Collingwood’s own Gong Show, part 2


Keystone councilAs promised, here is the second part of the Gong Show analysis from December 12th’s council meeting. Like I said earlier, it’s perhaps more like a Keystone Cops or Abbott and Costello skit than the TV show.

As always, you can follow along on the Rogers Community TV broadcast, starting at 2:16:30. Laugh aloud at the zany, misinformed antics of your elected representatives as they fumble and stumble their way through an agenda of items they clearly have no clue about. You should start with part 1 of my review, if you haven’t already read it.

And by the end of this post you can decide which of these titles best suits our Blockheads:

  1. The Most Secretive Council Ever
  2. The Most Inept and Ineffective Council Ever
  3. The Most Devious Council Ever
  4. The Most Disrespectful Council Ever
  5. The Most Corrupt Council Ever
  6. The Most Underhanded Council Ever
  7. The Most Petty and Vindictive Council Ever
  8. All of the above.*

So first take a look at a letter that appeared on the consent agenda of the Strategic Initiatives Committee from Dec. 7 (SIC is one of those dysfunctional and inefficient council committees created by the interim CAO, yet embraced by Blockheads at the table with no experience in process or politics who prefer to flail and fumble rather that govern efficiently). See page 96 for the letter, which says in part:

Please accept this letter as confirmation that Collus PowerStream will not be renewing its existing computer rental agreement with the Collingwood Public Utilities that expires December 31st, 2016.
With regard to the existing equipment, the Board of Directors at our November 25th meeting authorized me to offer a one-time payment of $23,920.00 plus any applicable taxes for the attached listing of user workstation equipment and associated accessories (keyboards, mice, cables etc.) we are currently using and are interested in acquiring.
We ask that you please confirm acceptance of this offer by end of day December 15th, 2016. This will allow us sufficient time to make alternate arrangements prior to year-end for replacement hardware should the Town choose to not accept this offer.

Some key concepts here to keep in mind:

  • The board authorized the request and amount offered;
  • The agreement to rent equipment ends Dec. 31 at the same time the shared services agreement ends;
  • CPS needs to know by Dec. 15 and it’s already Dec. 12;
  • The offer is more than three times what the equipment is worth.

Simple, right? Apparently not for everyone.

Some history: Collus always provided the software and the technical support for the town’s computers as part of the shared services agreement. The agreement ended in 2014 but was extended until the end of 2016 so the interim CAO could present an update agreement. It still hasn’t been done.

The town (in this case the water department) purchased the hardware and rented/leased it back to Collus (later Collus-PowerStream, CPS) for just under $22,000 a year to provide a revenue stream to the town. With the unrelenting harassment of the utility and its staff by The Blockheads and the administration, CPS wants to get as far away from this viper’s nest as possible. CPS offered to buy the remaining hardware – mostly used notebooks, monitors, mice, cables and keyboards – from the town. And end another revenue stream to the town from the utility.**

used computersNow, keep in mind that this is all equipment CPS is using, not another town department or service. Whenever a department needs computer equipment, that department head purchases it. No department head has asked for any of this equipment, not least of all because it’s old and used and they can get new with a signature on a slip of paper.

And it’s all at least 3-4 years old (which means the laptops may not even be up to running Win 10) and may not be in the best shape after daily use for that time. Much of it would normally be replaced with new equipment in the next 12-28 months as per the town’s hardware replacement cycle.

But our Blockheads are apparently experts on IT, even though some of them can’t even configure their own home wireless without IT intervention.

And don’t forget: the shared services agreement to provide IT services to the town ends in January, 2017, before that vaunted mid-month report from the consultant. Second, the recent PowerStream offer to buy the Collus share has a deadline of Jan. 6. If accepted, there will be no relationship of any sort between the utility and the town. And if not accepted, PowerStream will invoke the shotgun clause and the whole shebang will unravel 30 days later.

This where the fun starts – be prepared to laugh and roll your eyes. And to shake your head in wonder at the pettiness of our Blockheads.

And then gasp in disgust at the backstabbing and deviousness that happened a mere two days later. Of course, you won’t read any of this in the local media. You’re welcome.

The figure offered – $23,920 – is more than what the tech industry, accounting and insurance standard prices are for used hardware. But it was arrived at after a careful and thorough inventory and generous analysis by CPS staff. A list of all the equipment and individual prices was provided to the town prior to the meeting (mentioned in the letter). The SIC approved the request and passed it back to council. But apparently the fires of malice stoked their conspiracy theories between the SIC and the next council meeting.

At 2:16:48 Councillor Edwards starts the laugh track rolling by saying “moved by myself” – the Blockheads’ abuse of English is always a giggle riot. He raises the motion to sell the hardware. At 2:17:14 the town’s treasurer explains what this is all about.

At 2:18:30 Councillor Fryer mumbles that he’s “not in support” of it. No reason why. We’re supposed to guess. Let’s see… petty vindictiveness against his former employer? A grudge against some former co-workers? Month with a ‘r’ in it?

Whack-a-moleAt 2:18:43 Councillor Madigan starts the whack-a-mole skit, saying he wants to see this list of equipment. Why? Is Spongebob an insurance adjuster? An IT support specialist? A financial auditor? Or just a guy who sells coffee? Seems he doesn’t trust staff to provide an honest estimate of its value. And why didn’t he ask for the list that came with the letter two weeks ago? He asks:

“Do we have an independent cost analysis to see what the equipment is worth?”

Which would, of course, cost you the taxpayer hundreds if not thousands of dollars to obtain (yet one more outside consultant paid for useless work). And what would we gain?

This is the same guy who that very same meeting voted to spend $100,000 more for the company offering most expensive insurance option to the town. That’s right: he chose the HIGHEST bidder out of four as the best way to manage your tax dollars. The same guy who has voted every step of the way for the administration to spend more than $500,000 on a witch hunt against Collus PowerStream and its employees. Who voted to provide Councillor “Senator” Jeffrey an unlimited expense account to wine and dine her way across the country. Who voted to spend $35,000 on a useless peer report about the hospital redevelopment that said nothing.

But who won’t let CPS get away with giving the town $23,920.00 just in case the value might prove to be worth $23,920.50.

I guess that’s what self-described entrepreneurs in politics do: they spend your tax dollars on out-of-town lawyers and consultants so they can tell everyone they’re looking after town business.

“All my questions arise from not seeing the list, that’s why I thought I would, um, er, and then one last question… ” (2:19:28)

The letter and equipment list came to the town December 2. Gee, Spongebob, don’t you think you could have asked to see it at least once in the past two weeks since the SIC agenda was published? Too busy making lattes, I suppose.

At 2:20:12 the treasurer states the $23,920 offer is probably “$18,000 more than the net book value” of the equipment. This is the clue for the Blockheads to wake up: you’re being offered a REALLY GOOD DEAL for a bunch of old computer hardware no one in town wants or needs. She tells them the equipment is 3-4 years old.

Numbers. The Blockheads aren’t good with numbers. Subtracting $18,000 from $23,920 is just too damned hard.

But to be fair, Madigan makes a good point at 2:19:35: he asks whether the proper procedure is to first declare the equipment surplus before it gets sold. And this is where some real belly laughs are found. Should be a simple answer, right? Yes or no. But it stumps everyone in the administration.

The treasurer (2:19:45) doesn’t know and ducks the question with her reply about the book value. Madigan asks for clarification (2:20:36). The mayor asks the clerk. The clerk goes glassy-eyed and stares at the interim CAO (2:20:57) who stares back, silent. The mayor looks at the interim CAO then back to the clerk. The clerk fumbles to reply (2:21:11) but merely reiterates the question. Back to the treasurer (2:21:36) who replies that the policy is vague but, yeah, sort of, probably they can sell them. Who’s on first?

Madigan then says (2:22:00) he won’t support the sale because “I hate to see anything going out that we might be able to use,” completely ignoring the treasurer’s comments about its actual value or age. And it’s not “going out” because it was never in the town’s possession. Finicky things like facts don’t get in the way.

At 2:22:15 Deputy Mayor Saunderson says he won’t support it for the reason that the town is going to get a report on its own IT in mid-January. Okay, the logic of that escapes me. Maybe there’s a one-liner I missed. These are computers the town never had in its possession and no department is asking for but you think we need to wait for a report AFTER the utility is sold, after the rental deal is over, after the shared services agreement has ended? After the December 15 deadline for a response?

Calendars. The Blockheads aren’t good with dates, either.

At 2:23:12 the mayor calls the vote. Blockheads Madigan, Jeffrey, Saunderson, Ecclestone and Fryer vote against selling the equipment. So the motion fails: the town gets to keep the stuff. But there’s more, so don’t go away yet. A lot more and it gets quite underhanded, and quickly, too.

At 2:23:42 Madigan calls for an “independent cost analysis,” eager to waste more tax dollars on something he just voted not to do. He also wants to keep the offer until January 13 even though it’s a month past the deadline. He wants to wait to hear “what the independent consultant tells us to do.” That’s a very telling statement: he’s admitting The Blockheads don’t think for themselves but pay outsiders to do it for them. Well, hardly surprising news.

The treasurer says at 2:24:10 “If we don’t provide them with an answer by December 15, it’s ours.” In other words, council can’t procrastinate any longer: a decision must be made. That sparks lights of panic in The Blockheads’ eyes. A decision? Now? Here? The administration hasn’t told them how to vote yet! How can they make a decision until they’ve been coached?

There’s a long, awkward silence as the mayor and clerk confer, trying to figure out how to come up with something – anything – that makes sense in light of the defeat and the clearly witless comments. She explains to council that they defeated the motion, so the town will send a letter back to CPS rejecting the offer. She wants to make sure they understand the vaunted “independent consultant” wasting your tax dollars is out of the picture because he’s not needed.

At 2:27:25, Councillor Doherty (who, surprisingly, voted for the sale, again showing growing signs of independence from The Borg) says “We just lost out on $23,000.” At least one of The Block gets it. There may be hope for her yet.

At 2:27:40, Councillor “Senator” Jeffrey comments that “the timing didn’t work” and suggest that CPS could “come back to us” with another date and “maybe we can consider it.” Those tricky dates again just befuddle them. Nothing to suggest the town’s administration itself might actually be responsible for overseeing its own rental agreement and preparing for it to end. Or that the rental and disposal of the hardware might have been raised ONCE during the past two years while The Block demolished the relationship with CPS. Always someone else’s fault.

A few words to remind you, dear reader: the rental agreement ends in THREE DAYS from this meeting. PowerStream’s bid has a Jan. 6 deadline, and in January, 2017 the shared services extension is up. There is NO TIME left. But The Senator hasn’t quite got the hang of the date thing yet. See that light at the end of the tunnel, Kathy? It’s an oncoming train.

She then comments that they need the hardware. Who needs it? No one seems to know, but surely someone, somewhere needs it. Don’t any of them get it? The town never had this equipment. Ever. You can’t miss something you never had. The town can’t miss something it never asked for. Do they think the town is crippled by not having some used mouse or cable in use at the CPS building? Give your collective Blockheads a shake.

At 2:29:10 the clerk has to explain how the process works about motions, votes and so on. Basic governance 101. It hasn’t stuck with most of them yet, but I suppose she hopes eventually some of The Blockheads get it. She reiterates that after Dec. 15 CPS will be buying their own equipment.

Now here it comes. At 2:29:56, Jeffrey asks for a recorded vote. SIX MINUTES and a lot of jibber-jabber have gone by since the motion was defeated, but now she wants a recorded vote. The clerk calls it. Wait for it…

2:30:35 Five rise in favour of selling the equipment. Councillor “Sleepy” Ecclestone wakes up from his nap and votes in favour of the motion he just helped defeat six minutes ago! Really. Watch the video.

I know, I know. I laughed and laughed and laughed at it, too. You can see the look of stunned surprise in Jeffrey’s face as she turns to Madigan at 2:30:40. I’m surprised everyone in the audience didn’t break out in loud guffaws.

The mayor and clerk are equally surprised, so at 2:30:55 the clerk asks those in favour to rise again. Just to give Sleepy a chance to catch up with The Block’s program, I suppose. But he rises again in favour of the sale!

Bitch slapComical as it is, this gives rise to some blackness. The Block aren’t going to allow themselves to be defeated. At 2:32:23 Madigan complains about the recorded vote after he twice stood up against the motion. And huffily says he still wants that list of equipment anyway. As if it will make any difference, but the mayor says fine, send the list out to everyone – probably knowing few if any will actually read it (why should they start reading now?).

Another snicker-worthy moment: the treasurer says there was a list provided with the original letter (it’s mentioned above) but somehow it seems not to have been included in the two agendas with the letter and nobody noticed or asked for it in all this time. Not even sniffy Spongebob. What’s on second?

But by now The Blockheads are steaming. They lost. They never lose. Until now. They don’t plan to let this go. Nothing will defeat them. So after the Monday council meeting, they connive to turn defeat into victory by some devious timing. Senator Jeffrey petitions for a special council meeting on December 14 at which the Blockheads will again raise the issue and defeat the motion.

How could they accomplish that? By holding it at a time when neither the mayor nor Councillor Lloyd are able to attend, thus guaranteeing their victory, regardless of how Sleepy votes this time. Which is exactly what they did, and instead of selling the equipment for $23,920, the town gets a bunch of used computer bits that it never wanted or needed and loses the cash.

Calling a meeting to overturn a vote you lost at a time guaranteed to exclude some members of council who oppose you? Sneaky, underhanded, devious, disrespectful… the appropriate adjectives are too many to list here. No doubt in the interim Sleepy was given a severe dressing down by Blockhead Number One and warned to follow the program in future or he’d be sent back to his trailer park.

All this kerfuffle over a handful of used computer bits and pieces. Why, you ask? Surely it wasn’t worth all the bother? It’s just $23,000, after all*** and the stuff is old. CPS was probably happy to be able to order new equipment to replace it.

Well, it has nothing to do with the hardware and everything to do with The Block’s ongoing witch hunt. The will hire another outsider to read the hard drives on the laptops, looking for something dirty that might not have been erased. They’ve already spent more than $500,000 of your tax dollars in a fruitless search for that missing dirt, but they will continue to spend like drunken sailors on it right up until CPS is no longer. Your money, of course, since it grows on trees.

This, folks, is what you elected. None of this move on, go forward not back after a defeat business philosophy for The Block. They have to win and will do whatever it takes, no matter how underhanded or sneaky. And we still have to face two more years of this destructive madness.

It’s not about the hardware or the money: never was. It’s all about the petty, vindictive private vendettas the Block have pursued with single-minded effort this term. They won’t find anything, of course – after two years and more than half-a-million dollars they haven’t found it because it’s never been there. But they’re so obsessed with their own mythologies and conspiracies that they will continue to waste taxpayers’ money and staff time on it until they are voted out of office.

Collingwood deserves better. Much, much better.
* The answer to the question, at least in my experience watching this lot carve their destructive path through this town and its institutions is: all of the above. But no matter how true, it might get rather long-winded if I refer to them as The Most Secretive, Inept, Ineffective, Devious, Disrespectful, Corrupt, Underhanded, Petty and Vindictive Council Ever. Maybe I should just refer to them as TMSIDDCUPVCE. Should I put malicious in there too? It just seems to fit. Sly? Cunning? Selfish? Machiavellian? It just gets longer. And to be fair: Mayor Cooper and Councillor Lloyd are not part of the Block: they deserve our kudos for their brave opposition to the Block’s agenda.
** As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the sale of our publicly-owned utility Collus PowerStream – all connived in secret, behind closed doors, with absolutely no public consultation – is going to cost the municipality millions in lost revenue, lost dividends, lost rent, lost services and the expenses of hiring new people, buying new hardware and doing our own billing and mailing to do what we got from CPS for a pittance. And as a result, your taxes will rise again and again this term. Business and budgets. The Blockheads aren’t good at either. Or much of anything else, it appears.
*** Probably less than Councillor Jeffrey spent this year in canapes, wine, and fine dining while she flew across the country pursuing her personal political goal to become Queen of FCM at taxpayers’ expense.

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Ian Chadwick
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One comment

  1. Story in the Connection:

    Face -palm moment: Councillor “Sleepy” Ecclestone quoted…

    Coun. Cam Ecclestone voted in favour on the recorded vote, changing from the first vote. Ecclestone didn’t remember changing his vote.
    “I didn’t change my vote,” he said. “I don’t think I changed. I’m not 100 per cent.”

    Who’s on first, indeed. Nothing on the story in the Empty-Bulletin, of course.

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