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Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen examining emergency plan contract

The decision to award the contract has come under scrutiny over conflict of interest concerns
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will review its emergency management plan. The awarding of a contract for this plan has since come under scrutiny. (Black Press file photo)

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) discussed a $60,000 contract during an in-camera meeting on March 16, but is not speaking publicly about the matter.

In a statement following the meeting, regional district board chair Mark Pendergraft said the in-camera discussion followed the community charter.

Late in 2022, Sundog Solutions was awarded the contract to review the regional district’s emergency management program. Since 2022, the decision has come under scrutiny after it came out that the firm’s founder and primary consultant is Amanda Newell, daughter of Bill Newell, the chief administrative officer of the regional district.

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A lengthy closed-door session of the regional district’s board of directors was convened on March 8 to discuss the decision. A second in-camera discussion was held on the afternoon of March 16.

“The RDOS board of directors takes all internal issues seriously and will continue to review regional district processes and policies,” Pendergraft said. “Due to privacy legislation, the board is not at liberty to comment further at this time.”

Publically though, the regional district continues to praise Sundog.

“Sundog Solutions is a well-respected emergency management consulting company, and the regional district board is confident that the report Sundog Solutions is preparing based on the public input received to date will provide valuable insights and recommendations,” Pendergraft said in a news release prior to the March 16 meeting.

“The board is committed to ensuring a more transparent purchasing process in the future. However, a competitive process was undertaken, and the Sundog Solutions proposal was selected based on methodology and schedule. Analysis of the feedback will help shape the future of emergency management at the RDOS.”

Under the regional district’s purchasing and sales policy, employees may not benefit directly from regional district transactions. The policy also states that any situation which could be a perceived conflict must be identified.

The regional district says the emergency program review began with an open survey conducted from Jan. 17 to Feb. 17. The review also included a series of facilitated community focus groups with residents, property owners, municipal partners, and emergency management professionals.

A final report on the regional district’s emergency program review is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Directors before April 30. The regional district is seeking to optimize the emergency program to serve the essential needs of citizens wherever possible within its mandate.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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