A Town of High Prairie councillor expressed harsh words about a South Peace News story that refers to council creating a slush fund.
At its regular meeting April 11, Councillor Donna Deynaka questioned the phrase “slush fund’ stated by editor Chris Clegg in a story April 5 on the front page.
“As I read the story, it totally misrepresents the facts,” says Deynaka, who added the item to the agenda when the agenda was presented for adoption.
“It’s deceptive to the reader, it’s not truth.’
“It’s poor reporting.”
Clegg regularly attends High Prairie council meeting.
However, he was not present at the meeting since he was covering the Town of McLennan council meeting.
Deynaka says it’s not a new fund; $35,000 has been under grants and sponsorships as long as she has been on council for the past nine years.
“It’s not a newly-created slush fund as described in the article,” Deynaka says.
She says the only change council made is to allocate $5,000 to each council member who can ask that some of the funding allotted to them be distributed to requests for grants and sponsorships.
“The interpretation is that now it’s a slush fund,” Deynaka says.
Clegg reported that in budget debate, each council member was allotted a $5,000 discretionary fund to give away as they see fit.
“I take offence to the article,” Deynaka says.
“I personally take offence to the use of the terminology of slush fund.
“It has connotations of intent to reserve money used for illicit purposes, which is highly untrue.”
She spoke for about five minutes as she repeated many of her statements.
“I just want to bring this up so people understand this article they’re reading is false,” Deynaka says.
“It disparages council that we’re doing something nefarious, which is totally false.”
Mayor Brian Panasiuk spoke up about the slush fund and a related story on Page 3 that reported that no council member stepped forward to offer sponsorship funding to Treaty 8 First Nations Cup Hockey Tournament that moved to Slave Lake after many years of being held in High Prairie.
“I was very disappointed in that they are very disparaging to our council – the two articles,” Panasiuk says.
“They were misleading.”
Panasiuk notes that it’s not a discretionary fund, it’s a fund for grants and sponsorships.
He noted that the second story stated that High Prairie council made no attempt or no effort to keep the Treaty 8 tournament in High Prairie.
“That’s false,” Panasiuk says.
“It’s just not correct, we did try.
“We wanted to see if we could negotiate.
“We gave our CAO (Bill McKennan) permission to work with negotiations.
“To say there was no attempt is misleading.”
The mayor says Clegg is aware of his concerns about the articles.
“I did have a chat with Chris Clegg about it and I expressed my displeasure,” Panasiuk says.
“Hopefully that will put and end to it.”
Two other councillors echoed their concerns as the mayor invited others to share if they wished to.
Councillor Judy Stenhouse was the first to speak as she agreed with Deynaka’s concern about the term slush fund.
“It’s very poor wording, “Stenhouse says.
“Slush is an old slang term meaning extra-curricular activities.”
Councillor John Dunn agrees the story is misleading.
“As you read the article, the connotation is that each of us has been given $5,000 to hand out as we wish,” Dunn says.
“That needs to be clarified because people have the perception that we were given the money.
“That is not the case.
“We have $5,000 that we can ask to be distributed out of that $35,000 pot.”
He notes it was a decision of council.
McKennan also spoke briefly to conclude the agenda item.
“All this money is being invested into community groups,” McKennan says.
by Richard Froese
April 20, 2023
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