CityWest defends transparency in the face of resident concern

It may not have been a focal point for Prince Rupert council, but those who spoke during budget discussions had CityWest on their mind.

It may not have been a focal point for council, but those in the gallery who spoke during the April 29 budget discussions certainly had CityWest on their mind.

First to speak was Larry Golden. After being told the company was making loan payments despite not paying a dividend to the City this year, Golden raised his concerns about the transparency of CityWest given that the City of Prince Rupert is the lone shareholder of the company.

“They use to put financial statements up for people to see. When I went to ask for them I was told they would not be available. We as citizens should be able to see that,” he said.

“I think it is time to re-evaluate CityWest in terms of the City.”

When Golden continued to press the issue, saying that as owners CityWest should show their financials, and didn’t directly pose a question from Acting Mayor Anna Ashley, Mayor Jack Mussallem, whose voice was noticeably upset over the phone intervened.

“Madam chair I object. There is nothing the City is doing underhanded in regards to CityWest or anything else, and if Mr. Golden can’t ask a question then kick him off the mic,” he said.

The other person to speak, Barbara Kuhl, also said she had issue with how CityWest is being run.

“I think CityWest is being anything but transparent… I don’t the financials were there [in the presentation] to explain why they wouldn’t be giving the City the $500,000 dividend,” she said.

“That information appeared to be available and known by the chief financial officer [CFO], as it would have been in the plan.”

But CityWest chief financial officer Chris Marett said the company does make information available as needed and welcomes questions from the public.

“CityWest’s net income, as well as any debt payments or dividends, are reported in the City’s financial statements.  Additionally, residents are welcome to come by our offices and discuss the financials with our CFO… The City appoints directors as its representatives to the Company and the directors receive detailed monthly financial information. The City also receives audited financial statements and Council receives at least one presentation per year on the financial statements,” he said, noting the information is no longer posted because CityWest operates in a competitive market.

“During negotiations with competitors and major customers, it was determined that as these parties knew our financial details, it put us at a competitive disadvantage.”