Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Who's In Charge

Honestly, I could not make this stuff up. No one could.

I'm too tired this morning to take a look at the Ontario Municipal Affairs Act to see under what conditions the Minister can put someone in to take over the operations of this City similar to the way the Province put a Trustee in place at one time with respect to various Boards of Education in the Province but maybe it is time that someone in the Ministry consider doing so.

The farce that is City Council continues. The problem is that they are dealing with a huge budget of about half a billion dollars that affects the lives of 200,000 people.

This kind of childishness over the Library cannot be allowed to continue when we have issues like the border, jobs, taxes and levies and economic development that need to be solved right away.

I've had all of these strange thoughts in my mind since last night. I came home reasonably late from a several hours long meeting that dealt with City Operations from a citizen's perspective. I had been called earlier in the evening and told that there was a Special Meeting of Council dealing with the Library and was asked what I knew about it. I had no idea what it was about and found it quite strange.

However, when I got home do you know what I thought about since I was hungry... do the Councillors get a meal at one of these meetings the way they do at a regular Council meeting. If not, are they allowed to charge the City for a meal the same way that I used to do at my old law firm when I worked late?

If it was allowed, I wondered where they would go for a meal and how much they are allowed to charge. Would they go to Timmie's and get a coffee and a muffin. Could they go to TBQ to get a slab of ribs. Or perhaps they were allowed, if they chose to go for meal after the Meeting, to go to the Keg because the parking rate is so cheap there thanks to the arrangement made by the Mayor as a means to rejuvenate the downtown.

Then I wondered if Councillors would go together or could Administrators go with Councillors or are they supposed to go individually.

You see what happens when you think about this stuff too much....all kinds of wild ideas.

When I went to the Star website and read the memo from the CAO, it brought back memories of my days doing employment law. I thought that John Skorobohacz must have nerves of steel or an iron clad employment contract or both. Imagine, taking on two Senior Councillors like Halberstadt and Marra and even the Chair of the Audit Committee. I wondered whether I could get a copy of that employment agreement which I believe the Mayor must have arranged to have drafted since I'm sure he did not want another Jane Boyd-type incident but I doubted if I could get a copy since it is a personnel matter.

On the other hand, I wondered if the CAO felt that he was being pressured such that he might take the position that he was being constructively dismissed. Now that would open up a whole can of worms and could get the City involved in a lawsuit by the time it was over.

Oh me oh my, what a mess.

To come back to the Library, I just don't get it. I thought the Library had regular annual audits. Then there was the special audit that gave them a terrific result and now it appears that there is a desire for a "a line-by-line review of library budgets for the past five years." Let your kids become forensic auditors. No risk of lack of work with this City Hall.

In passing, I'd like to know who leaked the CAO memo. If we had an Integrity Commissioner, that would be something that I would think the Commissioner should look into. Can you guess who the Library person is that everybody is talking about even though they should not be talking about matters involving personnel? It should be obvious to those who have been following this Library crisis. Or is it somebody else that nobody knows about? What a shadow that is being cast on all of the people in the senior ranks of the Library.

How much money is being spent on audits at the Library? How much time is being focused on the Library? Why does the audit need to go back so many years... does that include the time when Steve Salmons was there? Is this a way to get back at him and also the Province for Greenlink?

I'd like you to compare the way that the City is acting with the Library with that of the Windsor Utilities Commission. I think it is time for Councillor Marra to ask for a comparable audit of the Commission. If they can do it for such a small organization such as the Library, then they had better do it for WUC as well and for Fleet Operations.

If only Eddie had carried out his campaign promise and looked at all of the City Departments in a timely fashion, we would not have this mess. There it is again, it points directly back to the Mayor and his lack of running the City properly.

Another issue that I find very interesting is the conflict between the CAO and the Audit Committee. I'm not a Governance Expert but does the CAO have the right to overrule the Audit Committee with respect to the use of legal counsel?

According to the A-Channel interview of Councillor Marra, the 400 City Hall Square audit report has been available at least in draft form since April 2007. Again, the time period involved seems very similar to the extended period in which the Fleet audit was undertaken. We need clarification of this immediately. I wrote at the time respecting Fleet:
  • "To answer the charge that it took the Audit department two years to do an audit of a City Department for a three-year period, the Audit Department press release blamed it on "Staffing issues."

Audit had written in its report:

  • "Fleet management initially restricted the information it supplied to the auditor," the report said. "In all stages we were required to request information multiple times before obtaining adequate documentation from fleet management."

Eddie made a very dangerous statement in the Star. I hope he has backup:

  • "Francis immediately contradicted Halberstadt's assertions. "That's not the issue that was discussed today," he said. "The concern was that the particular employee approached the Windsor Public Library and asked the chair (Halberstadt) to authorize a pay adjustment under false pretenses, suggesting to the chair that it was a pay equity issue. It was authorized without board approval."

If you are that person, what would you do? Imagine, a Mayor saying that you may have acted in an improper fashion. If the charge is valid, then shouldn't that person be fired? If the charge is not valid, then are we looking at a lawsuit since a person's career could be put at risk?

I don't understand very much about this 3% pay equity issue. I believe that the Mayor can clear it up very quickly by telling us which senior people within the City, and not just City Hall itself but in all of its corporations and divisions, received such an increase in salary, if any. I know that he said that the Meeting was not supposed to discuss it, but the issue is there and needs to be addressed immediately.

I have no intention of sitting here trying to figure out who is telling the truth and who is not. I can't do it even if I wanted to since obviously I don't have all of the evidence in front of me nor am I able to ask any the participants questions that would help me along the way.

All I know is that this is just another example of destroying the image of the City of Windsor. Don't blame it on the Bloggers when the Mayor and Council are doing a terrific job on their own of making this City a laughing stock. Promoting a positive image about Windsor, don't make me laugh.

As I said a long time ago, we have a lame-duck Mayor who is unable to lead. We have Councillors who are jockeying for position so that they can decide whether they should go for the top City job or perhaps a job at a Senior Level of Government. I don't see any ability in any of them right now to work together for the betterment of this City.

I see meetings called at the last possible second, in camera sessions turning into public ones with charges and finger-pointing and accusations. I especially liked how the Mayor decided to interrupt the Interview scrum that Councillor Halberstadt had. Just like his "Point of Clarification" when he interrupts people at Council when he gets concerned about something. Some of my readers are a lot smarter than I when they identified "open and transparent government" as a big issue in my poll.

Three more years of this childish bickering. I am not sure I can stand it. I better start updating my research on the right of recall of elected officials and figure out how to get it into place sooner rather than later.

The Mayor's State of the City Speech on March 17 may well be an interesting time.