North Bay City Hall dropped a bombshell Tuesday morning. Work on the Memorial Gardens renovation is $3.6 million over budget which is almost 30 percent above the $12.6 million amount council approved and allocated for the project. Mayor Al McDonald was shocked to learn about the overrun as were councillors and senior staff. McDonald says council was always told the project was on budget and there was nothing to worry about. In a news conference Tuesday morning McDonald said several times council was never approached about increasing the renovation budget. The city’s auditor is now looking into how and why this happened and his report, expected before Christmas, will be made public. The Memorial Gardens renovations were the responsibility of Peter Chirico, the managing director of community services. Without getting into specifics, CAO Jerry Knox says there was a breach of spending city money without council’s authorization. Knox emphasizes there was no evidence of fraud or illegal activity involved with the overspending. But Knox says this is an embarrassment that demands accountability. Chirico is off work, recovering from surgery. Knox says Chirico was shocked the Gardens are over budget and he’s talking to him regularly to learn what happened. When asked if the auditor would also talk to Chirico, Knox said that would be up to the auditor. Councillor Dave Mendicino, who chairs community services, says he has no doubts the public will be shocked, disappointed and angered by this development. Meanwhile McDonald stresses that the project overrun cost should not be seen as a reflection of the OHL Battalion which have nothing to do with the incident. As for the cost overrun, it will be covered by reserves and part of next year’s budget.