“I’m no crusader,” clarifies Kevin Ferris.
In the eyes of many local citizens, Ferris is precisely that, asking the hard questions and, to a certain extent, getting answers.
Ferris gained unprecedented, unwelcome access to North Bay City Hall — or in honour of the City’s Corporate Advisor, “Fort Knox.” No one has ever penetrated the American gold depository Fort Knox and the same could be said for City Hall — until now.
“They fought me every step of the way on this, the City and Jerry [former CAO Knox].” Ferris began poking around two years ago when Knox was at the top of the Sunshine List — even though he had publicly retired from the position.
Knox was listed as a “Corporate Advisor,” and Ferris’ desire to learn who had created the position led to him filing Freedom of Information requests, leading to an appeal, then failed mediation with the City, and now, adjudication.
Ferris pressed Mayor Al McDonald on the issue during a live broadcast of a political call-in show on the local Cogeco channel and when he did not get the answers he was looking for, he made it his mission to find the truth.
The adjudicator has ruled in Ferris’ favour on several points, forcing the City of North Bay to release documents pertaining to the transition after Knox “retired.” Asked what there is to gain in this back-and-forth with North Bay City Hall, he says, “There is more left to do.”
What drives an ordinary citizen to such lengths? To patiently wait for a full year before action is taken?
“The motivation is to get the story out. It’s one of those deals that cuts across all party lines. It’s a backroom deal, done in secret and it just doesn’t smell right,” says Ferris. “People want an explanation. If you look at the comments online in the last few days, people are not happy with this…people want answers and they want to know ‘how did we get into this situation?’”
Asked what the end game is, Ferris replies without hesitation, “I want them to explain their actions with regards to this and I also want to know from the City how that direction was obtained [to transition Knox from CAO to Corporate Advisor]. Was there a vote? And, by what means was that direction given from Council to staff?”