No 'public whiplashing' of city officials, Morantz vows as he prepares to call Sterling Lyon Parkway audit
Councillor wants to see results of internal audit into controversial freeway before civic election in October
Coun. Marty Morantz says he still has questions about the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension but he won't engage in "a public whiplashing" of any City of Winnipeg employee.
In his first comments at city hall since the holiday break, the councillor at the centre of the freeway-extension controversy says he no longer believes any single individual is to blame for an aborted plan to extend Sterling Lyon Parkway through a semi-rural neighbourhood south of Wilkes Avenue.
"Having the opportunity to reflect on this over the holidays and giving myself some distance on the issue, I think more questions could have been asked at the time," the Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge councillor said Tuesday following the first public works committee meeting of 2018.
"I do have a concern there was a breakdown of communications around this route that may have had adverse effects on residents in my ward."
Residents of the Wilkes South neighbourhood descended on city hall in fall to express concern the route studied by the city differed from three options presented to the public in January 2016.
Morantz and Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil said in 2017 that this took them by surprise, but a briefing note obtained by CBC News revealed the CAO was provided with a map of the route and copies of public consultation materials in 2016.
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This revelation led Morantz to signal his intention to call for an internal audit of the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension. He said he will follow through on that pledge at Wednesday's executive policy committee meeting and ask city auditor Bryan Mansky to move this audit to the front of the queue.
"I'd certainly like to see it done before the election and there'll be a provision in the motion to ask the auditor to reprioritize to allow that to occur," Morantz said on Tuesday.
He said he is leaning toward running in that election for a second term.
Morantz said he also looks forward to a performance review of McNeil but does not support doing so at a special council meeting, as South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes desired.
"To have a special council meeting, to have a public whiplashing, I don't think that's what people expect of us," Morantz said, adding performance reviews of senior officials should be conducted away from public view.
"These are public servants. They're not elected officials. Their careers are at stake. Their reputations are at stake. I think we need to be delicate about how we deal with that process."
Morantz, however, made a public call to remove former city engineer Scott Suderman from the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension project at a public works committee meeting on Oct. 31. This led to a complaint from the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers, the union representing the city's skilled professionals.
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The councillor said he now has more information about the file.
"It's clear to me now that the difficulties that unfolded with this project are multi-layered. I don't regret what I did," Morantz said.
"To be fair, I think there was more of an overall institutional breakdown as to what occurred here and I wouldn't lay the blame on any particular individual."