Forgette on King: "He doesn't want to stand up and take ownership. That's his association's ideas, so how come he's not championing them?"
King on Forgette: "For him to make comments like that is what I would classify as tremendously outside the realm of any elected official, especially a Deputy Mayor attempting to deal with budget issues."
At a Special Committee Meeting of Council to address projections and progress on the City's 2017 budget Wednesday, a rift between two municipal leaders emerged.
Philosophical differences regarding the fiscal reality and future of North Bay led to accusations of incompetence and underhanded political manoeuvring by Deputy Mayor Sheldon Forgette and Councillor Mark King.
There has been an imbalance of power at Council. More and more, King has been going it alone, firm in his stance on the issues. It often seems as though King is the rare councillor willing to swim against the current.
Forgette, the political upstart, has been evolving in his role as second-in-command. Producing a budget with a minimal tax increase would be a feather in his cap, and would increase his clout at City Hall and in the next election.
The meeting progressed, determining that the potential tax increase sat just below 2%. King seemed befuddled that some of the issues being discussed were not falling under his purview as Chair of Community Services, but rather under the budget's scope.
The meeting addressed feedback submitted by the public by email, or at last week's budget open house. As the clock neared 7 p.m., King stood up and announced that he had to attend the PAC (Planning Advisory Committee) meeting in order to form a quorum. His departure was met with some raised eyebrows around the table.
Forgette claims that King's departure was unnecessary and that the true reason he left the budget meeting was to avoid the presentation pertaining to the NBTA's (North Bay Taxpayers Association) suggestions about the budget process.
"I left at 6:45 to prepare for and ensure that we had the proper number of people attending the PAC meeting, which he (Forgette) missed 20 days earlier, creating a situation where we didn't have a quorum to move a significant development forward. It was absolutely imperative that I attend that meeting," said King later Wednesday evening.
"We're bringing up his (King's) association's comments, and I wanted to see if he supports them. He's running away from the budget," said Forgette post-meeting.
"I made it perfectly clear that what is transpiring right now (with the budget meeting) is a complete waste of staff time. It's a complete waste of Council's time because these issues could have been dealt with inside the committees," said King.
On King's early exit from the budget meeting, Forgette said, "As soon as Coun. King found out that we were going to be looking at his ideas, or his association's ideas, he found a reason to get out of the room.
As far as his ties to the current NBTA, King explained that he is "affiliated as the past president. I didn't have any input into the document that was presented at the budget meeting, that was done by the executive of the association."
In reference to the NBTA, King sees them as an "entity that has worked hard to understand what's going on in the city. I've told the NBTA that I'm too busy with my official commitments to be involved in their direction, but I share many of the thought processes."
"I'm on the same committee (PAC) that he's on, and so is Coun. Shogren. He ran off. He doesn't want to admit that he supports them (NBTA). He doesn't want to admit that he supports cutting staff, or if he supports cutting all the budgets by 5%," continued Forgette.
On the budget meeting's effectiveness, King declared, "It's a tremendous waste of time. I know full well that Council support will sit somewhere between a 2% to 2.5% increase regardless, and I won't be supporting that increase, in no way, shape or form. Those that do will have to explain it to the taxpayer."
"In my mind, he just runs away whenever he's faced with confrontation," said the Deputy Mayor.
"With him, he flip-flops back and forth. He's the Chair of DNSSAB (District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board), he'll raise their budget by 5%, but no increases for the City. Even though DNSSAB levies us right back and it goes on the tax bill. He's fully supportive of raising wages at DNSSAB, but just the opposite here," concluded Forgette.
King answered Forgette's claims, saying "The Deputy Mayor sits on that same board. Because of his lack of attendance at committee meetings, he's extremely uninformed, at best. If he had spent the required time over the last two years attending board meetings, he would not be able to suggest that I have control over the budget, and it shows the lack of experience that he has." Forgette says he was at the hospital with his newborn at the time of that meeting.
Echoing statements made by Coun. George Maroosis, King feels that it's important to set a budget while taking into account what is going on in the city beyond the walls of City Hall. "As a Council, we have to start to understand what is going on in our city, and we haven't been doing that," said King.
Many of the public budget suggestions concerned perceived police and fire redundancies. Coun. Mike Anthony concurred with the public sentiment to a point, while making it clear that both departments have his full support and respect for the duties they perform. What Anthony believes can be improved upon are the inefficiencies in areas such as vehicles and overtime, not a cut in front-line services.
"It's a tremendous battle, this budget process, but we'll get through it," said King.