Airport sold after secret deal, no public input

According to the Connection, Collingwood’s airport – owned by the taxpayers – was just sold to a private corporation after almost 20 closed-door council sessions. Not once was the public consulted. Not once was the public told WHY or even if selling the airport was good for the community. Not once did Brian Saunderson or his Block puppets warn the public last election campaign that they planned to sell our public asset. 

Not once did Saunderson or the Block or the town administration present a business case in the past four years to show that selling it was good, that it benefitted the town, or compare options for keeping it. It was all done in secret, behind closed doors. Just like everything Saunderson and his cabal do.

There it goes. Sold for $4.1 million – which, if I recall the last appraisal correctly, is $2 million LESS than it was valued at last term. And imagine how much more it would have been worth if Saunderson and his Block had not blocked the commercial development there, with it’s 1,000-plus local jobs!

And that won’t begin to pay the costs of the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry. But that’s really why he’s selling our assets: to pay for his vendettas.

Saunderson wants to be your mayor and his minions want to be on council again. Yet they’ve sold another public asset without once informing or consulting the public, even after their numerous closed-door meetings. Is that REALLY the sort of government you want at the table for the next four years? Haven’t you had enough of their secrecy and deception?

Collingwood deserves better.

A response to Don May

In a recent email, Don May took several shots at me and my integrity. I expected this and similar attacks from Saunderson’s followers – and May is an admitted supporter of Brian Saunderson. I won’t bother to respond to his innuendo or unfounded allegations. However, I want to address one thing May said that is correct: he accused me of having a,

…desire to go back to our former governments of the past.

Leaving aside the obvious tautology (what else could a former government be but of the past?), he’s right: I do want to see Collingwood council return to the ethical, open, honest, publicly-engaged and moral government we had before Brian Saunderson and his cabal got elected. Yes, I want to see a council like the many we had before: one that the public trusted and that put the greater good above their own entitlements.

This term Saunderson and his minions have:

  • Put up roadblocks to stop the hospital’s much-needed redevelopment after meeting behind closed doors four times, and hired a high-priced lawyer and PR consultant to chastise the hospital board in public;
  • Met behind closed doors almost 50 times to decide to sell our public utility without once ever coming into the open to explain why, to present a business case for the sale or to ask for public input;
  • Met behind closed doors almost 20 times to decide to sell our publicly owned airport without once ever coming into the open to explain why, to present a business case for the sale or to ask for public input;
  • Raised our taxes four times while giving themselves a pay raise each time;
  • Raised our town’s debt;
  • Quadrupled the cost of the town’s IT services, hired three new staff and plan to hire two more for that department, plus spend millions to upgrade the system;
  • Launched Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry which will cost taxpayers $2 to $6 million and maybe more simply to satisfy Saunderson’s personal vendettas;
  • Voted an unlimited expense account for Kathy Jeffrey to fly around the country wining and dine at taxpayer expense pursuing her personal political goals.

So it’s little wonder any thoughtful person would want to return to the open, accountable and engaged governments of the past.

But May is entitled to his opinions and if he prefers the Putin-esque style of Saunderson, he’s allowed to do so. I just hope that you, dear reader, are somewhat more politically savvy and don’t want to continue the reign of secrecy, deception, public betrayal and abuse of power we’ve had these past four years.

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The Hate Brigade returns

The dyspeptic Hate Brigade was back in front of town hall last night, stirred into another mindless frenzy by misleading media stories, innuendo, and conspiracy theory. (Okay: they don’t have an official name, but it was that or Brian’s Bullies…)

Last term Brian Saunderson and Steve Berman were the Hate Brigade’s leaders; now Saunderson is deputy mayor, so the public aspect of the dirty work falls to the slovenly mooch, Berman. 

BFFsSaunderson made his cunningly timed appearance, entering the building to the anemic cheering of supporters; none of them apparently aware of how they’ve been duped over and over this term. Remember his promise of no sole-sourcing? Or public engagement in all major decisions? Now just shards among his many broken promises. Ah, the emperor was wearing his new clothes – at least to those of us with unblinkered eyes.

As expected, the abydocomist CBC released another story. That will be used to further the campaign efforts of those council candidates the CBC swears aren’t “friends” of anyone in the corporation. But CBC stories are looking more and more like the yellow journalism of Fox than actual journalism these days. Sad.*

The purpose of the Hate Brigade is not simply to protest any perceived wrongs: it’s to bully, intimidate, shame, insult and harass. These are tactics well-honed by both Saunderson and Berman last term. Followers are encouraged to wave poorly-written signs (who can forget Deb Doherty’s partner’s “inpeach council” sign last term?) and to send nasty or threatening emails to elected representatives and town officials.

For example, this one was recently sent to the mayor and copied to all of council and the CAO, from a fundraiser for Theatre Collingwood, who is also on the board of Collingwood Minor Hockey Association:

Given all the information that is now public – the Integrity Commissioners’ findings of your multiple conflicts of interest, the article below exposing corruption and the significant OPP investigation, you should resign as Mayor.
You have failed your councillors as a leader, you have been grossly negligent regarding your responsibilities and you have disgraced this community. You exploited your Mayoral position, denying an honest, democratic and transparent process to every resident of Collingwood. You should be ashamed.
Please do the right thing and hand in your resignation.
Jennifer Knight
Resident of Collingwood

 

Uli Rath – a well-known Saunderson supporter – was pictured waving a sign that was sort of readable (in a crayonish way). Saunderson’s bulldog, Mike Lewin, was there too. John Brown – the former interim CAO and arguably the most disliked person who has ever sat in the CAO’s office here – was in the crowd. Little wonder: Brown was the Palpatine Emperor to Saunderson’s Darth Vader. Saunderson voted to extended Browns’ contract twice – at more than $200,000 a year cost to taxpayers. Coming out to support the mob seems a small payback for Saunderson’s slavish support all those years. Jamie Berman – the longtime breadwinner in that household – was there chatting amiably to Brown.

All this over a four-year-old police file that doesn’t say the mayor did ANYTHING wrong. She’s hardly even mentioned. But it’s full of the sort of juicy allegation – all of it unproven, some of it demonstrably wrong – that the Hate Brigade feeds off. They’ve been told to hate the mayor’s brother, that he must be guilty of something even if none of them can identify just what. Doesn’t matter that the OPP didn’t charge anyone in five years, and are not going to. Haters gotta hate.

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Corruption, Saunderson and the CBC

J'accuse!It’s a seven-year old story about the abuse of power, of corruption, of personal ambition thwarted, of an insatiable sense of entitlement, a craving for attention, and a clique of ruthless people determined to exact vengeance for a perceived slight. And it’s still being told today.

It began in 2011 after the former council refused to build Brian Saunderson’s proposed $35 million “Taj Mahal” rec centre with public money and give it to the YMCA. Instead, an alternate staff plan was approved: two new, state-of-the-art rec facilities were erected at a fraction of the cost, and kept in public ownership. That annoyed Sanderson  began a seven-year vendetta against everyone involved. Street protests were organized with Saunderson as their loudly vocal spokesperson. Deborah Doherty’s partner paraded in front of a town hall with a sign demanding officials “inpeach” council (Doherty is now on council).

And in 2014, several election platforms were built on stories produced by one reporter at the CBC.

CBC reporter Dave Seglins, is back in town, sniffing around for another story that will no doubt again discredit those associated with that 2011 decision, plus others who have been targets of various council motions and actions this term (the airport, the sale of Collus, the judicial inquiry, for example).

In between is our sordid tale about revenge, and a determined smear campaign using taxpayer-funded resources. Corruption is defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Who stands to gain by any of this? Look to the council table.

The story that Seglins is writing will rehash what he published in 2013; pieces that discredited incumbent politicians, residents and town staff without anything even resembling evidence of any wrongdoing. (more on that, below).

The question you need to ask yourself is when reading this is: Cui Bono? Whose good? Who benefits from these stories and the harassment? Whose campaigns will wave them about in the municipal election and without a hint of the hypocrisy, decry this “corruption”?

Seglins has approached at least five people here in the past week, alleging he has “court documents” about some of them. These include Mayor Sandra Cooper, former MP Paul Bonwick, former Deputy Mayor Rick Lloyd, former Collus utility CEO Ed Houghton, and myself. There may be others who have not contacted me about it. 

All but Cooper are all private citizens, not politicians or public servants today. To date none of these people have told me they have seen the alleged documents, nor been contacted by the police for any wrongdoing or investigation, nor served documents for court appearances. Their lawyers, I’m told, have not seen them, either. Are we going to get another story based solely on unfounded allegation and innuendo? 

In Canadian justice, an accused has the right to know the name and see the face of the accuser. Not, apparently, in the CBC: anonymous attackers can discredit and smear their opponents from the shadows. 

Where is the accountability?

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Saunderson shirks his responsibility to taxpayers

Saunderson playing during budget meeting
The town’s budget is by far the single most important thing elected officials have to manage. It’s complicated, affects everyone in town, reaches into every department, ranges through services, user fees, and ultimately determines the quality of life for everyone here. It is the one thing that demands the full attention, the full concentration,  the fullest effort of our councillors.

It demands active participation and open dialogue, full discussion from all of our elected members.

So what does our deputy mayor do when others are struggling through the budget? Brian Saunderson leaves the room to go play on the ski hills with his buddies.*

Showing his disdain for the people who elected him, Saunderson left the February 8 budget meeting long before it was finished, and joined his friends from work to party on the ski hills. 

It left The Block without its leader, headless, and in his absence, they floundered like landed fish without the ocean of his benevolent control to tell them how to vote or what to think. Well, okay, they flap and flounder by themselves most of the time even when he’s there, but at least they stayed in their seats and worked through the whole meeting.

You can see him in the photo from the Empty-prize Bulletin. Beaming after he shirked his responsibility in order to play on the slopes. Smiling while his cohorts are sitting indoors, hunched over their desks trying to wrestle with the town business they are paid to manage.

It was a daytime meeting, a Wednesday. Many at the table took time off from work to fulfill their civic duty. Staff had to suspend the pressing demands of their jobs to be in the meeting so they could present their department’s budget and answer questions. Members of the media had to leave their newsrooms, stop working on other stories, cancel meetings and photo shoots to sit in the council chamber to hear those presentations. One councillor postponed a previously-planned holiday trip to be sure to be at the meeting.

Saunderson, however, went skiing at a private resort while all the rest were making the effort to fulfill their duties. He left early, while the rest stayed until 4 p.m. Why work yourself when you have your minions to do it for you?

Remember his statement before the election that, “Council is elected to serve the residents of Collingwood and is accountable to the residents throughout its mandate.” Where is that accountability now?

He also promised to “Improve communications to ensure the residents of Collingwood are informed of all council initiatives and engage the residents regularly to get community feedback.” How can you inform residents of anything when you don’t even attend the meetings? What’s he going to communicate to us – the snow conditions?

What arrogance. What utter disregard and disrespect for the public.

Collingwood deserves a deputy mayor who takes his responsibility seriously and doesn’t shirk his civic duty for personal pleasure. He should resign – after he apologies to the community.

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