Watermain-gate: Are We In Limbo
My first issue is what happened to the letter that was sent TO the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We have the letter back from him but not the one that initiated the response. What is in there--or not in there--that we should know about?
We have a problem getting letters in this City in a timely fashion eg letters to Transport Minister Cannon and to Premier Dalton McGuinty and other provincial government leaders re the Ambassador Bridge, the lack of insertion of a key page of a Project Ice Track letter when documents were released to the public, the "unsolicited" PCR letter.
Here is what really bothers me, my second issue. What is happening with the process! A reader sent me this note:
- "Ed I spoke to June Wild this morning and she informed me as to the fact that her department has not received a request for an audit as of yet."
That was slightly different than the note I received from her but was equally as troubling given the hilarious "urgency" comments of the CAO at the last Council meeting (I found his scare tactic amusing)
- "The scope and terms of reference with regard to the financial audit requested by the City of Windsor's council will be decided by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Since no decision has yet been made regarding the scope and the terms of reference, it is premature for me to discuss it at this time."
Does that mean AFTER the Terms of Reference are decided and finalized, then they will speak to us mere taxpayers and voters with a fait accompli?
If one looks closely at what the Minister wrote, he said:
- "I concur with your request and am prepared to direct that an audit of the Windsor Utilities Commission activities take place. In agreeing to direct this audit, I want to advise you of certain requirements....Staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be contacting the City shortly to advance this process as quickly as possible."
"Prepared to direct?" Does that mean there has been NO formal request for an audit and that the Mayor's letter was merely one of information, not action?
What has happened? Have the staffs talked? Has the City agreed on the procedure? Has the City agreed to pay the costs? Has the process been advanced? Or are we in limbo with citizens thinking something is happening but in reality nothing has so that this matter will lose its importance?
Perhaps Councillor Halberstadt can get an update for citizens at the next Council meeting.
Just for your information, dear reader, here is a note that I sent to the Ministry spokesperson after she asked to be deleted from my BLOGlist. You see I thought she might want to know what was going on in her area of responsibility since she is in London. But alas not:
- "From: WindsorCityBlog
Sent: August 30, 2007 9:22 AM
To: Kasperski-Wild, June (MAH)
Oh dear, you do not want to know what is going on re WUC in Windsor! That is strange for a member of the Ministry that deals with municipalities, especially those that have invited the Ministry to investigate them! Your note is very troubling to me and of the greatest concern respecting impartiality of the Ministry. Of course I shall honour your request and remove you. Why would you want to be troubled with facts!
I would like to invite you or a member of the Ministry to come to Windsor to speak with citizens here about the WUC fiasco. Your note makes it absolutely essntial that this happen immediately. I would change my request from "invite" to "demand" after your note but I do not want to appear rude given how furious I am at your note. You would meet the same citizens who were deprived of an opportunity to speak as delegations to Council twice as a result of the Mayor's Procedural actions.
Frankly, as a lawyer, I believe some of the rulings are legally incorrect!
You might like to read some of the BLOGs I have written to give you some background and so you will understand why Windsorites are so angry http://windsorcityon.blogspot.com/search?q=windsor+utilities++commission
This is not the first time I have written to the Government recently about this City . In fact, I have invited the Ministry to undertake an inquiry into our arena fiasco which may well result in financial hardaship for Windsorites before it is done.
To be blunt, if your Minister can speak to a reporter of the Windsor Star, if Windsor's CAO can speak to the Ministry, then the Ministry owes it to Windsorites to come here to speak to us in a matter that you yourself have said is extremely "rare." To be direct again, I would like to know, as I am sure other citizens would too, what Sandra Pupatello and Dwight Duncan said to the Minister without telling the public!
This kind of action as well as the Mayor calling and emailing privately the Auditor General when his actions may be part of the investigation causes me a great deal of concern as to the fairness of the inquiry by the Ministry!
Your note is the icing to the cake!
I refer you as well to what one of our Councillors blogged:
"What was most shocking last night was the apparent breach of confidence exhibited by Mayor Francis and CAO John Skorobohacz in attaching correspondence to the public agenda from Auditor General Jim McCarter and Minister of Municipal Affairs John Gerretsen...
The correspondence that is perhaps most revealing and disheartening for WUC consumers is from Mr. Skorobohacz to the Auditor General. It includes the following sentence:
"As we discussed it is in our interest that an independent audit is conducted on the recent water rate increases and that the public is provided assurances that the rate increases are warranted."
Windsorites can only be left to wonder what similar correspondence or telephone conversations have gone on between Mayor Francis, Mr. Skorobohacz and Mr. Gerretsen.
Council was told by the mayor and CAO last night, in desperate arguments to defeat my motions for local input, that the scope and terms of reference of the provincial municipal audit need to be left totally to the province so as not to taint the process.
I will repeat Mr. Skorobohacz's words to Mr. McCarter: "It is in our interest . . . that the public is provided assurances that the rate increases are warranted."
With respect, what the CAO said is NOT the reason for the investigation! If that is all that the Ministry is to do, then you may as well not hire anyone given the limited nature of what is being requested. What is needed is the broadest of investigations on the flipflops on information that have come out of City Hall and WUC over the past few weeks. The Ministry has already received a proposed "Motion" from a Windsorite that outlines many areas for which Windsorites are demanding an answer. You can find that in my BLOG as well
The object is to put the public at ease that a full and complete financial, business and operational investigation will be undetaken not a KPMG-type year-end audit or one that is viewed as a whitewash that does not deal with the questions outstanding.
I am sure that our 2 MPP/Cabinet Ministers can tell you how quickly Windsorites can turn on any politician that is viewed as not dealing openly and honestly with us. We do not need WUC as an election issue to further complicate a most unfortunate situation.
Please let me know when the meeting will be set up in Windsor. I can provide a location for it."