Ever get that uneasy sense of deja vu? That some ugly, undemocratic event you’re watching at council, some autocratic, conniving, secret and self-serving act is something you’ve experienced in the past? That those nasty breaches of ethics, those conflicts of interest, those ignored bylaws and broken trust are things you’ve already seen at the table? That you’re going through another round of corruption and conflict in Collingwood? By this very council?
Well, my dear readers, you aren’t alone. On November 14, Collingwood Council once again went in camera and came out with this resolution:
BE RESOLVED THAT Council hereby agrees to nominate the individuals whose names have been put forward to serve as directors on the Boards of Collingwood PowerStream Utility Services Corp., Collus PowerStream Corp., Collus PowerStream Solutions Corp., and Collus PowerStream Energy Corp. for the remainder of the current terms;
FURTHER THAT provided those individuals accept their nomination, Council hereby elects those individuals to those respective Boards and hereby grants the Mayor and Clerk the authority to sign all necessary documents to give effect to that election;
AND FURTHER THAT the CAO shall report back to Council at the next Council meeting to advise if the aforesaid individuals accepted their nomination and were elected to the aforementioned Boards of Directors.
Get that? Council passed a motion to nominate an unspecified number of mystery people to one of the most important boards in this town. The public doesn’t get to know who they are. Our 50% municipal partner in the utility – PowerStream – is equally kept in the dark.
How’s that for openness and transparency? The public has the right to know who is appointed to a public board. Well, not in Collingwood, it seems.
Keep in mind that this motion was prepared in advance so council and staff knew exactly what was going on, knew exactly who was being appointed, knew exactly what laws they were breaking. But The Most Secretive Council Ever wouldn’t discuss it in public.*
Council will remove at least two if not all three (it clearly says “individuals” but not how many) of its pet staffers from the Collus PowerStream board (no doubt as a result of the Ontario Energy Board’s ongoing investigation into the improper procedures this council and administration have followed with regard to our utility) and appoint unnamed others.
If council was going to replace these staffers with someone from Collingwood, I expect they would follow the bylaw and advertise for the positions. And, as in the past, their names would be read aloud with the motion to appoint them. That makes me believe council is going to appoint out-of-towners and they don’t want you to know about it.
That’s right: council will give these important positions to at least two people who never even applied for them. They didn’t have to. The laws are for others, not for council, right? No application needed for our friends.
But who are they? Whose friends are they? Did any of them contribute to someone’s political campaign? Buy someone a fancy dinner or take them golfing? Why weren’t the positions advertised as the bylaw requires? Why wasn’t this ever discussed in public? What are the reasons for replacing the board TWICE this year?
Who made the recommendation to replace board members? Who offered the names for consideration? The interim CAO? Another staffer? A member of The Block? Why be secretive about it?
Was it the lawyer the administration hired to examine the sale of half of Collus to Powerstream in 2012, then to report on the shared services agreement, who also recommended the sale of the town’s share, and now oversees the sale of our remaining share in our electrical utility? If so, that would be a massive conflict of interest.
Regardless of who recommended these people, the process is inescapably underhanded, unethical, and immoral.
The public deserves to know the answers. The public expects openness from its officials. But all of this was done in the shadows this council loves to scurry about in. Without notice, without even the hint of public discussion, council decided in secret to appoint several unidentified people to OUR utility board.
It is also illegal: it violates the town’s procedural bylaw. It did the last time they did this, too. And of course council made sure they passed the latest resolution after coming out from a long in-camera session when no media were present to report on it**. Done because The Block HATES public scrutiny and proper process.
Even after you think they’ve reached the bottom of their moral and ethical trench, The Block manages to dig itself deeper. So let’s summarize:
- Council passed a motion to elect an unspecified number (at least two) of unnamed, unidentified persons to the board of Collus-PowerStream in an illegal, unethical manner;
- There is no indication whether these unnamed, unidentified persons are even eligible to serve on a town board;
- The public has not been told who nominated them, when or why;
- It is possible that all three members of the town’s portion of the Collus-PowerStream utility board could live out of town: none of them will represent the community or our interests;
- Any remaining staff person (if any) will still have an irreconcilable conflict between the town’s and the utility’s interests;
- The appointment violates the town’s own procedural bylaw (again) which requires all board vacancies to be publicly advertised and open for applications, and for all applicants to sign an oath saying they are residents;
- It was, once again, all done behind closed doors by The Most Secretive Council Ever and passed only when the media were absent to avoid scrutiny;
- The Block are dismantling OUR utility and OUR service but the public has never been consulted in this process despite election promises to consult the public in every major decision made by Brian Saunderson and his clique;
- No one on council or staff have explained why the town needs to twice replace anyone on the board, or why the town can’t follow the legal procedure and advertise the positions;
- Council’s lack of public input and consultation is a blatant breach of public trust;
- The potential for serious conflict of interest should be investigated by the police or a judicial inquiry.
This whole process stinks. Council has again acted in bad faith. We’ve already spent way too much of our taxpayer’s money (well over $500,000 by now) on lawyers and consultants simply to pursue The Block’s private vendettas. And that is corruption, plain and simple.
This isn’t democracy, this isn’t what anyone voted for.
If you don’t like it, if you feel it’s time this council was held accountable, if you’re fed up with the culture of secrecy and the corruption, file a complaint with the Ombudsman and the Ontario Energy Board. Maybe file a complaint with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, too, because this is just too stinky for passive acceptance. The more complaints these agencies get, the more seriously they will treat this problem.
Collingwood deserves better. Much better.
* The clerk would not give me the names of the candidates, their number, or confirm if they lived in town, but emailed me to say, “As noted in the resolution – the CAO will report publicly on Monday regarding the new nominees.” Does that mean the interim CAO is behind this, or is he just the messenger boy? The public should be told.
** Likely the reason neither paper had had a word in it about this motion or its consequences. Reporters, of course, should call the clerk the next day and ask for copies of any motions passed after in camera sessions if they weren’t present.