Auditor general Dunn to investigate bureaucrat
Joining a growing chorus of grievances involving a proposed high-voltage power line, the province’s auditor general will now investigate a top-level government bureaucrat.
Fred Dunn told Metro he will look into allegations from the New Democrats that an energy department official may be involved in a serious conflict of interest that compromises ongoing public hearings.
Kellan Fluckiger, who manages the province’s electrical division, wrote a letter of support for a proposed 500-kilovolt power line between Edmonton and Calgary — even though his wife is currently a vice-president for a company pitching to build the project to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (AEUB).
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“We will not be ignoring it,” Dunn said. “All I’ve got right now is an allegation, so we’ll have to look at the system and process by which they handled this matter.”
New Democrat Leader Brian Mason said he will await the result of Dunn’s findings before deciding if he will ask for any resignations.
“If this conflict of interest is shown to be valid, then it really calls into the question the entire process for the approval of this particular line,” he said. “It casts a shadow over the AEUB’s hearings with respect to the whole project.”
Fluckiger’s spouse, Zora Lazic, is in charge of AltaLink’s regulatory approval, paid through a contract that awards bonuses based upon performance, Mason said. He also signed a conflict of interest amendment to his government contract in October 2006.
Energy spokesman Jason Chance, speaking on behalf of Fluckiger, disputed all the allegations from the New Democrats that are now before the auditor general.
“We would welcome any further review of the matter because, as we said earlier, the department has done its due diligence to ensure that there’s no conflict of interest,” he said.
The letter Fluckiger wrote on June 15 to the utilities board in support of the power line project, he said, reflects the department’s point of view, not his own. It was also in support of the project in general, not AltaLink’s specific proposal, he added.
AltaLink issued a statement last night describing the allegations as misinformed and lacking an understanding of the regulatory approval process.
The Alberta Energy and Utilities Board is also facing three separate investigations into the hiring of private investigators to spy on landowners disputing the same proposed power line.