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Should taxpayers be told when a city councillor isn’t paying taxes?

Posted on 7 October 2013

Prince George city councillor Cameron Stolz didn’t pay some of his taxes. He didn’t pay them in 2011, he didn’t pay them in 2012. He hadn’t paid them at the beginning of 2013, but then his property was put on a list of places that would go up for auction in order to collect the money owed.

Then he paid his taxes.

At the same time as he wasn’t paying his taxes, Cameron Stolz was the chair of the city’s finance and audit committee.

Then on October 3, the online news site Opinion250 published a story revealing these facts.

On October 4, he was in the Prince George Citizen saying he had stepped down as the chair of finance a because “when you’re in a position of authority as a chair of a committee, concerns can be raised because of the situation I’m in… And I thought it was best to alleviate those concerns.”

Stolz told the Citizen he made the decision to step down on September 12.

Opinion250 notes that despite this, there was a city council meeting on September 23 where no mention of the change was made:

“At that meeting Councillor Stolz submitted a report as Chairman of the Finance and Audit committee , (G-2 on agenda) dealing with a number of matters. Nowhere does Councillor Stolz resign or for that matter make it public that he  planned  to  step down as head of Finance and Audit. The September 12th meeting,  in which Stolz says he told the other members that he was stepping down over his tax issue,  is not mentioned.”

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The question is, then, is a city councillor not paying taxes- and then being chair of finance and audit- something voters and taxpayers should be entitled to know about? If so, when?

Stolz knew he hadn’t paid in 2011, he knew it in 2012, and he knew it in 2013. He apparently stepped down on September 12 2013. And yet no mention of any of this was made to the public until Opinion250 published their story on October 3.

In an editorial in the Prince George Citizen, Mick Kearns writes:

“Stolz said, ‘I think when you’re in a position of authority as a chair of a committee, concerns can be raised because of the situation I’m in. And I thought it was best to alleviate those concerns.'”It’s funny that he didn’t come to this conclusion the first year he decided not to pay his taxes.

“Stolz did not pay his taxes for three years and did not inform the mayor and council immediately, did not step down from the city’s finance and audit committee immediately and believes now that he has paid the taxes everyone who works hard and does without certain luxuries to pay their taxes on time should be OK with this.

“Sorry councillor, but it is not OK.”

It may or may not be OK for Stolz to have been the chair of finance and audit this whole time. I am not going to make a judgement call on that one. Perhaps voters would have been completely OK with it– if they had been informed. But they weren’t.

Stolz knew he hadn’t paid his taxes from the moment he didn’t pay them. The mayor and the two other councillors who are on finance and audit knew this since at least September 12.

Again, I’d like to stress that I’m not making a judgement call on whether or not Stolz should have been on finance and audit this whole time. It’s not up to me. I don’t know the details of the situation.

But it is worth noting that this was apparently enough of an issue that Stolz and the rest of the finance and audit committee decided he should step down as chair, even though his taxes are now paid. So regardless of whether think it’s an issue, it’s clear someone there thinks it might be one. Or at least may be perceived as one.

And if this group of elected officials feel this is an issue that could be perceived as one worth stepping down over, did they feel like it was one they should tell the public about?

Maybe there was a plan from Stolz and everyone else involved to unveil this information at some future date. They would inform the public, explain the rationale and be open and forthright about what’s happening at city hall. But for at least three weeks- and, in Stolz’s case, two years- the public wasn’t told.

Maybe the plan all along was to be open and honest- in the future.

But now we’ll never know.

 

Filed under: Prince George

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