The Hypocrisy Starts

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HypocrisyIt didn’t long for the hypocrisy to start at council. Monday night, council approved a five-year contract for an unsolicited proposal from the town’s only (monopoly) taxi service without going to an open bid process.

Yes that’s right: this council approved a sole-source contract in its first two months of this term. No tender. No RFP. No public input. It wasn’t advertised. It just came in, unsolicited.*

And the contract lasts five years – beyond the term of this council.

Yes: the same people who loudly lambasted the previous council for sole-sourcing a contract for Sprung (although staff recommended it because Sprung was the only supplier of that product in Canada), made a sole-source decision themselves this week.

And the same irate, sycophant bloggers who damned the previous council for that decision were entirely silent when their friends did the same thing. Isn’t that just a little bit hypocritical?

Ah, the smell of hypocrisy. It’s like the smell of bacon, but more pungent. More like rotting flesh.

During the election campaign, the previous council’s single instance of sole-sourcing was widely attacked by several of those who were later elected to the table: including the deputy mayor, councillors Ecclestone and Doherty.

Where, oh where, were their voices in protest when a sole-source contract came to council Monday? They voted in favour, the issue of sole-sourcing never once raised its ugly head.

And here’s the kicker: the Deputy Mayor only the previous meeting made a motion to “address” sole sourcing in the procurement bylaw (although it is already dealt with in the comprehensive bylaw, which it appears he did not read before making his motion).

Here’s the motion made Jan. 19 by Deputy Mayor Saunderson (emphasis in red  added):

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff, through the respective Standing Committees, to review the following policies and procedures and report back to Council with the review or status update by April 2015;

a) Procurement Policy, including a review of sole sourcing and the use of a vendor record system;

b) Implementation of a Lobbyist Registry and procedures;

c) Code of Conduct, including consideration for applicability to Committee and Board members as well as an enhanced conflict of interest provisions to include a broader definition of family members and undue influence provisions; and,

d) Advise Council as to any other policies, procedures or initiatives to enhance and improve transparency and accountability in municipal governance.

AND FURTHER THAT Council direct ongoing consideration be given to current and proposed policies and procedures that strengthen honesty and openness in municipal governance and administration.

And how did DM Saunderson vote when a sole-source contact, without public input to the process, for a service monopoly, was presented to council by staff? In favour, of course.

Hardly hypocritical at all, right?

Conflict of Interest?

And let’s look at the DM’s motion’s clause C: demanding a “broader definition of family members.” This, of course, is aimed directly at the mayor, whose brother was accused by the bloggers and the smear campaigns of various candidates about alleged (and utterly false) wrongdoings. But it was enough to leverage suspicious and ill-informed voters into getting a seat at the table for some.

If a brother is a potential conflict (it isn’t in law, only in the imagination of the accusers), how about a brother-in-law? Well, it turns out Councillor Tim Fryer’s brother-in-law – a well-known local developer – owns the taxi company that was awarded the sole-source contract.

Did Coun. Fryer – who voted in favour of Saunderon’s motion above – declare a conflict over the taxi contract for his brother-in-law? Curiously, no.

Is that the smell of bacon in the air?

And again the bloggers – so virulently opinionated about the non-conflict with the mayor’s brother last term – were equally silent when their friends were involved.

I think that the bacon’s burning.

Now to be fair, under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act – one piece of legislation that actually binds council – brothers or brothers-in-law are not considered conflicts of interest. And despite the campaign whinging, legally there is no issue. Get that? Brothers, brothers-in-law, aunts, uncles, do not pose a legal conflict of interest.

The current council was instructed about this in its orientation sessions. This council was told by a lawyer in no uncertain terms that there is no “spirit” of the law to follow: what you have to obey is the law as it is written. Period. But the motion was presented and approved anyway. They knew better: it was simply a grandstanding gesture to impress a gullible public unaware of the facts.

Several who ended up at the table loudly cried foul over alleged conflicts during the campaign. And they promised to tighten the definitions and restrictions – even though legally they cannot supersede provincial law – to include this sort of relationship (you’d think a lawyer would understand that limitation and the advice given by another lawyer).

But when it came to the vote about the taxi contract, who declared a conflict? Who stood on their principles and excused themselves from the table? Curiously, no one, not even the brother-in-law.

Yep, that bacon is burnt. But wait, there still some cooking to do.

Now, the MCIA also notes that pecuniary interest is a conflict. That includes an employer or any company you have commercial dealings with, and in that case, you had better step away from the table:

Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, the member,
(a) shall, prior to any consideration of the matter at the meeting, disclose the interest and the general nature thereof;
(b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and
(c) shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.50, s. 5 (1).

What would such a pecuniary interest be? How about the company you work for having an advertising contract with the taxi company being offered the sole-source contract? As I read it, that follows under the MCIA’s definition of indirect pecuniary interest (emphasis added):

Indirect pecuniary interest
2. For the purposes of this Act, a member has an indirect pecuniary interest in any matter in which the council or local board, as the case may be, is concerned, if,
(a) the member or his or her nominee,
(i) is a shareholder in, or a director or senior officer of, a corporation that does not offer its securities to the public,
(ii) has a controlling interest in or is a director or senior officer of, a corporation that offers its securities to the public, or
(iii) is a member of a body,
that has a pecuniary interest in the matter; or
(b) the member is a partner of a person or is in the employment of a person or body that has a pecuniary interest in the matter. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.50, s. 2.

Ace Cab adAs you can see by the photo on the right, the Peak FM, a local radio station, advertises on Ace Cabs. And which councillor works for The Peak? Right: Councillor Deb Doherty.

And did she declare a conflict? Did she step away from the vote for the sole-source contract?

Nope. The bacon is on fire.

I’m not a lawyer, and I can’t say if she was legally in conflict or not, but in her situation, I would have walked away from the table.

And the petulant local bloggers rose in angry protest against… no one. Again. Which speaks volumes about their integrity. Which, of course you knew was missing from the start. They won’t complain about corruption when their friends are involved.

But this isn’t about the bloggers or their biases, misinformation and outright lies. This is about councillors who campaigned vehemently against exactly what they did, Monday night. The hypocrites who said one thing on the doorstep then did something entirely opposite when in office.

Now let’s look at the decision itself. I suspect that I would have voted in favour based on the staff recommendation, but then I wouldn’t have a conflict, I didn’t campaign against sole-sourcing, I didn’t whinge about alleged conflicts outside the legal definition, and I would not have owed my seat to the efforts of disingenuous bloggers.

However, I am not at the table and we have to look to those who are: how they voted, their motives, campaign promises and their stated principles.

Was it appropriate, the right thing, the best for the community? If you say yes, then you agree that sole-sourcing has a proper place in the town’s procurement process. Sometimes it is necessary, as the procurement bylaw notes.

If you say that brothers-in-law are not conflicts of interest, then you agree that the MCIA’s definitions of conflict are both legal and morally appropriate, and that siblings or any extended family are not issues to raise.

Which means that if you agree with these two suppositions, then you have to consider those who voted for the DM’s motion and then the contract to be hypocrites of the first water because they argued the opposite in the campaign.

So much for strengthening “…honesty and openness in municipal governance and administration” as Saunderson demanded. This council dived deeply and unrepentantly into the pool of hypocrisy in its first two months.

I can hardly wait to see which campaign promises this group breaks in the next few months. But I am pretty sure the nasty bloggers will find some bizarre rationalization for them doing so, once they get the direction from their puppet master.

~~~~~

* And the local media picked up on this…. not at all. But given the overt media bias in favour of some of those at the table, that’s hardly surprising. Don’t want to upset their darlings with criticism this soon, after all.

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