City paid Sanborn $104,473 in severance

Grant Sanborn, who is facing three counts of breach of trust by a public official, was paid $104,473 in severance when he left the employment of the City of Chilliwack in June, 2000.

Grant Sanborn, who is facing three counts of breach of trust by a public official, was paid $104,473 in severance when he left the employment of the City of Chilliwack in June, 2000.

At that time, there was no mention of a severance agreement, or that Sanborn was leaving for any reason other than to pursue a career in the private sector.

But in February, 2008, the city issued a statement that a former employee who had been “separated” from the employment of the city was under investigation by the RCMP for “possible criminal activity” 10 years ago.

The matter had been reviewed at that time by a third party, then-mayor Clint Hames said in the statement, and the unnamed employee was “let go.”

“The matter was deemed an internal staff issue and the employee was subsequently separated from their employment with the city,” Hames said.

The employee was never identified by city officials on the advice of police and legal counsel.

But in June last year, Sanborn, 52, was charged with failing to fulfill his public duty as the city’s approving officer on two occasions, and “willfully withholding” information from city council and the public on a third occasion.

Former Chilliwack Mayor John Les was not charged by the special prosecutor brought in to investigate the allegations of improper land dealings.

The charges against Sanborn have not been proved in court, and a trial is not scheduled to start until February, 2012.

The three charges involve incidents alleged between Aug. 1, 1997 and Dec. 31, 1997 and between Aug. 1, 1994 and Feb. 28, 1999.

The Progress filed a freedom of information request in September last year asking for any records of a severance agreement paid to Sanborn, and any documents of a review  by a third party of his employment.

The city denied both requests.

“We would advise that we are no longer in possession of any records with respect to a review … as any documentation was previously destroyed in accordance with the city’s records management policies,” the city clerk said in an Oct. 21 letter.

Any severance agreements with Sanborn were denied “in their entirety” as an “unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy,” the city clerk said.

The Progress accepted the city’s ruling on the review, but appealed the decision not to release the amount of severance pay, arguing that it was public money and taxpayers were entitled to know how it was spent.

City officials appeared to relent, with the assurance that no other details of the severance agreement were being sought, but later dug in their heels again, and an investigator from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commission was appointed.

In June this year, the city finally relented and disclosed the severance paid to Sanborn.

“We are compelled to disclose the amount of remuneration paid to Grant Sanborn,” the city clerk said in a June 20 letter. “We would advise that the severance payment to Mr. Sanborn was in the amount of $104,473.”

In a July, 5 letter to The Progress editor, investigator Al Boyd said he determined “it was not in keeping with the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act for the City to have refused to disclose (the dollar amount of severance paid to a former employee).”

“I informed the City of my view and it did eventually agree to release a copy of the requested information,” he said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

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