SUPERINTENDENT HASN'T TAKEN QUESTIONS AT A COUNCIL MEETING IN OVER A YEAR
KELOWNA - A city councillor says he’s surprised and a little disappointed the Kelowna RCMP have not appeared at a public council meeting to take questions since the new council was sworn in over a year ago.
City councillor Ryan Donn says RCMP superintendent Nick Romanchuk has appeared before council during confidential in camera meetings, but has yet to answer questions about the police service in a public council meeting.
Councillors cannot discuss matters raised during in camera meetings, which are typically held to discuss land, legal or human resource matters.
For his part, Donn says he would like to ask the superintendent about the Prosser report, what the current patrol availability is and what happened to the RCMP’s bike patrol this summer.
“I want to ask those things publicly,” Donn says.
The Prosser report was a 2012 consultant’s report that recommended Kelowna hire an additional 21 officers beyond normal increases to help reduce a increasingly onerous case load. The report also recommended the Kelowna detachment strive for a patrol availability rate of 25 per cent. The last of the 21 officers were hired this spring.
Donn stopped short of describing the relationship between council and the superintendent as strained but said he had been expecting a lot more from an organization that takes up 25 per cent of the city’s budget.
No councillor would speak on the record about the details of previous meetings with the RCMP but one councillor said privately they thought Donn’s dissatisfaction with Romanchuk stems from the first in camera meeting where the superintendent seemed ill-prepared and could not answer several questions.
A second meeting went better after some councillors complained and the superintendent promised to appear before them at a public council meeting at a later date. No date for that meeting has yet been set.
Supt. Romanchuk did not respond to two requests for an interview. The superintendent took on his role in September 2013 after 22 years of service and with extensive detachment command experience.
Donn’s fellow councillors do not altogether share his view of council's relationship with the superintendent, although some did agree privately it didn't start smoothly.
“We had some discussions with them, we wanted more information as to what was going on, it was provided and now we have established a great relationship,” said Coun. Mohini Singh.
She describes any earlier difficulties with the superintendent as growing pains from a new council and new superintendent getting used to one another and figuring out what each side wants.
“We had to rebuild the relationship but it’s great now,” Singh added.
Coun. Brad Sieben said he didn’t want to make a big deal out of the lack of a public meeting, although he said he thought it should happen on at least an annual basis.
“We have made our feelings known on the nature and the frequency of the reporting we would like to see. I’m confident it will happen soon,” Sieben said. “I don’t see this as much of a story."
Coun. Tracy Gray also said she felt council’s relationship with the superintendent is in a good place.
“I think we’ve made it clear our expectations of how often we want to hear from them and the information we want and how we would like it presented on a regular basis,” Gray said. “I certainly wouldn’t regard this as a crisis situation.”
For his part, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran was surprised at Donn’s complaint and said council’s relationship with council was “working well and going well.”
“We have to keep in mind, he’s new to his role, as am I so given we’re a new council and relatively new superintendent, we’re both getting comfortable with each other,” Basran said.
The mayor said an agreement has been reached with the superintendent that he brief council in camera twice a year and give a bi-annual public presentation on the city’s ongoing crime reduction strategy at at Kelowna council meeting.
Coun. Charlie Hodge refused to comment on the meetings at all. “I’ll just get myself in trouble,” he said.
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