she had been removed with cause.

The audit council maintained it had engaged in "an extensive and ongoing dialogue" with Ruta, through which the council had raised concerns over her repeated failure to deliver promised audits on deadline.

The council also alleged that Ruta had created a procedural deadlock, which prevented it from fulfilling its responsibility to monitor her performance.

Ruta's dismissal came after she criticized the government's decision to appoint Chris Trumpy, a former deputy minister, to review her work. She raised concerns over his impartiality.

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

In its submission to court, the council described a pattern in which Ruta would set overly ambitious targets before failing to meet them. It said she pushed back deadlines repeatedly.

In court documents, the group said it was "becoming increasingly frustrated with (Ruta's) unwillingness or inability" to provide timely updates and information.

The council also alleged that Ruta routinely showed an unwillingness to work collaboratively, whether by failing to co-operate in a performance assessment or refusing to share legal advice.

In her suit, the former auditor argued that the audit council's activities were beyond the scope of its mandate. Her allegations were reinforced in late 2014 when the Ministry of Justice responded to Ruta's request for legal advice by writing a letter to the council saying that it was indeed overstepping its jurisdiction.

Ruta said in her petition that the council never took steps to address the legality and scope of its proposed review, despite her repeated expressions of concern.

"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,'' said the petition.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

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

The role of the audit council is to monitor the auditor's performance and effectiveness.

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Note to readers: A previous version of this story incorrectly described Basia Ruta as the local government attorney general