By Rhonda Massad
After several denied requests by Baie D’Urfé Councillor Peter Fletcher to have the town’s auditor’s report translated into English, The Suburban interviewed both Mayor Maria Tutino and Councillor Fletcher to get an accurate view of the ongoing issue.
On July 4, The Suburban asked both parties their opinion on the bilingual status of the auditor’s report being issued solely in French.
Fletcher told The Suburban: “I promised the voters that I would take action on this issue and I am. I think it is only fair that if we can ask for tax dollars in two official languages, then we should have the courtesy to issue the auditor’s report in both official languages.”
According to Fletcher, the auditors’ report is traditionally produced only in French. However, it is a unique document that expresses the opinions of the independent auditors with respect to the city’s financial affairs. For Fletcher, there is no other substitute. An English addendum will not suffice.
“The document is 44 pages long and we owe it to the taxpayer to provide this document in both languages. We are not talking about a substantial amount of money,” he explained.
Mayor Tutino was asked if the report would be forthcoming in English:
“The audit report will not be forthcoming in English because there is no need, no demand and no requirement to do so, “Tutino explained to The Suburban, “a translation is effective if it is important to citizens. We have yet to have a request for this in the eight and half years I have served this community.”
For Tutino, taking valuable director general time when the city does not have a clerk, a human resource person or an assistant to the director-general, it is not worth the effort for a document that is irrelevant to 100 per cent of the citizens except Councillor Fletcher.
“Why would we waste valuable resources getting a quote to translate a nonissue,” she said.
Tutino went on to explain that it has always been the responsibility of the finance chairperson, the Director General as well as the treasurer’s office to review and summarize financial documents for the citizens. The report is submitted to the Municipal Affairs Ministry (Ministère des Affaires Municipales, Régions et Occupation du Territoire) in French after it has been deposited to council in French and subsequently summarized in both languages and delivered directly to each address in the city. Since the demerger the town has had four different auditors, all of which indicate that the city’s records are sound.
With regard to the removal of Councillor Fletcher from the town’s finance committee and subsequent dismantling of said committee:
“After Councillor Fletcher responded to a question at a council meeting, I was forced to intervene when the citizen asked the question—What is the debt of the town?” she explained, “In May of this year, I responded to the question in writing with great detail in my mayor’s report in the News and Views—the summary of the long-term debt of $3.4 million is outlined on page 5 of the town’s May communiqué. I read this report to the citizen at the June meeting,” explained Mayor Tutino.
She went on to say, “I have dissolved the finance committee and will not be addressing the committee itself at this time. All finance questions will be addressed to the mayor and council at large. The urgency was to remove the finance spokesperson from the committee based on a false answer he provided to a citizen regarding long-term debt at the June council meeting.”
“When I answered the citizen that there was no long-term debt I was being facetious. It was an expression of my frustration. I had just explained that without proper information given in English it was impossible to understand the document fully. It cannot be expected that an English addendum is the solution. The accounting methodology is expressed only in French,” Fletcher said.
“I have asked several times to attend the meetings with the auditors and have been denied,” he explained. “My interest is in full transparency for all citizens.”