Greater Sudbury's auditor general says he hasn't officially decided to run for mayor, but he's strongly considering a run for the top job at Tom Davies Square.
Brian Bigger said Monday he applied for an unpaid leave of absence as the city's internal auditor. Until that issue is resolved, Bigger said he's really just thinking out loud.
“Everyone is allowed to think,” he said.
If he decides to run, Bigger said he would be free to ask the tough questions during council meetings, which isn't the case right now.
“Right now, my voice is restricted to answering questions from councillors, rather than asking the questions.”
Bigger was appointed the city's first auditor general in 2009, and has filed several high-profile audits of city departments since then.
The more notable ones include a Sudbury Transit audit that uncovered more than $800,000 in missing ticket money and a public works audit that recommended improved ways to deal with watermain breaks with fewer staff and less damage to existing roads.
Most notably, Bigger's department produced an award-wining audit that found the proper asphalt mix formula wasn't always being used in road reconstruction work, as well as problems with the way recycled asphalt is accounted for.
But he has often clashed with city councillors and staff, and at one point, council put him on a year-to-year contract. Eventually his term was extended, but the uncertainty meant the loss of the only other senior auditor in his department, and a permanent replacement has only been in place since the spring.
The race for mayor was thrown wide open last month when Mayor Marianne Matichuk announced she wouldn't be running in the Oct. 27 municipal election.
With no incumbent in place, the field of candidates vying to be mayor has grown to seven, not including Bigger's potential candidacy. The deadline to file nomination papers is in September, meaning Bigger still has time to make a decision.
He hasn't done anything at this point to further his mayoral bid, because Bigger says he wants to be sensitive to the fact no decision has been made yet on his application for unpaid leave.
But if he does run, he says he would work to build on his reputation with the public for fighting for transparency and accountability in government.
“Residents have seen me and what I represent at city council,” he said. “I have asked the tough questions as the auditor general ... That will not change.”
One of the problems Matichuk encountered was resistance among some city councillors to support her agenda. After seeing the mayor lose vote after vote in the last four years, Bigger says getting people to support his agenda would be a top priority.
“One of the focuses would be ensuring that I'm working with a unified council,” he said.
Born at Sudbury General Hospital, Bigger went to St. Charles College, Cambrian College and Laurentian University. He has first-hand knowledge of many parts of the city, having lived in Garson, New Sudbury, Hanmer and Minnow Lake.
“I'm a Sudbury boy,” Bigger said. “I only left when unemployment hit 18 per cent in the late 1980s. I'm back now.”
With Matichuk out of the picture, Bigger would face former mayor John Rodriguez, former taxpayer association president Dan Melanson and Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis as candidates with some name recognition in the public. Other registered candidates include Jeff Huska, Richard Majkot, Ed Pokonzie and Jean-Raymond Audet.
Should he run for mayor, “it would be quite an interesting race,” Bigger said.