Warwick’s CAO says she is to blame for the lack of transparency about the cost of the township’s new municipal building.
Amanda Gubbels issued a public apology Monday night during a council meeting after reports of the 25 year lease for the Nauvoo Road building became public and caused council members confusion during an all-candidates debate.
The township is leasing the building for over $13,000 a month. It can purchase the building four years into the 25 year lease. If it continues to lease the building for the full term, it will pay over $4 million in rent.
The council candidates were asked at the all-candidates meeting earlier this month how much it is costing taxpayers.
“Under the Municipal Act, cannot comment on a deal with a landlord,” Incumbent Councillor Wayne Morris told the crowd “I don’t know exactly, but we can’t comment… We were told in camera that it’s confidential. We weren’t allowed to say anything.”
But The Independent had reported the information that day. Morris was unaware the CAO had released it after advising councillors not to under the privacy rules of in camera meetings.
“I’d like to just emphasize that ever since the lease agreement was signed with the developer for the municipal office in July of 2021,” said Gubbels Monday.
“I was always under the understanding that the details in the agreement, including the financial provisions related to the lease were confidential.”
So, she advised council not to release the information.
But Gubbels said as taxpayers began to ask, she sought further advices from the township’s lawyer.
“The volume of requests recently has increased and prompted me to consult with our legal counsel again, on the release of information related to the lease. I was provided updated legal counsel, which clarified that well the full lease agreement itself It was considered confidential as it does contain a specific confidentiality clause.
“The information on the lease payments and terms could be released. Legal explained to me that this was because the financial data was included in our public budget and financial reporting and as such as considered public information.”
So Gubbels released the information to those who asked for it.
“I did neglect to tell counsel, I had released this information. As such counsel continued to be under the impression this information was to be kept in confidence,” she added. Several community members voiced concerns at the meeting that the financial information was being withheld by council.
“I do want to express my sincere apology to all members of council for this error in communication. And to publicly correct the record on this issue. I understand that this mistake makes it appear to the public that counselors were lacking transparency by not providing lease information intentionally, when in fact councils unwillingness to provide this information that was directly a result of the guidance they received for municipal staff,” she said.
“I also want to apologize to members of the community of Warwick Township, I would never intentionally guide counsel to keep information confidential, if it was not my understanding that it was required to be and I understand this has created a lack of trust. And I’m committed to doing my part to correct those areas as best I can.”
Mayor Jackie Rombouts thanked Gubbels for issuing the apology adding the municipality tries to be “as transparent as it legally can be.”