City council says councillors are working to soothe internal tensions revealed in a major leak of emails
In a statement issued Monday, council acknowledged that city emails expressing “some perspectives on adversarial council-administration relations dating back to 2014” were provided to local media organizations, including Yellowknifer.
“It’s no secret that city council has had its differences in the past, both amongst ourselves and with administration,” reads the statement from Mayor Mark Heyck and eight Yellowknife city councillors.
“Some differences continue to this day and we are working to navigate through them respectfully and productively, including convening council’s conduct review committee to address current issues.”
The statement goes on to say the “push-pull” highlighted in the emails “is a natural part of political relationships and having a variety of perspectives on council guarantees that each issue before us is thoroughly explored and debated.”
On Friday, Yellowknifer reported it had obtained more than 700 emails belonging to members of city administration, including former senior administrative officer Dennis Kefalas.
While many of the emails are benign, there are some messages that paint a grim picture of relations in 2014 among the city’s top bureaucrat and some members of council.
Some of them show Kefalas questioning whether the municipality could sue council in the event that council did not follow administration’s recommendations, and the city was sued as a result.
In others, Kefalas suggests displeasure over councillors meeting with territorial government officials to find a solution to an unexpected tax spike affecting property owners in Kam Lake.
Kefalas, who was made senior administrative officer after the 2012 election, left his job in 2016 and was replaced by Sheila Bassi-Kellett earlier this year. He continues to work for the city as director of public works.
Heyck declined a request for a phone interview Monday.
In an email, he stated the news release from city council is “intended to be a collective final comment” on the subject of leaked emails.
“We’re moving forward on a very positive foundation and getting things done for our constituents,” he stated.
The statement from councillors states, “As council, we have made a lot of positive changes since 2014, and we are proud of our renewed relationship and strong collaboration with administration.”
The city says it became aware in March that its document management system was breached, and the emails were taken by an employee who left the municipality in 2016.
RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon said police have not received a complaint about the email leak from the city.