Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is Windsor Out Of Control

Tell me the truth. Do you feel as I do?

This City is out of control and there is nothing I can do about. The sad part is that there is another 2 1/2 years to go with this Mayor and Council. Thanks Dalton.

When reading the Star this morning, I did not know whether I should laugh or cry. First we have Councillor Bill Marra being told that he could not open up his mouth with respect to the Tunnel transaction and now Counselor Halberstadt:

  • "Halberstadt said he could not comment since Zalev was designated as sole spokesman on the issue."

I guess these gentlemen have a very difficult dilemma as do all of their colleagues on Council. They do have a legal responsibility under the Municipal Act and yet they are being told to keep quiet because of their position on a Board or Commission. I think that Councillors have a very serious conflicts problem that they need to talk to a lawyer about immediately.

More delays for reasons that we are not given, more in camera conversations... what are we to believe? The obvious is that there's a horrific mess that took place on the 400 building that is being covered up for some reason. The CAO seems to shrug it off when he said:

  • "Skorobohacz insisted city administration has nothing to hide.

    "People will have the perception they have," he said."

If there is nothing to hide, then why won't someone let us in on the good news. The reason for my concern is the comments attributed to the former auditor. I am very shocked that he spoke out frankly. That is not something that I would have expected. It suggests to me that there is something going on, whatever it is, that we poor taxpayers are not entitled to know about it. Why not?

It seems to me that Mr. Zalev has an obligation to tell us what is happening in much more detail or if he refuses to do so then it is the duty of the Councillors to act. They don't have the right to keep their mouths shut given their legal responsibilities.

Here's what is very interesting to me:

  • "The latest delay, after the hour-long audit committee discussion Wednesday behind closed doors, is due to "substantial" new information being handed over last week by city administrators to the city's lead internal auditor...

    The types of information (provided by administration) are significant in terms of depth and scope...

    Zalev said he didn't feel the presentation of this new information was an attempt by administration to derail or delay release of the report. But he also could not answer why the new information only came forward last week."

Isn't that very similar to what happened with the Fleet Operations and was one of the complaints of the auditors? Is Administration in effect really telling the audit function to mind their own business and to stay out of their affairs? Why couldn't Administration act in a timely fashion. The initial Audit report has been out for about a year.

Is this sentence from Mr. Dunbar what this is all about"

  • "The complete report tells the whole story -- including questions we could not get answers to -- and the public deserves to see that."

Do we in fact have an Administration that cannot be controlled by elected officials in Windsor? Is that what Dunbar is really telling us? Where's the Mayor in all of this since he was not shy in getting directly involved in the WUC matter by speaking directly with Provincial officials:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said it was inappropriate for him to comment on the latest delay, given how audits and the audit committee are supposed to be independent and left alone to conduct their work."

What he should be commenting on and for which he is directly responsible since Administration reports to him is the fact that Administration only now gave out information that is "significant in terms of depth and scope." Why wasn't this done before? Why is Administration allowed with impunity to not provide relevant information to the audit function? Does he control Administration or doesn't he?

To be direct about it I would like to see the report that was issued. I would like to know what Administration has not provided. I see no reason why the Audit Committee should be allowed to continue to hide the initial report. I would expect that the two Councillors have a copy of that report and they should be forced to release it immediately by their Councillor colleagues.

Here is what is even more troubling about all of this. The Report that was presented to Council about the project claimed:

  • "City council hired in 2006 its own independent consultant, who reported the building was constructed under budget and meets the city's objective of consolidating many government services under one roof."

I expect that this report was a justification for the City going alone on the East End Arena and being responsible for the project. If the Fleet Operations and 400 building audits give rise to concerns then who knows what is going on with respect to the Arena and whether it is being managed properly or not. I just do not know the answer.

Then we have the second audit story with the headline "Francis accused of political meddling." To be direct, I'm not sure that the story justifies that kind of a headline. The word "meddling" is a very highly charged one.

The complaint by Councillor Halberstadt is:

  • "Halberstadt said audit-related news releases should be cleared by the committee members, with no influence from the mayor's office.

    "I think he was involved in the press release. I think it was based on reports in the media and a desire to clarify what was thought to be inaccurate reports.

    "I feel before the auditor gives out a press release where the mayor's office is involved, it should come back to the audit committee -- that's the protocol I'm looking for."

Interestingly, the Mayor's response does not specifically deal with his involvement. If he was not involved, then why didn't he say so:

  • "Francis said his office had no influence over the news release. "I don't know what he is saying. The audit is independent. The lead auditor in this case reports to the audit committee and they do what they have to do. It's free of political interference."

Not influencing or interfering does not mean that he was not involved. What is the truth and who will find it out for us?

When one adds in this audit fiasco to so many things that are wrong in the City that I have no intention of outlining in this BLOG since I will just depress myself, it makes one wonder what remedy a citizen has other than being forced to pay out his/her own personal funds to start a lawsuit to get any kind of satisfaction. That is not right to ask one citizen to do that.

It really is time for the Provincial Ministry to take a look at putting in better checks and balances in the affairs of municipal governments since they are not just dealing with putting up stop signs and closing down laneways anymore. If one looks at the City of Windsor, this City with a budget of a half a billion dollars will be involved in spending billions of dollars in infrastructure alone as just one example. It is involved in significant, high-priced entrepreneurial transactions which, if they go wrong, could be disastrous for taxpayers.

I wish I knew what to do.