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COMMENT: CAO Victor Kumar Quits

According to word on the street, CAO Victor Kumar has finally done something beneficial for Rossland - he quit.

Apparently he has informed staff that he is leaving as of the end of September. At least one staff member has told a member of the public that Kumar’s leaving is public information because staff was informed of his decision. Mr. Kumar’s resignation confirms rumours that have circulated for months that he told colleagues at out-of-town meetings he was leaving in September.

So why hasn’t council made an announcement about Mr. Kumar’s departure? Are they waiting to let him leave town unnoticed? And what are they doing about finding a replacement?  On the other hand, based on the performance of the last two CAOs Rossland has had, we might be better off without one.
 
Mr. Kumar’s departure should certainly save the city a lot of grief in the years to come. Unfortunately, in many cases, the mess he leaves behind will likely take years to straighten out.
 
Problems began soon after Mr. Kumar started on the job. The first issue was his insistence on a delegation bylaw that gave him sweeping powers over the operation of the city.  Although Council agreed to adopt a delegation bylaw as part of Mr. Kumar’s contract, they didn’t have to give away the keys to the kingdom in the process. The delegation bylaw, coupled with the repeal of most of the council policies which provided direction to staff, effectively gave Mr. Kumar unfettered control over the operation of the city. Council, for their part, simply got out the rubber stamps and agreed to whatever Mr. Kumar put in front of them.
 
Another method Mr. Kumar used to secure total control over the operation of the city was to discourage the use of council committees. In the past, councillors had an opportunity to learn more about the operation of the city by sitting on committees which dealt with key areas of operation like finance, public works, or planning etc. By eliminating committees, councillors were denied an opportunity to gain a more detailed understanding of the operation of the city and hence lost the ability to ask informed questions about Mr. Kumar’s frequently wild proposals.
 
Mr. Kumar has a very simple way of making proposals to council - do it my way, send it back to staff to tweak the recommendation, or don’t do it. Not much choice there and little or no opportunity for council to bring forward alternative ideas. On the other hand, except for Coun. Kathy Moore, I’m not sure that other councillors are willing to generate their own ideas.
 
When challenged/questioned about his dubious proposals, Mr. Kumar frequently goes on the offensive and attacks whoever is asking the question or he provides a convoluted, unintelligible rant that invariably baffles listeners.
 
What were some of Mr. Kumar’s accomplishments while in his post?
 
To start, the arena roof project morphed into multiple unauthorized, expensive projects that ended up being the subject of an investigation by the auditor. It’s an issue that is not finished yet.
 
Then there was the Ophir Reservoir Parcel Tax controversy.  When the original Parcel Tax Review Panel directed Mr. Kumar to make corrections to the parcel tax roll Mr. Kumar ignored the majority of the panel. A year later he convinced council to replace the original panel and appoint an outside panel that dutifully approved his original incorrect roll. This year, the supposedly correct roll was amended to include over 100 changes to the tax roll. Notices of the changes were not sent to property owners so they had little opportunity to object. The roll still contains many inequities.
 
Mr. Kumar accused me of harassment when I pointed out that a building permit had been issued and a garage built on city property on Second Avenue. It’s of interest to note that a bylaw was just introduced at the last council meeting to close a portion of Second Avenue and sell it to the owner of the encroaching garage to eliminate the problems created by the issuance of the building permit.
 
Does anyone remember the $25,000 unauthorized swimming pool “study” and the rejected grant application for more money than was available? Instead of learning from that experience, further inappropriate applications were submitted for grants for the Columbia-Washington project that were also rejected. Council had to scale back the project as a result. And still another application has been submitted for Washington St. that does not follow the guidelines of the grant program. These rejected applications have cost the city millions of dollars. It’s a good thing Mr. Kumar is leaving, we can’t afford to lose out on more opportunities.
 
For his most recent crusade, Mr. Kumar convinced council to cancel the DCC bylaw. He claimed it could be replaced by a financial tool that not even the people in the Ministry in Victoria had heard about. Maybe that’s why no replacement for the DCC bylaw has been brought forward. The result will be higher taxes for the citizens of Rossland and a break for developers when development starts again.
 
So who will replace Mr. Kumar? One can only hope that council is doing a comprehensive search to find the most capable individual for the role. However, there has been no indication that such a search is underway.
 
Maybe council figures they can run the city. (I’m just kidding.)