Regional District of Central Kootenay chair John Kettle and the Town of Creston have agreed to make up and move on after comments that incensed town staff.
In a letter to the regional district, council claimed Kettle made a “defamatory” public statement against the town during an October 19 workshop hosted by the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments. They alleged he said “Creston is in serious trouble because of mismanagement.”
“Council considers this statement to be both inappropriate and unfounded,” read the letter from Mayor Ron Toyota. “Council recognizes that such defamatory statements are part of a larger adversarial process which benefits no one.”
Kettle, however, denies uttering the comment attributed to him and says he never meant to malign employees. He says his statement came during a discussion about the new municipal auditor general and was misheard or misinterpreted.
He says he used Creston as an example of “a community in financial crisis” — although he now regrets naming it. He also says he spoke as an individual director, not as RDCK chair.
“I never said [the town] was mismanaged. How they got that, I don’t know, but I categorically deny saying that,” he told the Star.
Kettle says he was surprised to receive the letter of reproach because no one said anything to him at the time, even though town councillor Wes Graham and two staff members were present. He has since met with council and thinks they have patched things up.
“I told them ‘If you honestly believe I said that and can find someone to back you up, you need to sue me.’ We shouldn’t wash our dirty laundry [in public].”
Toyota, who considers the matter closed, notes the letter to the regional district didn’t request any action: “It was a matter of making a statement. We weren’t expecting an apology, denial, or anything. We just wanted it recorded.”
Toyota called it “an unfortunate situation” but believes they had to stick up for their staff. “Sometimes you have to make a stand, and then move on … I believe we are okay.”
In addition to taking Kettle to task, the letter said Creston is “demonstrating great resiliency” in facing the financial challenges of municipal governance, by holding the line on taxes and negotiating with the province to save on policing costs.