Newbie Baptism Under Fire
Pity the three Newbies who are about to go on Council and even feel sorry for the returning Councillors.
Now you, dear reader, and they may understand why I am being aggressive about my Municipal Freedom of Information Application and why Chris Schnurr is doing his.
As the song goes from the Music Man:
We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City...
Oh, we've got trouble.
We're in terrible, terrible trouble.
Frankly, whom do we believe? The secrecy of this Council is frightening. The consequences to us as citizens and taxpayers unknown but very scary. If what I am going to talk about is bad and horrifies you, imagine the border file and how it will impact generations to come of Windsorites. (Check out my Cleveland border BLOG today too)
Let's talk about Canderel first.
Here is the Privacy Commission Order. The entire decision is online at its website http://www.ipc.on.ca/images/Findings/up-mo_2117.pdf
- 1. I order the City to disclose the responsive record to the appellant by sending a copy to the appellant no later than December 15, 2006 but not before December 8, 2006.
2. In order to verify compliance with this order, I reserve the right to require the City to provide me with a copy of the records disclosed to the appellant pursuant to order provision 1.
Here is exactly what the Privacy Commission said from its decision:
- "The affected party made no representations as to whether the terms of the lease were “supplied” to the City.
With regard to whether the terms of the lease were supplied “in confidence”, the affected party stated that:
…the commercial agreement was negotiated in confidence at the request of the City. The City has not to this day consented to the disclosure of any parking related information."
Yet the Mayor can say as the Star reported
- "We were asked to keep it confidential," Francis said Friday. "
How generous of the Mayor and how hypocritical to say after the decision was made and 10 months after the request for disclosure was made
- "Mayor Eddie Francis said the city will comply with the privacy commissioner's order. "From our perspective, it's always easier to release information so we don't have to deal with rumour and speculation."
Eddie could have released the information. He had a choice to disclose but forced an appeal instead. Now he has no choice. He lost the case. The City tried to keep the deal secret and could not. Moreover, the Commission will monitor the City to ensure that it does comply!
So Mr. Mayor, so that we do not have to go to the Privacy Commission again and "so we don't have to deal with rumour and speculation" when shall we expect the Canderel sub-tenancy and East end arena details with the Spitfires released? When may I expect my documents after almost 6 months? The election is over now so you don't have to be afraid any more.
Secondly, can you believe Roseann Danese's East End arena story today. Hmmmm I wonder when she will be assigned to the Afghanistan story and shipped overseas! I have tried to catalogue the main bits of her story slightly differently so you can see the full impact of what she wrote:
- "Windsor city council agreed to include the clause guaranteeing confidentiality after the Junior A team asked for it."
- Mayor Eddie Francis said he didn't remember whether the Spitfires document contained a confidentiality clause. "I don't recall,"
- Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac also claimed not to have known about the confidentiality clause.
Jones said he believes it was chief administrative officer John Skorobohacz who told councillors that it was the policy of the OHL "not to reveal (arena) deals."
- It is the first time an agreement with the Windsor Spitfires has been kept secret. Details of previous agreements were always made public
- Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the agreement renewed last year with the Sarnia Sting is open for public scrutiny
Councillors have not seen the agreement itself just a Council report.
- Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac said "What I do remember is we got what I consider to be a fair bargain for the residents."
- Valentinis said councillors wanted to know what other cities were earning from their arenas and asked at the in-camera meeting "how do you know you're getting a good deal?"
- Zuk said she believes the deal is a good one
How much does the Mayor trust his colleagues
- Copies of a report on the deal were distributed to council members during the October meeting but collected by administrators after the issue was discussed.
I am sorry but this is amateur hour on a potential $100 million deal.
Do you remember the last big story about an Agreement not being reviewed properly by the Mayor and Council that cost the City millions? Have no lessons been learned, especially by the Mayor who was involved directly in that one too?
No offence intended but how does anyone know what the Agreement is and how good it is if Councillors have not seen it? How do they know we got a good deal if there were no comparables? What does City Hall staff know about negotiating arena deals?
I remember that the Mayor told me, when we were still talking, that he had a photographic memory. Now he cannot remember something done a few weeks ago. "I don't recall." As Senator Mercer would say: "
- "You are a good politician. There is no Question Period at the municipal level, but you have just avoided the question..."
Does this deal fit in with the Canderel subleases. I sure would like to know that.
Do you remember what I said in my arena Press Conference:
- Are There Serious Ethical Issues Involving:
(A) Windsor Spitfire Negotiations
(B) $4.5 Million Payment
(C) Conflicts Of Interest
(D) Hidden Agendas And A Municipal Act Judicial Investigation
(E) Acting In An Unreasonable Manner And Not In The Best Interests Of Residents.
Finally, it seems that people are starting to question things. So Newbies, what are you going to do. Returning councillors, what are you going to do? Potential mayoral candidates, what are you going to do?
Are you going to continue to be led by the nose by the Mayor and Administration and treated as children who cannot be trusted? Or are you going to carry out your legal responsibility as Councillors of Windsor and ensure that you know the deal, are advised properly and allow the Citizens of Windsor to be given the full, complete and true disclosure of matters that can impact us. We cannot afford more Canderels and MFPs. This City has serious, big-time debt. We cannot afford more secrecy and financial hits.
Just so the Newbies and returning Councillors know what their legal responsibility is, the Municipal Act sets it out in Section 224:
- It is the role of council,
(a) to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;
(b) to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;
(c) to determine which services the municipality provides;
(d) to ensure that administrative practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of council;
(e) to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality; and
(f) to carry out the duties of council under this or any other Act
This arena story is not done yet. There is a lot more that needs to be disclosed about how and why this deal was done so quickly and with so much secrecy.
We will know within days if citizens made good choices in electing Messrs. Dilkens, Marra and Hatfield and whether Councillors who have been re-elected feel comfortable still after it seems they have not been told all the facts. Do they have guts or not? Will they stand up for the electorate or cave in during their first few weeks. Will we have a Council that works or will we have 4 more years of hell.
Council has the power under the Purchasing By-law:
- TERM OF COUNCIL
56. Where a Contract may extend beyond the term of Council, the Contract shall contain provisions to minimize the financial liability of the City of Windsor should the subsequent Council not approve sufficient funds to complete the Contract and the City of Windsor may terminate the Contract.
Council also has power under the Municipal Act:
- Sec 274 (1) If a municipality so requests by resolution, a judge of the Superior Court of Justice shall,
(a) investigate any supposed breach of trust or other misconduct of a member of council, an employee of the municipality or a person having a contract with the municipality in relation to the duties or obligations of that person to the municipality;
(b) inquire into any matter connected with the good government of the municipality; or
(c) inquire into the conduct of any part of the public business of the municipality, including business conducted by a commission appointed by the council or elected by the electors.
As Mayor Bradley of Sarnia said about his deal: ""I think the deal is so good, I want it public. The documents are available to anybody who wants it..."I'm not signing a gag order to participate in a discussion about the community."
OK Newbies...ball is in your court!