By George Brown
Just weeks after declaring he would seek a fourth term in the October municipal election, Coun. Dave Karroll has abruptly resigned.
He submitted his letter of resignation to Town of Rimbey CAO Tony Goode on Aug. 31, to take effect at 5 p.m. Sept. 1.
In an interview with the Rimbey Review, Karroll explained that once he was presented with some documents obtained by a citizen through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) request, he could no longer, in good conscience, remain on council.
“I was motivated to do it because the information that just came into my possession…shocked me and I don’t want to stay out the term and be attached anymore to what is going to be coming out.”
That information is more than a year’s worth of expense vouchers for town councillors and Mayor Dale Barr. Karroll claims councillors never saw the minute details of each other’s expense reports, just the monthly totals. Cheques were approved by a committee of the mayor and deputy mayor, the CAO and municipal treasurer. At council meetings, councillors would see a consolidated financial statement but not the cheque register.
“We’re encouraged of course not to be micro-managers.”
Once Karroll met with retired town manager Russ Wardrope to address some of the questions raised by the FOIPed documents, his next course of action was clear.
“I said, okay, I’m done. My integrity is going to be on the line here.
“I’m getting bad-mouthed around town. My expenses, anything I’ve ever done for the community has been more than frugal, more than fair.”
Many of the mayor’s expenses that surprised Karroll relate to meetings concerning the proposed Aspen Bio-Energy ethanol plant, including at least one trip out of the country.
“That’s what threw me. The kind of numbers that came out,” he said. “I’ve never seen these (while) on council. I’ve never been privy to them.
“I was just stunned.
“Are these expenses all valid? My question is, the mayor just put out in the Talk of the Town (newsletter) and indicated we have $10,000 at risk in this thing; where did he come up with that number?
Figuring in travel costs, engineering fees and staff time, “it could be north of $160,000, I don’t know. That’s pure speculation.”
Karroll said if the biofuels plant is everything it is hyped to be — major employer, huge tax assessment, consumer of municipal and agricultural waste — council’s expenses and contributions thus far may be worth it. “But six years later, it’s still smoke. Is it reality? I can’t tell you that.”
It might take a forensic audit and more FOIP requests for documents to “confirm and verify what the real number is to be attributed to that thing,” he said.
Now that he has resigned, Karroll said it’s a moot point whether he would have been more effective searching for the truth while still a member of council.
He still expects his recommendations for more accountability and transparency around the council table will be discussed at the Sept. 14 meeting. Those recommendations include implementing policies to establish how many councillors are allowed to attend provincial and national association meetings; what types of personal expenses will be covered by the town; that all approved councillors’ expenses be posted on the Town of Rimbey’s website; who decides how much councillors are paid; and that the mayor’s position be confirmed as part-time.