Russ Wyatt rejects council appointment, upset it was brought up at meeting
'It shakes my confidence in the mayor now,' says Transcona councillor
Winnipeg Coun. Russ Wyatt says he believes he was caught in a political trap after a council appointment that he had turned down was brought up during a heated debate at Wednesday's council meeting.
The Transcona councillor revealed that a senior city staff member had called him on Tuesday to offer him a position as council's liaison to the project management officer for capital projects — a new city position.
Wyatt said the role seemed too vague, but he was told that Mayor Brian Bowman wanted an answer before council met on Wednesday.
"I did not know why I needed to get back to him prior to the council meeting, and I didn't think much of it," he said.
Wyatt said he texted Bowman on Tuesday night, asking for more information about the position before he could accept it.
"If there's not a terms of reference, if there's not a job description, you know, I'd like to know what I'm agreeing to do," he said, adding that he turned down the opportunity.
Offer raised at meeting
He said he was then surprised when the rejected offer was brought up at Wednesday's meeting, during a debate on whether to raise the threshold for reporting city capital projects from $10 million to $20 million.
Wyatt was strongly opposed to raising the threshold, saying it would make city hall less transparent because it would mean less monitoring of projects under $20 million.
That was when Coun. Marty Morantz, who chairs the city's finance committee, brought up the council appointment that had been offered to Wyatt the day before.
"I was taken aback. That was something which [was] very unbecoming of a councillor, a member of council, to raise at a meeting and a discussion tells me that you've obviously received the information from either the mayor or his staff or both," Wyatt said.
"Unfortunately it really is a shame, and it shakes my confidence in the mayor now, and the trust."
The motion was eventually passed. Wyatt voted against it, as did councillors Ross Eadie and Scott Gillingham, who is a member of the finance committee.
Morantz accuses Wyatt of 'childish behaviour'
Morantz would not reveal how he knew about the position that was offered to Wyatt, only saying, "This was an issue that came up in discussions this morning."
When asked about Wyatt's remarks, Morantz said, "He doesn't like the fact that the threshold is being increased and he's been offered, like, a tremendous opportunity to work directly with the new person that we're hiring to oversee all of these capital projects."
Morantz added, "I hate to bring this up but you know, Coun. Wyatt himself, in one of our council meetings a couple of months ago, stormed out and was saying, 'Democracy denied' and taping resolutions up on the mayor's office."
He was referring to Wyatt's response when council approved a 20-year, $334-million cycling and pedestrian strategy in July.
"Really childish behaviour ... [it's] not really the kind of behaviour that the public expects councillors to be embarking on," Morantz said.
Wyatt not on appointment list
On Wednesday afternoon, Bowman announced appointments for a number of councillors in liaison and secretary positions. Wyatt was not on that list.
"I did offer him the opportunity to serve in a collaborative role and unfortunately it was declined," Bowman told reporters.
"We'll continue to have those discussions and I'll continue to work with members of council."
The mayor added, "I won't speak for the councillor. All I can say is I will continue to try to find opportunities for every member of council to provide leadership and also to help strengthen the spirit of collaboration that we've started over the last year and that we'll continue to strengthen this year."
The appointments that were announced include:
- Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface) — council liaison for the Francophone and Francophile Cities Network.
- Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) — secretary of urban aboriginal opportunities.
- Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) — council liaison for school board and youth opportunities.
- Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston) — council liaison for veteran and military affairs.
- Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) — secretary of strategies to end homelessness.
- Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) — council liaison for labour relations.
With files from the CBC's Nelly Gonzalez