Collingwood Council and town administration are in trouble. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is investigating them and their recent activities with regards to Collus-PowerStream and its board of directors. This is not good news for those at the table or those behind the scenes who guided their hands.
A letter was unexpectedly added to the agenda for the Wednesday, Sept. 21 Strategic Initiatives standing committee from the OEB. It reads in part:
…the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is commencing an inspection under the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 (Act) to review Collus (PowerStream Corp.’s (Collus) compliance with the Affiliate Relationships Code for Electricity Distributors and Transmitters (ARC).
The OEB was recently made aware of changes made in the composition of the Board of Directors of Callus, and through this inspection will review whether Collus is in compliance with section 2.1.2 of the ARC. That section requires that at least one-third of the Board of Directors of a licensed electricity distributor be independent of any affiliate.
We plan to commence this inspection with a meeting at your offices in Collingwood.
During that meeting, you should be prepared to provide information about the current members of the Collus Board of Directors. This includes, for each member, the date of their appointment, the term of their appointment, their relationship to any entity that is an affiliate of Collus and their qualifications, as well as any other details that may be relevant to our inspection.
But that letter wasn’t sent to the town. It was sent to Collus-PowerStream. The meeting will be at the Collus offices, not town hall, with Collus staff, not the interim CAO. So the utility has the opportunity to finally tell its side of the story without interference from town administration or their pet consultants and lawyers. The prevarications and disinformation about Collus presented to council and the public in the past will be exposed.
This is serious. The OEB is heavy artillery in the energy sector. They aren’t those little one-and two-person consultants or chequebook lawyers the administration has hired to fudge the facts and justify The Block’s destruction of our utility. The truth will come out at last.
As I read the town’s own procedural bylaw, there is no provision in it to replace directors on any board once appointed. The bylaw specifically states they are appointed for the full term of council. Now you might argue that council only need vote to waive its procedural bylaw in order to repeal such appointments. However, this was not done. So by my reading, council illegally replaced the legally and democratically appointed board members with town staff. Unethically too, but that goes without saying.
The OEB may not like that. Or that all three staff members appointed to the board have “affiliations” contrary to the OEB’s rules. Or that the town never notified the OEB of the changes. The devil’s always in such details.
But that’s not all. I have seen two other recent letters from the OEB to residents responding to their complaints about the town’s activities, and I know of at least three other complaints made to the OEB this term. One of these letters says (in part):
Your correspondence refers to the possibility of the sale of an interest in Collus PowerStream to a third party. The OEB does have a mandate to review the proposed sale of all or a controlling interest in a utility. Although there are exceptions, these kinds of transactions often need OEB approval before they can proceed. How a decision to sell an interest in a utility is made and how any sale agreements are negotiated are not within the OEB’s control. Rather, our public interest mandate is to protect consumers by focusing on whether consumers will be harmed by a proposed transaction. The OEB will not approve a proposed sale if it believes that customers of the utility will be harmed in relation to price, reliability or quality of service. We also look closely to ensure that a proposed sale will not affect the financial ability of the utility to continue to provide reliable service to its customers into the future. When we review a proposed sale, we do so using a public hearing process that is fair, open and accessible. Customers of the utility are encouraged to participate and share their views on the issues that are within the scope of the OEB’s review.
The OEB regularly assesses the performance of utilities to ensure that they deliver cost-effective, reliable and responsive service to their customers. Meeting the OEB’s performance standards is something that the OEB expects of all utilities, regardless of any proposed or completed change in ownership. And we can ensure that corrective action is taken if and when a utility’s performance is not meeting our mandatory standards.
Corrective action, eh? If the town replaced its board illegally, then who might be blamed? Heads should roll in town hall.
Perhaps that’s the reason that the town wants taxpayers to pay for insurance to cover lawsuits against its directors and councillors. You, the taxpayer, have to pay for their costs if you sue them for breach of trust. Sneaky, eh? We never needed such insurance before but someone in town hall can surely smell the blood in the water these days.
Another letter from the OEB to a different local resident notes:
The OEB recognizes that good corporate governance contributes in a very important way to a utility’s performance in meeting the needs of its customers and achieving the OEB’s expectations.
I wonder what the OEB will have to say when they get the lowdown on the governance this council has provided, and how much damage this council and its administration have done to the utility’s performance.
In Wednesday’s committee meeting, Deputy Mayor Saunderson got all lawerly and tried to justify the actions with his usual huff-and-puff, but it sure sounded hollow. Sorry, Brian, but neither you nor the administration can glibly explain away the damage that was deliberately done by your group. It is finally catching up to you.
Stay tuned. This will get very interesting.
Collingwood deserves better.