Nova Scotia

Inverness council still grappling with management complaints

The county council in Inverness, N.S., is continuing to grapple with a list of allegations — initially dismissed as without merit — that include hiring and contract irregularities in the municipal office, along with concerns about public water quality and availability.

Allegations over hiring, contracts dismissed last month as without merit continue to spark controversy

Inverness County Coun. John MacLennan is continuing to stand by his call for an investigation into allegations of problems with hiring and contracts, as well as water quality and supply. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The county council in Inverness, N.S., is continuing to grapple with a list of allegations that include hiring and contract irregularities in the municipal office, along with concerns about public water quality and availability.

A council member raised the concerns in December, but the matter is being kept under wraps for now.

Following a nearly-two-hour-long closed-door meeting on Thursday, Inverness County Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said she was unable to answer any questions on the allegations or what council might do about them.

"We have to be strict with the confidentiality of in-camera sessions," MacQuarrie said.

Coun. John MacLennan first brought the concerns to council last month. After an hour-long in camera meeting at that time, the warden dismissed the allegations as being without merit.

She said they were untrue, but at least one of them could be verified by the minutes of previous council meetings.

Water problems documented

Records show that more than a year ago, the county budgeted for, but never bought, generators for the water utilities.

Then in September, Hurricane Dorian knocked out power, leaving two communities without water for several days.

Other allegations involve how staff were hired or how contracts were awarded, which are not easily verified by the minutes of public council meetings.

The public portion of Thursday's council meeting only lasted about 25 minutes, but then council went in camera for a lengthy set of discussions that included the allegations.

At one point during that meeting, voices were raised for several minutes.

Most councillors refused to comment afterward.

In a brief interview, MacLennan said he stands by his call for an investigation, despite council pressure to distance himself from the allegations.

Inverness County Coun. John MacLennan says he's been vindicated after the province ruled that raw water went to some homes after a power outage caused by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Just before Christmas, council asked MacLennan to sign a memo that he would he disavow the allegations and apologize for making the matter public.

Instead, he issued a press release saying he was disappointed council was more interested in finding out where the allegations came from than investigating to see if they are founded.

On Thursday, MacLennan said he is satisfied after this week's meeting.

"They're going to investigate everything. See what happens," he said, declining further comment.

Inverness County Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie would not confirm whether council will investigate the allegations, but says the issue is likely to come up again. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The warden would not confirm that.

"I have no comment," MacQuarrie said. "That was all discussion at in camera."

However, the topic will likely come up again, she said.

"Probably another meeting will tell. A lot of further discussion."

On Friday, the warden issued a clarification by email. MacQuarrie said it should be clear that "no investigation of any member of the municipality's staff is underway or planned. This matter is now closed."

She said council stands by its previous statement that the letter provided to council "contains claims that have no merit and information that is untrue and inaccurate."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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