Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 10, 2007

BLOGexclusive: Council's Conflicts Of Interest

Oh this City is in such a mess! The WUC fiasco is not the only one. Here is a new one!

Are the Mayor and Councillors in a position today where they have a serious conflict of interest on the border file? It may be that they will have to back out and let the Senior Levels do what they want or they will have to get a Court Order allowing them to continue to act!

I thought that the matter had been put to bed a long time ago and the decision was---that there was no conflict although I do not remember the rationale being given.

Unfortunately for the Mayor and Council, their lawyer in the Capitol Theatre bankruptcy file may have put them in the position where they are legally estopped from arguing that they have no conflict. The border file may become even more convoluted thanks to the failure of the Mayor and Council to do anything right on the Capitol file.

Here is what I mean and you'll see where I am going quickly with this I am sure.

The City is unhappy with the Trustee because he did not play dead and give up the Capitol assets to Eddie's demands. Now I am no big fan of the Trustee and I have had my wars with him However, the City decided that he should be replaced presumably by a compliant Trustee who may be more accommodating to the the City's wants. Not only that, there is a need to replace Inspectors, especially influential ones that do not agree with the City it seems.

I am more interested in the Inspector part of this. The Star reported that:
  • "[City lawyers] are also pushing to have former city clerk Tom Lynd removed as one of the influential creditors directing Funtig, alleging he is in conflict of interest.

    It is the latest salvo fired in the ongoing saga of the bankrupt theatre which has has remained closed since March, mired in a dispute over its debts and its fate...

    The city has requested a meeting with the creditors so the issues of removing Funtig and Lynd can be discussed. The creditors, through a vote, have the power to dump either of them...

    Lynd needs to be removed from his role in the dispute because he was city clerk at the time the funds were provided to the theatre by the city, said Willis in his letter. Lynd also continues to receive a pension from the city, he said.

    But Lynd, when contacted Saturday, insisted there is no conflict on his part and said he doesn't plan to step aside.

    Funtig, in his response letter, indicated he sought a legal opinion on whether Lynd was in conflict. The opinion was that Lynd was not."
On the face of it, I would have thought that Lynd would be supportive of the City if he were the Clerk---unless he knows there was NO mortgage. Moreover, as a pensioner, he should support the City too, right.

Apparently, this does not matter to the City and they want him removed for a conflict.

Well if, according to the City's outside lawyer, receiving a pension from the City (or is it OMERS) puts a Councillor in conflict, Ward 2's Ron Jones is out since he receives a pension from OMERS and presumably there is a conflict. To his credit, Councillor Jones has indicated on certain matters his conflict concerning this. Remember that OMERS is DRTP's parent and they are still fighting to be the Tunnel route and also perhaps to get a new train tunnel in the area. Moreover, the Mayor and Ccouncillors all contribute to OMERS too so they must be out also.

Here is an interesting aside about that too. Remember all of that extra income the Councillors made because of the so-called Enwin mess. Not only did it increase their salary but their pensions too! I was told by the Treasurer:
  • "The councillors' contributions are based on the councillors' salaries plus the Board payments. The mayor's contributions are based on the City salary alone"
And speaking of conflicts, those members of Council who are or were on the WUC during the relevant period cannot vote an anything respecting the proposed investigation since the purpose of the investigation could be to investigate themselves! That means in my opinion, Eddie and Councillors Lewenza, Marra, Jones and Brister are out as far as the ongoing investigation is concerned and should have absolutely no input into the decision-making.

Want to know something even more hilarious. It may be that NO ONE on Council can vote since they all may have a pecuniary interest! According to the Star in 2006
  • "WUC pays $8,200 annually to individual board members."
My understanding is that all of the money from all Boards that all Councillors receive is pooled and then divided out equally to all of them. Are they all now conflicted out? They had better get a legal opinion on this matter ASAP and if I am right, then an application had better be made to a Judge under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act before Monday at Council:
  • "Power of judge to declare s. 5 not to apply
  • Sec 7 (3) The judge may, on an application brought under subsection (2), by order, declare that section 5 does not apply to the council or local board, as the case may be, in respect of the matter in relation to which the application is brought, and the council or local board thereupon may give consideration to, discuss and vote on the matter in the same manner as though none of the members had any interest therein, subject only to such conditions and directions as the judge may consider appropriate and so order
How much more of this can citizens take before the Province is forced to step in!

Watermain-Gate: What The Inquiry Must Uncover

Let us get to it right away. It is more than where did the levy money go or did 1,000 WUC customers get freebie water.

We have a serious political crisis in Windsor that could require that Eddie Francis resign as Mayor, and perhaps several Councillors as well, if it is proven that there was a diversion of funds at the WUC and that they knew about it or ought to have known about it at the time Eddie made his whiteboard presentation at Council.

The May, 2007 memo of the WUC Finance Director, Victoria Zuber, in which she stated "This levy was intended to be used for capital, but has been required to fund operations" is a damaging piece of evidence.

I have been very surprised that the Chair of the WUC, Councillor Lewenza, has allowed the Mayor to do most of the talking for the Commission. Isn't that the Chair's job?

I have been very surprised that the "outside" Commissioners on the WUC, the majority of five, have been invisible since this issue has broken.

I have been very surprised that the City's Audit Committee has said nothing.

I have been very surprised that KPMG has not been asked to comment.

I am not suprised at the outrage shown by Windsorites. That anger is clear from the radio, newspaper, internet forums and comments on BLOGsites and is only matched by what happened in Februray, 2003 when Council supposedly flipflopped on DRTP North.

I am not suprised how quickly the story spread. This is still relatively small town where news travels fast.

I am not suprised that people from all walks of life have seen through what is going on. We have all been underestimated.

All of this talk about audits and auditor generals and judical inquiries should not confuse us as to what must happen. We need to know the truth. What form the investigation takes does not matter as long as nothing is kept from us.

As far as I am concerned, when this matter is "discussed" at Council on Monday, Mayor Francis and Councillors Lewenza, Marra, Jones and Brister must have abolutely no role whatsoever.

In effect, what will be done at Council is to determine the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry. They are involved since they were all on the WUC at the relevant times period. Accordingly, they cannot have a role in setting what the terms of the investigation can be nor should they be allowed to even comment on this matter.

Whatever it's called, here is what must be included as a minimum as part of the Terms of Reference:
  1. What are the facts involving the watermains and costs of replacement

  2. What are the costs of replacement or repair since they have escalated to over a half a billion dollars

  3. Were numbers picked "out of the air" by the previous WUC Administration or did they exercise sound judgment in what they were doing

  4. Why were rates kept as low they were and not increased to cover capital and operating costs

  5. Why was debt paid off at a time when watermains needed replacement

  6. What role did "politics play in the decision-making

  7. Was water levy money diverted from the capital account to the operating account in violation of the Commissioners' express directions

  8. What is the true financial position of WUC today

  9. Did KPMG spot the diversion and what did they do about it

  10. Do the WUC Financials have to be restated

  11. The Investigator must name names and tell us who should be praised and who ought to be condemned

  12. What are the facts about the 1,000 or more customers who have not been charged for their water and what steps have been made to collect funds, in particular, how did this happen and how was the loss discovered

  13. Has there been an attempt made to "cover-up" this matter and to attempt to fool citizens. If so, who was involved

  14. Did the WUC Commissioners carry out their function in a proper fashion both with respect to oversight of the WUC and with respect to the issues now causing such concern in the City

There is an easier way out of this although it will be very embarrassing. If in fact there were mistakes made, then our politicians should admit them NOW and not force the City through weeks of agony and disruption due to an investigation or a Provincial Auditor General Inquiry. Never mind the costs involved to taxpayers.

They must admit NOW that the Zuber memo is correct, was received and that it was probably forgotten about because of what happened. People are forgiving since we have all made errors even bad errors in judgment.

If, however, we are forced through an investigation to learn the truth and find out that there was a diversion that was or should have been known about, then the politicians involved must pay the ultimate penalty and resign! They have no other choice.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I just had to post this right away.

There are some very unhappy people in this town. If anyone thinks that the WUC issue will go away without the truth coming out, then they are sadly mistaken. A reader spent the time to create this animation

Run do not walk with your Soundcard on to

and send all your friends there too!

Unliplocked Sam Does It To Eddie again

There would seem now to be little to be concerned about respecting the Ambassador Bridge after the recent tragedies in the US. In fact, it may be one of the safest bridges in all of North America.

One of the world's experts in bridges and tunnels--I am sure if you asked him that, he would confirm it---, while not saying it directly, must be implying that the Ambassador Bridge could be the model for all bridges, whether public or private! Of course, he did not use its name.

Read the transcript below to ascertain why he must have been talking about the Ambassador Bridge. It was on the TODAY TV show from NBC News.

His TV remarks are shocking! He has made a mockery IN HIS OWN WORDS of the comments he has made several times in Windsor about the Ambassador Bridge being a concern.

Frankly, if he can say one thing in Windsor and something that seems to refute what he said here on national television in the US then I intend to ignore anything he has to say on the border file. I intend to view his Presentation as nothing more than another device used by Eddie to stall the process to Windsor's detriment.

Read the following and tell me if this does not make you furious. Frankly, it is an attack on how Governments handle "public" bridges as well:

  • Sam Schwartz is the former chief engineer for the New York City Department of Transportation.

    Mister Schwartz, good morning to you. You and I…

    Good morning.

    …go back a long way here in the City.

    Yes, we sure do.

    I know you don’t want to cause bridge phobia, but…


    …it may be too late. Lot of people getting up this morning…


    …wondering, worrying that the bridge they might have to cross—to go to work, to go to the store, whatever—could possibly collapse. Do they have a, a legitimate worry?

    Well, they have a legitimate worry in the sense that their government officials should be taking care of these bridges. No government official should accept anything above one percent in terms of structurally-deficient.

    But we’re close to thirteen percent—seventy thousand bridges in this country. How did we reach that point?

    We reached that point because we neglected our infrastructure. We didn’t do the very basic things. A bridge is like a machine. It needs to be cleaned; it needs to be oiled; it needs to be lubricated in various parts. It moves with a load—it goes up and down; it slides with the changes in temperature. And we need to treat it properly. Ima, imagine driving your car without ever oiling it, greasing it and waiting until the engine seizes up. That’s what we’ve done with our bridges.

    And, now, we are trying to play catch-up in the, in the wake of this collapse. I know the federal government has, uh, has asked all states who have this kind of arch trush—truss bridge, like the one that collapsed, to examine those bridges. What is it about the design of those bridges that make them more dangerous?

    In engineering terms, we, we call that—them fracture-critical bridges, meaning that if there’s a single failure of a member of the bridge or steel beam, the entire bridge can come tumbling down. In the late 1980s, these were identified; and most of those bridges were bridges built post-World War II. So, if you’re going over a bridge that was built prior to World War II, you’re probably in pretty good shape.

    The bridges built in the ‘50s and ‘60s and 7’0s were the sleekest. It was the beginning of the use of computers in bridges, and the result is we didn’t get bridges with redundancy.

    So, a bridge like this would never be built like nowadays?

    Nobody would build a bridge nowadays without having redundancy. So, you lose a beam, the bridge stands. Manhattan Bridge—I lost four consecutive beams on my watch; the bridge still stood.

    It stands. When you were a bridge inspector here in New York, you had what you called “the intensive care list.” When you would put a bridge on that list, what did it mean?

    Well, I had, uh, twenty bridges that I actually had to close; and I had to close the Williamsburg Bridge. And when I put it on intensive care, it’s just like you put somebody in intensive care in the hospital. I had instrumentation measuring, uh, the bridge—the steel in the bridge and how it was being stretched in millionths of an inch, and making sure that there were no additional cracks, no additional failures in terms of the wires holding the bridge. We’re gonna need to do that.

    This particular bridge that collapsed—may not be a fair question to ask you, but, if you had been the bridge inspector in Minneapolis, was that the kind of bridge that would have been put on intensive care, give what we know about inspections in the past few years on this bridge?

    Yeah, uh, it’s hard to say exactly without ever having inspected the bridge. But it had fatigue cracks. Cracks are, uh, the most worrisome thing for a bridge engineer. We don’t know enough about the science of the—speed of propagation of cracks. A crack can go from a quarter of an inch to five inches overnight. That’s what’s scary about it.

    And, also, so many of these inspections—correct me if I’m wrong—are, are visual.

    Yes. We, we’re, we’re in the Dark Ages when it comes to inspections. I would say well over ninety-five percent of inspections are visual. We need to have instrumentation; and there are instruments now that can measure cracks on bridges and see how quickly they propagate.

    Seems to me that we’ve got two problems here. We have an aging infrastructure in this country, and we don’t seem to have the funds or the wherewithal to repair our bridges. Are we playing Russian roulette with our bridges in this country?

    Well, well, the, the second part is, is, is a funny answer that I’m gonna give you. We need less money. What do I mean by that is we need to spend the money wisely. We have to spend it on maintenance. If you pay a toll, by the way, on a bridge, your bridge is safe. They, they’re taking care of it; they’re doing the daily maintenance.

    It’s when we give up the daily people that maintain the bridges that we get into a position where we then have to replace a bridge. So, I found it cheaper to take care of the bridge than to wait for replacement.

    Sam Schwartz, thank you so much for your insight. Greatly appreciate it.

    You’re welcome.

The fact that the Ambassador Bridge is about 80 years old turns out to be a virtue not a negative. The bridges in good shape are generally the pre-WW II bridges.

Also, as I have said before, there is a reason why private enterprise looks after their infrastructure: it makes them money!

Yes it is the crass profit motive that NDPers like Brian Masse loathe that may make us feel better when crossing the Bridge. So when you hear Brian say to end tolls or keep them artificially low in the interest of the public, remind him of this transcript.

Heck, don't take my word for it, ask the expert of the City of Windsor, NYC's Sam Schwartz!

Quick Comments

Here are some more for you


Here are some very nasty remarks he made in Chile. Does he think that no one reads his speeches? Well actually, that may be the reason he can say what he did. NO ONE reads his speeches.

Does this also help explain why the "American-owned" Bridge Co. is having so many problems with the Federal Government in building their Enhancement Project?

  • "PRIME MINISTER HARPER SIGNALS CANADA’S RENEWED ENGAGEMENT IN THE AMERICAS - Full text of speech released by the PMO July 17, 2007...

    We are undertaking these actions with a sense that the Americas today stand at a crossroads.

    Looking at the region as a whole, and some countries in particular, we have seen some phenomenal success stories of political, economic and social development over the past generation, of which Chile is a shining example.

    In certain other countries, however, we are witnessing cases of regressive economic policy, dangerous political conflict and persistent poverty, social inequality and insecurity.

    While most nations are turning toward economic reform and political openness, too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices are - if I can be so bold to say - to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become “just like the United States.”

    This is, of course, utter nonsense. Canada’s very existence demonstrates that the choice is a false one.

    Canada is an open, free and democratic society with the strongest economy in the G8 today, while also being a proud and independent country with our own way-of-life.

    Canada’s political structures differ substantially from those in the United States. Our cultural values and social models have also been shaped by unique forces and we've made our own policy choices to meet our own needs.

    We want our role in the hemisphere to reflect these differences while emphasizing the economic and political fundamentals necessary for progress.

    In other words, we want a role that reflects our commitment to open markets and free trade, to democratic values and accountable institutions, but also to our national identity, and our traditions of order and community values.

    But for Canada to play this role, we need partners."


Wow, what a message the CAO gave us suffering Windsor taxpayers when the policy where Senior Managers have to live was revoked:

  • "Now they can live where they want. You don't have to live in the city."

Yes sir, give them the higher Windsor salaries but allow them to be taxed at County rates. Isn't that the best of all worlds! It's a real incentive too for them to keep our taxes low.

The message really is that Windsor Senior Administrators are looking for new jobs so the gossip goes. As you know, a number have already left. Windsor's reputation is so bad that no one who is competent wants to move here.

So change the rules so middle managers who live out of town can work here and then bribe them to move here too by paying relocation expenses up to $5,000!


Now did you take Gord seriously when he said:

  • "Where's the equity when those who recommend tax hikes or service cuts don't experience their consequences? How fair would it be, for example, if Windsor's chief tax enforcer didn't pay Windsor taxes? Or if, say, the individual ultimately responsible for garbage collection had his trash collected in Pointe West? It's a sorry comment when the folks who run the city don't like the way it's being run, at least not enough to live there."

Now come on Gord, name names. Tell us who, if anyone, in the Mayor's Office has lived out of town. Which Administrator has a far commute every day? Who are these 40% who seem to have the best of all worlds? Time for a Star exclusive that discloses all.


Windsor Star Editorial:

  • "Schwartz said "the road should fit itself around the community rather then the community around the road." He compared the border corridor to New York's five-mile long Hudson River Park, a highway project featuring tennis courts, ice rinks, bike trails and gardens. The road is made more discrete by a cover of trees."

City Strategy Session:

  • "The mayor tossed out the idea of assigning selected major city streets to landscape companies for beautification and letting them advertise their work on the improved roadway.

    But parks and recreation commissioner Don Sadler quickly interjected: "You have to sustain it (financially). You can build anything, but can you sustain it?"


Grand visions of Windsor again that Council may try to sell to us after their strategic planning session.

The Sympatico website recently listed a number of "Fabulous family destinations" the other day. Let me identify them for you. Tell me in all honesty if you were a tourist would you visit Windsor or the other spots for a family trip.

"Family travel is becoming more savvy as luxury hotels offer recreational and educational programs geared to children.

Multi-generational travel – often involving parents, grandparents and grandchildren – is not only on the rise, but becoming more upscale.

An increasing number of luxury hotels and resorts now offer recreational and educational programs catering to children. Far from the days when family-friendly hotels offered simple baby-sitting services, these hotels are offering such exotic programs as circus school and crocodile-watching expeditions. Here are some top worldwide destinations for families looking for something a little, well, fabulous.

  • Bovey Castle.
    The entire family will be enchanted by a stay in this real castle set within 368 square miles of the Dartmoor National Park, Devon in southwest England.
  • Treasure Island Resort.
    Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean can enjoy their own adventures at sea on this tropical Fijian island.
  • Club Med Lindeman.
    This village resort on Australia's Lindeman Island offers an extensive program geared for family fun.
  • Pezula Resort Hotel.
    This luxurious resort located on South Africa's Southern Cape coastline offers an authentic African experience along with lavish accommodation and pampering.
  • Jaguar Reef Lodge & Spa.
    As part of the Belize resort's Walk on Wild Side Family Adventure, children under 18 can stay and eat free. Surrounded by 600 acres of rain forest, the resort offers 7 miles of white sand beach on the Caribbean Sea as well as exceptional snorkeling and diving.

  • BANFF Fairmont Springs
    Styled after a Scottish Baronial Castle, the resort is a perfect base for family explorations into Banff National Park, one of the most beautiful settings in North America. Families can ride horses, swim, hike or bike in this magnificent Rocky Mountain setting.
  • The Toronto-Niagara Bike Train. Via Rail Canada has announced a new travel option for families looking for both train adventure and cycling. The bicycle-friendly rail cars will travel between Toronto's Union Station and downtown Niagara Falls.


I'll give councillor Big Cheese credit for one thing. She admitted that her target with the anti-Blockbusting Motion was the Ambassador Bridge Co.:

  • "I'm tired of dealing with the bridge company," said Postma, adding how she routinely drives down Indian and Edison to check on the condition of the bridge properties since they have become a blight to others who live on the street.

    "(The bridge company) calls themselves community-minded people. But they are far from it -- it's more than just throwing cheques at the symphony, art gallery or university. You need to work with your neighbours."

They are probably her biggest property tax contributor and a resident in her Ward and could create thousands of jobs needed by her Ward residents but SHE won't talk to them. Councillor Big Cheese was the one who said on John Fairley's show according to Chris Schnurr's BLOG that

  • "she was “not interested” in discussing the plans proposed by the Ambassador Bridge because she has allegedly read “all the blogs out there.”
The Motion referred to homes on "one side of their street" deteriorating. DUH...why not jsut put in Indian Road and the homes being purchased in "bad faith."

The Councillor attacks people buying homes "in bad faith?" The Bridge Co. did not. They bought the homes for their project.

I cannot believe that anyone spends money without a plan. So if there is one, the by-law does not apply does it. It is nothing more than a useless exercise designed to harrass and inimidate and to generate bad publicity agaisnt the Bridge Co.

BLOGextra: DRTP Shocker

Here is an excerpt from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario Report dealing with OMERS and DRTP. You can download the entire Report at

Scope of the OMERS Examination

FSCO’s examination focused on the management and administration of the Plan and Fund with regard to activities, transactions and investments among OMERS, Borealis Capital Corporation (BCC) and its entities, and the Borealis Executives during the primary review period.

Special attention was paid to investments made in certain identified projects, including the Detroit River Tunnel Project...

The information was collected and the examination undertaken for purposes of determining if the OMERS Plan and the OMERS Fund, in respect of the transactions, activities and investments under consideration, were being administered in accordance with the requirements of the PBA...

5.1.1 Due Diligence


In its review of OMERS and its activities related to identified transactions and investments, FSCO found that OMERS conducted a significant amount of due diligence before entering into the activities, transactions or investments under review. However, FSCO could not conclude that OMERS obtained advice on PBA compliance matters and whether it thereby complied with its prudence obligation under section 22 of the Act.

Discussion of Findings

In determining whether an investment or transaction met the prudent person requirement in section 22 of the Act, FSCO looked at, among other things, whether OMERS exercised due diligence in researching all aspects of the transaction or investment prior to selecting and/or entering into the transaction or investment, including compliance with the PBA.

FSCO also considered the process, including obtaining legal advice, by which OMERS decided to enter into a transaction or investment, as well as the process by which the decision was implemented...

FSCO looked for documentation that a number of matters had been assessed as a part of OMERS’ overall due diligence, including legal due diligence, prior to undertaking the investment or after undertaking the investment if there had been a change in the structure of the investment. These matters included:
  • • The authority to undertake the investment under the Plan, the Fund, the PBA, the Statement of Investment Policies and Goals (SIP&G), and the Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures (SIP&P);
    • The provisions under the PBA applicable to the investment;
    • The applicable quantitative limits of the FIR; and
    • Constraints to the investment including conflict of interest and related party provisions.

In these non-privileged materials, FSCO found that there was insufficient documentation to conclude that OMERS obtained advice related to the matters set out above for certain identified transactions and investments and whether it had, therefore, complied with its obligations under section 22 of the Act.

For example, in the Detroit River Tunnel Project there was an internal 70-page report detailing all the due diligence that was done prior to undertaking the investment. While the report indicated that certain legal due diligence was undertaken, there was no indication that this due diligence related to the PBA and its application to the project. There were files that went to the Board indicating that legal due diligence for purposes of the PBA had been done. However, in FSCO’s view, there was insufficient material for FSCO to independently confirm what due diligence had actually been done in relation to application of the PBA...

With respect to its decision to move into investing in infrastructure, OMERS acknowledged in a press release dated October 1, 1997, that its investment in an infrastructure company was a first for a Canadian pension fund, and that OMERS would look at similar investment opportunities in the future where all factors pointed towards prudent investment of the Fund. With a move into a new field of investment FSCO expected to see: an analysis by OMERS of infrastructure investing with respect to the Plan and PBA compliance; documentation to support the decision made; and changes to the SIP&G prior to any investment in infrastructure being undertaken. The material reviewed by FSCO did not include such documentation and therefore, FSCO was unable to conclude that OMERS met its obligations under section 22 of the Act.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

WATERMAIN-GATE: Judicial Inquiry Needed

Will the number 13 prove lucky or unlucky for Eddie? He was re-elected Mayor on November 13 and the next Council meeting is August 13. The answer is: it depends what happens next.

Hasn't Eddie learned anything yet! He insults the intelligence of Windsorites again. I know we are mere irritants who cannot understand the Big Picture that only he can see.

It seems that our Mayor will graciously allow the WUC matter to come to Council on Monday.

  • "After a flush of protest against the recent water fee hikes, Mayor Eddie Francis said Tuesday he will take a request for a Windsor Utilities Commission audit to city council next week for a "discussion."

    "I've got no problem with an audit," said Francis, who also said he plans to make the content of the C.N. Watson report public after a WUC commissioners meeting on Aug. 15."

Thank goodness we will be allowed to have a nice chat about it and get nothing other than a limited audit. I am sure that Councillors can make another decision away from the public over lambchops at dinner and then let us in on it after everyone has vented. Democracy inaction.

And why should the public have the Watson Report until AFTER the Council meeting. Why arm citizens with any more ammunition to use at the Council meeting! CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL! Secrecy above all.


A full Judicial Inquiry is needed not only to find out what happened at WUC but to uncover the cover-up if there is one! The responsible people have to be identified and suffer the consequences. The truth needs to come out and it should be done in front of an experienced Judge and under oath. Nothing less will be satisfactory!

The Mayor and Councillors Lewenza, Marra, Jones and Brister should have absolutely no further involvement in this matter whatsoever. They have all acted as WUC Chairs or Commissioners during the relevant time period and have an interest in the matter.

If you personally, dear reader, want to have an impact and want your voice heard, give up part of next Monday evening and appear as a delegation at Council and express your opinion.

It is not clear how the matter will be handled at Council or whether you will even be permitted to speak , but call or email Council Services and say that you want to appear:

Council Services Department
350 City Hall Square West, Room 203
Windsor, Ontario Canada N9A 6S1
Phone: For general information, call 311. For detailed inquiries, call (519) 255-6432
Fax: (519) 255-6868

Eddie And The Three Stooges

No, No, No. I do not mean Curley, Larry and Moe. I do not want to insult them! I am talking about the three Windsor Councillors on the WUC, Councillors Lewenza (the Chair of WUC), Marra and Jones.

A "stooge" is defined as a "flunky: a person of unquestioning obedience" or "acting in a compliant or subordinate manner" or "A person used or controlled by others."

Sure I am acting in a hasty manner, but the May 7, 2007 memo of the WUC Finance Director, Victoria Zuber, sent to the WUC Chair and Commissioners may be one of the smoking guns that could end the politicial careers of a number of people if it proves to be true and accurate. The stories we were given over the past few days by our politicians are starting to ring hollow now.

It should not be a surprise given what she said as well in the 2004 Annual Report .

She wrote in the May memo:

  • "Over the past decade, operating costs were recovered, but capital spending was below necessary replacement level and was not recovered in rates…This has resulted in a serious infrastructure deficit

    In 2004, the water main replacement levy was implemented. This levy was intended to be used for capital, but has been required to fund operations. From the effective date of the new rate increase, these funds will not be included as operating revenues and will be accounted for as a fund for capital contribution."

The Commissioners in 2003 were absolutely clear:

  • "the capital levy funds can only be used solely and exclusively on watermain infrastructure."

Where were our guardians, our watch-dogs on the Commission, our politicians as these actions were being taken? Her memo seems very clear about funds being diverted from their true purpose. It would only be in August, 2007 when the problem would be corrected. It had NOT been corrected before.

I feel sorry for Bill Marra....He should have learned from the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget. Do not ever appear on John Fairley's Face-To-Face show. John just asks the right questions that allows the politicians to hang themselves.

Bill's show was taped after the Francis Council Presentation but before the memo from Zuber was disclosed. You can see exactly how the party line was adopted to try and ride out the storm and downplay it. If the Zuber memo is correct, it makes a mockery out of poor Bill and the Mayor and his explanation and the Eminence Greasie who master-minded the defence!

Lets deal with the main areas of defence:

1) Was there a diversion

Bill congratulated the Mayor for doing a very good job in explaining things at Council. I guess Bill did not read the Zuber memo either or forgot about it even though it was sent to him as a Commissioner. He said that levy money was not used to subsidize operations. He again used the faulty analysis saying that $9M was collected in levies but $27M was spent without adding in what was budgetted and without stating that the levy was always meant as a "top-up." He did NOT explain why the Commissioners' order was ignored for years.

All he said was that the

  • "Acccounting practice was not appropriate."

However, is that another "new" issue that has been opened up by Bill although I raised it before? Does that mean the WUC Financial Statements are all wrong and have to be restated and KPMG has to review what they have done for years now? How does that impact the City's Financials?

2) Is an Investigation needed

He followed the Lewenza line...The Mayor explained it so it is time to move on. He specificially was very confident that no fact-finding was needed. He said an audit was done so why bother. Unfortunately for him, this position was undercut by the Mayor in Saturday's Star since the pressure became too much when the smoking gun was found.

And then there was today's Star Editorial! Congratulations, they finally came to the party

3) Was "politics" involved that caused this mess

You remember the Mayor on A-channel News saying it was all "politics" about the rates and the mess we were now in.

That now changed. Bill said that someone made the decision to run the levy funds through Operating and someone was held accountable. Bill told us that there were many changes at WUC and that several people were not there because of this and other issues. In effect all previous WUC Commissioners and employees are now being smeared. Bill should name names or apologize!

Bill seemed to congratulate the Mayor and previous Council for making the changes at the various WUC and Enwin companies but if the Zuber memo is correct, they missed this one badly.

Do we laugh or cry at the antics? This is almost like high drama now or low comedy....Eddie's whiteboard Presentation at Council. Marra on Face-to-Face. Three hours on a CKLW talk-show.

Can you imagine what Eddie's or Bill's faces would have looked like if a cross-examining investigator had showed them the Zuber memo and asked them if they had read it as a member of the WUC right after they gave their explanation of what supposedly went wrong.

With the smoking gun Zuber memo, I am sorry but it appears that Bill, Councillor Lewenza who is the WUC Chair and who should be the one speaking on this subject not the Mayor, and Councillor Jones who has been invisible on this issue are being unquestioningly obedient, acting in a compliant manner or being used. OR frankly they have no idea whatsoever what is going on!

Councillor Jones should be Windsorites' biggest ally. Back in May, 2005 when he was on WUC as a Commissioner, he said:
  • "WUC wants to spend $6.8 million to rehabilitate watermains this year.

    "We are determined to find out if we are getting the service we are paying for," coun. Ron Jones said."
In the circustances, how well did he do his job? Aren't the requests by Windsorites for an investigation nothing more than repeating what the Councillor said then:
  • are [we] getting the service we are paying for?
By the way, what has the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget had to say about all of this. He seems conspicuous by his silence too considering he used to be a WUC Commissioner. If he knows financial statements and audits so well, how did this escape his eagle budget eyes? Ducking your head and hoping that this all goes away are hardly the actions that someone who seems to want to run for Mayor should be taking.

If the Zuber memo had not been found, this would all have blown over with the Schwartz/DRIC diversionary story taking over in Henderson's column and in the news pages.

Now the real issue is whether a "cover-up" was attempted, designed to fool taxpayers, and if so, who were involved and what the consequences will be to those who tried to do so.

A full investigation of the facts is required, not merely an "audit." As I read on some BLOGsites, perhaps we need a judicial inquiry with people being put under oath as this moves forward

This story is just beginning!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eddie's Schwartz Problem

Oh my goodness, Unliplocked Sam has caused a major problem for Eddie and Windsor Councillors as well as the responsible politicians and bureaucrats at the Senior Levels. In fact, some of them may have personal legal liability now that they did not have since Sam has spoken.

In light of the bridge failure in Minneapolis Sam opened up his mouth again and the following was reported in the Star:

"One of the leading bridge and tunnel experts in North America, Sam Schwartz, was in Windsor...

He listed the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor as being a serious concern."

Well if Sam said so, then why isn't his client, the City of Windsor, along with the Senior Levels demanding that the Bridge Co. start building their Enhancement Project immediately! An enhanced bridge would be built and then the old bridge would be rehabilitated for redundancy and civic purposes. Instead, the Governments are putting roadblocks in the way of the Bridge Co. preventing them from doing so.

Now you tell me if this is acting responsibly and in the public interest. Are they putting the public at risk? Remember there are supposedly a "race" and competitive positions that the Governments are protecting too as well as regulating the Bridge Co.

Hmmmm speaking of the Tunnel and Eddie's US$75M proposed deal (whatever happened to it do you know), have you, dear reader, ever seen a report on its condition? Have you ever heard Sam make any comments about it? After all, it is quite old too and Sam should know it is a unique security risk. I think someone should ask the Mayor about it. After all Sam said:

  • “Those reports must be made public,” Schwartz said. “This is a public use issue and the public has a right to know.”

What about the overpasses on E C Row that Cansult said had problems. What is their status today? Does the Mayor or the Province know? If so, what is the answer? Where is the traditional media asking the questions and demanding answers on our behalf? I know the Bridge Co. is an easy target but the City owns infrastructure as well.

Well, perhaps we should not be as concerned. One would expect that The Bridge Co. owners would ensure that the bridge is maintained properly out of their own self-interest. Having your own funds at risk is a great motivator for a private enterprise company. You see Sam made a shocking comment too last week in a NYC newspaper about public bridges that supports what I say. In fact, he may be a supporter of higher tolls too:

  • "Tolls can fund maintenance - if the toll money is dedicated to the task. (New York decades ago set up independent authorities to manage bridges like the Triborough.) But this can mean perverse effects for un-tolled facilities, as engineer and transit expert Sam Schwartz has noted: "The [free] Queensboro Bridge, which should be used by 110,000 vehicles a day, is used by 150,000 vehicles a day, and those additional vehicles come from the Midtown Tunnel and from the Triborough Bridge, with no revenue stream to fix the Queensboro Bridge.

    "It's been crumbling, and all our bridges have been crumbling, because there has been no revenue base. So it's been bad for us to have those extra 40,000 vehicles pounding the bridge with no revenue stream to maintain the bridge."

Remember my BLOG "August 01, 2007, So You Want A Public Bridge Eh" where I outlined the financial problems of the "public" International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie that gave rise to this comment:

  • "I'm somewhat concerned that this will have a significant impact on our financial resources," said Phil Becker, general manager of Joint International Bridge Authority.

    "It may impact our ability to operate and maintain the bridge."

In fact, a bad rating for a bridge may not mean anything depending on what the cause is. Did you know this about the Brooklyn Bridge in Sam's home town:

  • "The U.S. Department of Transportation rated the Brooklyn Bridge as structurally deficient last year, and state inspectors ranked its condition as "poor" in a recent survey, citing rusting joints and crumbling mortar in some sections...

    Federal and city DOT officials said the bridge's poor performance on inspections was due largely to deterioration of its newer approach ramps in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

    Those problems, city DOT spokeswoman Molly Gordy said, do not constitute a major safety hazard, and mainly affect the quality of the road surface. "

Sam was ok with this too and said:

  • "I'm willing to bet we will be celebrating its 1,000th birthday in 2883," said transportation engineering consultant Sam Schwartz. "That bridge is so strong, if New York got hit with an earthquake that measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, those towers would still be standing."

I'd make a bet too about 1,000 years in the future considering few of us may be around to collect is Sam is wrong.

I think it may be time for people to start demanding action at the border and to have the Bridge Co. build its enhanced bridge already. As Dan Stamper has said:

  • "We are replacing our factory," he said. "It's 78 years old and we want to update it with a more secure and efficient facility. It's as simple as that.

    "You would expect Windsor to embrace our proposal, but instead they are doing everything they can to interfere with it. Everybody has a right to say what they want, but we have the right to maintain our operation. That's what we are trying to do."

Just Cruising Along

You better call quickly if you want to go Cruising on the River Trinidad/Tobago-style.

Here are the numbers: (519) 735-0933, (519) 979-4242, (519) 948-0215, (248) 640-8152

Hurry before the tickets disappear!

Eddie Backs Down

If the Province wants a proper forensic audit done of the books and records of the Windsor Utilities Commission, there is only one guy in Canada to call. He is Al Rosen of Rosen & Associates in Toronto. He is the Accountants' Accountant who made a reputation of not being afraid to take on the major accounting firms in professional negligence cases.

The reason he would be perfect for this job is that the Province used him as Investigator in the Board of Education financial fiascos a number of years ago.

  • "Rosen touched off a storm of anger in late August, calling Toronto trustees "dysfunctional" and slamming the board for spending millions of dollars on items not considered classroom expenditures under the province's school funding formula."

Our kind of guy eh!

The Star's Monica Wolfson and A-Channel News deserve our thanks for reporting on the story in the first place and keeping at it.

However, the congratulations go out to the lonely BLOGGERs in town for keeping this story going after the Mayor tried desperately to stop the hemorrhaging of credibility at last Monday's Council meeting. The "flushing" protest of The Mayor of Monmouth, the Windsor Municipal Shadow's "number-crunching," Chris Schnurr's "WUC Finance Director" bombshell and my moles' efforts all contributed to Eddie folding. His Eminence Greasie at least had the sense to tell Eddie to stop fighting and try and bury the story before more was disclosed!

Al Nelman's call for a 10,000 signature Petition and my draft of one which I posted here must have concerned our Mayor. If that many people signed up, and there are probably that many people on seniors income in town, Eddie's career and that of several Councillors would have been finished!

  • "But Mayor Eddie Francis said Friday he didn't object to the call for a forensic audit...

    We would welcome another set of eyes. We invite anyone, the provincial auditor, if that is what it will take to give people confidence the WUC is operating effectively and efficiently. I will make the request."
Yup, some people on the WUC Commission are near-sighted I guess and cannot read what is set in front of them, say in a Financial Director's Report months ago.

I wonder if Eddie will give access to all relevant WUC documents to the media including BLOGGERs or will he require Municipal Freedom of Information applications as he has in the past to stall matters?

Eddie's big defence now is:
  • "(WUC's) financials are audited and that information is public," Francis said.

    "It has an independent audit committee that overseas operations. It's because of those reviews that changes are being made."

WUC's spokeswoman Sylvia deVries said

  • "a forensic audit wasn't necessary because KPMG audits the utility annually."

Well, Eddie and Sylvia....Enron had auditors too as did Hollinger as examples and audit committees too. So their comments give me no comfort. As Al Rosen has said

  • "External corporate auditors don't look for fraud, don't check the internal control systems, and they have signed agreements that downloads responsibility for problems onto the company's management or directors, Rosen said."

Frankly, the role of the auditors is one of the issues to examine as well. The question is that since they knew how the levy was to be applied, why did they not know it was not being used for the watermains only, especially given the Finance Director's comments in the 2004 Annual Report?

I am not at all suggesting that we have an Enron-type scandal. But if the Finance Director's report in May, 2007 is correct, then the levy was NOT applied as the Commission had ordered ie for watermain infrastructure, since 2004. There was a diversion of funds for all of those years and no one caught it or understood the significance of what was being done. And it seems that Eddie and the three Councillor/WUC Commissioners did not understand that as late as the last Council meeting!

Councillor "I had the chance to do something at Council but backed off" Halberstadt has now jumped on the bandwagon demanding an audit. But at least he is a Councillor saying something positive and will now actually have to act.

Eddie's new line will become:

  • "I am sorry but I cannot discuss this matter since it is under investigation."

However, the game is not over yet. You know that Eddie will try to set up Terms of Reference that will not allow the investigator to investigate anything controversial that could hurt him or Councillors Marra, Lewenza and that is the next fight! In fact, none of them should be involved in anything further to do with the investigation given their obvious conflict of interest! Will Councillor Halberstadt have the guts to keep them out?

I wonder what new issues Windsor Bloggers will bring up over the next few weeks! Stay tuned because I bet there is more to come!