The Judicial Inquiry and $7+ Million

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Show trialWas it worth more than $7.7 million of your tax dollars? That’s roughly $8,400 a page (including, yes, the blank pages). That includes $232,866 in town staff salaries and $48,008 in staff travel expenses. Fifty-seven percent of that total went to legal costs, including $1.58 million on the town’s own legal costs. I can’t tell from the article linked above if the total includes the cost of having to rent commercial space downtown for the treasury department during the inquiry.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t speak to what a Judicial Inquiry is supposed to do, how it is supposed to operate, or why it did or didn’t do some things. But I can tell you what I personally expected: inclusiveness, fairness, accuracy, objectivity, and recommendations relevant to the municipality. And the rest is just my personal view, of course, but perhaps some of you share it.

I don’t think we got everything I expected from the inquiry and its 23 employees (plus the additional services of IT, website, and audio/visual companies that cost more than $1.1 million).

What we did get after almost two years was 914 digital pages that mostly rehashed what was said in testimonies, in emails, and other documents during the inquiry, all of which was already available on the inquiry’s website. And it came with 306 recommendations, many of which were relevant to the province (changing or amending various acts), many were generic, and others for which the town has either already implemented or has in existing policies and bylaws.

That list, in my reading of it, could have been made without an inquiry spending $7.7 million of taxpayers’ money.  And one has to ask whether the 73 recommendations about the CAO’s and staff’s roles (recommendations 70-85 and 86-143, respectively) were not outside the mandate of the inquiry. (Oddly enough, spending $8,400 a page was apparently not enough to get the editor — if there was one — to include an index.).

Regardless of the wisdom or relevance of these recommendations, I certainly think the town could have spent $7.7 million (and rising: the bills are still coming in) more wisely. Spend it on something constructive that benefitted the community, like fixing the waterfront, repairing our shoddy roads and cracked sidewalks, cleaning stormwater drains across town, planting trees, developing bicycle-safe zones, improving and expanding trails, upgrading parks, upgrading the wastewater treatment plant, funding community businesses and artists during the pandemic shutdowns, or just keeping our taxes from rising again. You know: doing the things that actually matter to residents.

According to Collingwood Today:

“The task is to determine how and why a problem occurred and recommend how a town can prevent similar occurrences in the future,” stated Marrocco on Monday when he released his report.

Shouldn’t the task have been to first determine IF a problem occurred? Deciding before any testimonies that there was a problem suggests a pre-determination of guilt, not an objective inquiry.

Keep in mind that this inquiry was cunningly called for at a council meeting when three of the nine members of council were absent and could not participate in the discussion or vote. It was approved by a razor-thin majority of five: Saunderson, Ecclestone, Jeffrey, Doherty, and Madigan in Feb. 2018, more than three years after that council had been elected, and six years after the last of the events took place. If it was so important, why didn’t they call for it sooner? (A question local media neglected to ask) I suspect it was solely because it was a few months away from another municipal election and they could ride their campaigns on it to re-election. And it worked for four of them.

Keep in mind, too, that council heard justifications for an inquiry behind closed doors from a lawyer who was hired on a sole-source basis (without the RFP required by the procurement bylaw) by the administration, and not in response to a request from council for a lawyer or for said advice. According to my sources, that lawyer never interviewed or questioned any of the utility staff or former board and council members before making his recommendations to council behind those closed doors. And that same lawyer was later given the lucrative role of representing the town in the inquiry on a sole-source basis without a proper RFP for the second time.

And the local media never questioned any of this — nor was it raised during the inquiry.

Nor were witnesses or lawyers during the hearings allowed to raise the secretive and deceptive nature of the later sale of the utility by the previous council to a for-profit, out-of-province corporation, done without any public input or consultation. If anything was an utter betrayal of public trust, that certainly was. So it remained unspoken during the inquiry. And the media let it slide, too. But I digress. Back to the report…

Let’s look at inclusivity. Only three members of council (Mayor Cooper, Deputy Mayor Lloyd, and myself) were called as witnesses. Later, after we had testified (in what seemed to me a very adversarial situation more like a trial than an inquiry), Councillor Lloyd was called to answer a specific question on figures. Yet in every decision made relevant to this inquiry, there were many others who were involved in discussions, and in voting. Often the entire council of nine was included, and many of the votes were unanimous. Why, then, were the others not called so the public and the judge could hear their reasons for their votes? Why was the town’s lawyer allowed to be so confrontational?

Why was the council representative on the Collus board (Coun. Edwards) not called to testify publicly about his role in the utility sale? Why were the two council reps on the Parks,  Recreation, and Culture Committee (Coun. West and Hull) not called to testify publicly about the community’s demands for affordable recreation facilities, especially water and ice time? Or to explain in public the lack of communication from the secretive Central Park Steering Committee and how the CPSC got away with not reporting to council? Why weren’t the heads of the local swim and hockey clubs called to testify publicly about their open letters of support for council’s decisions? In fact, I don’t believe any of these people were even required to submit affidavits for public reading.

It’s almost as if there was a previously-determined narrative that someone had to be blamed, some very specific person(s) had to be found guilty, and the rest didn’t seem to matter (especially if their testimony might contradict the narrative)  as long as the guilt was fashioned for public digestion. Pardon me for being a student of history, but it often felt more like what I’ve read of Soviet show trials, not least during my own testimony. Or maybe a witch hunt is a better metaphor.

I would have thought that, in the spirit of inclusivity, to fully explore the range of council’s views and opinions (and to allow the public to hear them), all members of that council would be called to testify publicly. But it was not to be, and I cannot find any reason for that in the report, nor any indication local media actually asked that question. Perhaps I expect too much from the media.

Fairness? Here’s a line from the recommendations:

It was apparent that all Council members were aware of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. It was also apparent that it is far too easy to misconstrue the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act as addressing all kinds of conflict of interest that Council members must confront.

Misconstrue? Hardly a neutral word. It suggests either ignorance or a deliberate act.

Council members have a strict set of guidelines in that Act and it’s not unreasonable to expect members of council to obey the laws as written rather than follow their own interpretations. Any interpretation outside the written legal guidelines council members have to follow is merely an opinion. It may be a good choice, or a bad, but accusing anyone of misconstruing the Act because they did not adhere to another’s interpretation (aka opinion) is making a value judgment about their intentions. Are we guilty for obeying the law? That’s more than a trifle Orwellian.

Concepts like ethical or moral conflicts are not defined in the law: only current financial (pecuniary) interest and some limited familial relationships. Parents and children are included: siblings are NOT; nor are cousins, friends, or golf partners. Lawyers love to talk about “apparent” or “perceived” conflicts but once again, these are not legal (real) conflicts: they are opinions, and I do not believe it is the role of councillors to base their actions on the opinions of others, but rather on what the law prescribes. The Act is quite clear in its language. But apparently to follow it as it is written is to “misconstrue” it.  And it seems recommendations 14 and 15 intend to make “apparent” conflicts into real, legal ones, making the law far more restrictive, with less trust for the ethics and honesty of the elected officials. This sort of prescriptive approach reminds me of the slogan from T.H. White’s Once and Future King: “Everything Not Forbidden is Compulsory.

I suspect there’s a reason for the narrowness of the current MCOI Act and to make it even more restrictive will deeply impact rural communities, small towns, and villages, where there are wider family connections and friendships than in larger urban centres. Applying restrictions that might work for cities like Toronto or Ottawa is unfair to the rest of the province. But recommendations 13 and 14 cast a wider net to include siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, in-laws, and more. What that says to me is that the inquiry and its “experts” don’t trust elected representatives to be honest in their office, and need to be restricted and controlled even more than they currently are. Looks like Big Brother rearing his head, again.

I submitted a 66-page timeline with dates, places, and people involved in the two issues. I included extensive links to online media and other documents. My submission was accepted, then… nothing. It’s not on the inquiry website. It is mentioned only in passing in the report, but no one can read it because it hasn’t been posted anywhere. Why? Could it be that what I provided contradicted a previously determined narrative of guilt, and thus was ignored? I would have thought that to be fair, the inquiry would include even those documents that disagreed with its conclusions. Apparently not. But here it is, should you wish to read it for yourself.

The only reference I can find to my submission is buried deep within the second volume, and that to challenge my remembered estimate of a larger audience at a public meeting than others recalled. Mea culpa, but my failure in looking backward to recall the details of a meeting held seven or eight years previously, for which the media coverage (Enterprise-Bulletin) had long since been deleted online should not mean the rest of my submission gets invalidated.

Objective? I can only ask why none of the panel of policy ‘experts” had served in municipal office. I don’t see any indication any of them even ran for office, let alone served on a council. Most were lawyers. I would have thought that to be objective, the panel should have included at least some people who had firsthand experience dealing with the issues at stake, with public sector staff, and the decision-making process, not merely those who could pontificate on them. Armchair generals are not the best choice to fight a battle.

Recommendations 265-294 are about municipal corporations, of which Collingwood has none since the previous council secretively sold our electricity utility (after dozens of closed-door meetings, and without any public consultation). Yet I can find nothing in any of the bios of the “experts” to suggest any of them have served on a municipal or any other corporate board, or have practiced corporate law. I would have expected at least one lawyer with corporate law experience to be able to steer the discussion. 

Accuracy? I cannot find anything in the report that notes council did not receive the minutes from the meetings of the Central Park Steering Committee, or that the two PRC representatives should have, but refused to attend its meetings to keep council informed (which might have altered the course of events). Nor can I find any indication that the YMCA told the CPSC in Sept. 2011 it would not contribute any funding to the proposed multi-use facility, which essentially meant the end of any “partnership” and thus ended the committee’s mandate, but that this information was not shared with council until many months later, when the final report and recommendations were presented to council, March, 2012 (Council naturally balked at giving the Y a $35 million handout). 

Nor can I find any indication that one of the CPSC representatives was working for Ameresco at the time, and that Ameresco had an interest in bidding on the project and might have had a conflict. Nor that one of its other members quit the committee early on or the rather salient reasons for his leaving.

There are other statements I take umbrage over, mostly because of the wording and the use of judgmental phrasing. Saying Ed Houghton “initiated the Collus Power share sale without Ms. Wingrove’s knowledge” is not how I recall the process. He may have initiated discussions about it and raised it at the utility board (as would be his responsibility as CEO of the utility, methinks) and got the ball rolling, but he did not make the sale. It was the board chair (Dean Muncaster) who presented council with the request to explore it further (unanimously approved), and it was council’s unanimous decision to post an RFP and to make the sale. Wingrove was present (as I recall) at those council meetings and was part of the strategic team that helped create the RFP and move the process along.

It says pre-engineered steel buildings are “a popular and affordable building type.” Something may be “popular” only because other alternatives are not known. Affordable? The CPSC presented council with a $35 million plan which most of council deemed highly unaffordable. In comparison, the Sprung fabric structures were much more affordable at less than half the cost. 

“Tensions grew between the Town and its electric [sic] utility… The strategic partnership did not survive.” That blithely overlooks the causes of the “tensions” and the animosity, acrimony, and bullying that stemmed from town hall, not the utility. And the whole point of the utility sale had been that strategic partnership, not the for-profit, private ownership that resulted from the former’s council’s secretive deal-making in selling to an out-of-province corporation without any public input. 

Recommendations? As I noted early, many are generic that could have been written without the cost. Some are good, others baffle me. And it seems several of the 306 “recommendations” are statements that really are not recommendations but rather subheads that lead to actual recommendations that follow. These are just a few of the recommendations I’ve browsed and question:

51: “Former council members should not accept employment for one year on specific matters on which they worked as an elected official at the Town of Collingwood.” So no one out of office can work for a year in the areas of housing, infrastructure, taxation, debt and financing, traffic, libraries, schools, planning, parks, recreation, downtowns, weed control, property standards, parking, personnel, water, electricity, wastewater, sidewalk maintenance, sewers, bylaws, pets, communications, local boards, sustainability, the environment, the waterfront, boats, swimming, flood control, urban design, farmers’ markets, parades, festivals, street lighting, transit, policing, firefighting, paramedics, museums, IT, paving, waste disposal, conferences and conventions, memberships, and a few hundred other topics every member of council will have dealt with in office. Codswallop. What justifies such a restriction?

Recommendations 17-69 deal with the town’s Code of Conduct, without actually acknowledging that almost all of the items are already in the town’s code, most for many years. I wonder if those making the recommendations bothered to read it? But most importantly: there is no consideration for elected officials failing to comply with any of them. There’s a lot of huffing and puffing about obligations and appropriate behaviour, but nothing to say what should be done when someone breaks the rules. 

82: “The chief administrative officer’s term should be a six-year non-renewable term” Why six? Why non-renewable? Why hamstring a municipality by not allowing them to renew a good CAO’s term or being burdened with six years of a bad CAO? And why didn’t any of the recommendations deal with the hiring process and performance reviews? How can council assess a CAO’s performance? Who can and how?

134: “Former Town of Collingwood staff should not accept employment for one year on specific matters on which they worked in their positions at the Town of Collingwood.” Huh? So municipal staff can’t move on to work at other municipalities, can’t grow their careers until they wait for a year? Where did that come from? And how can the town prohibit people from working in their own fields?

145: “Procurement at the Town of Collingwood should be open, fair, ethical, and transparent.” High falutin’ words, but shouldn’t a “recommendation” actually have some comment about how to implement it, or measure its effectiveness?

234: “Sanctions should be imposed on lobbyists for failing to register.” What sort of sanctions? Exile to the lobbyist gulag? What legal authority does a town have to sanction a person or a business? And who is supposed to tell lobbyists they need to register first? And who is a lobbyist? Is a minister who wants to open a food bank a lobbyist? As a paid professional, the minister meets the conditions of 230: “all those who are paid or represent a business or financial interest whose objective is to influence elected officials or staff at the Town of Collingwood.” What is the difference between asking for support and lobbying? Clarity is required.

241: “The Code of Conduct for lobbyists should mandate that documents in relation to the activities of the lobbyist at the Town of Collingwood be retained and preserved by the lobbyist for a period of 10 years.” Why 10? Why retain documents longer than you have to retain tax records? Who can access these documents? Will they be available to the town, and if so, why? Wouldn’t the town keep its own records? And how long does the town have to retain those records? The same ten years or less?

243: “Lobbyists must be transparent about who they are representing and the purpose of their lobbying activity. The Code of Conduct should prohibit lobbyists from misrepresenting for whom they act or the subject matter of their lobbying activity.” I’m a bit confused as to why a lobbyist would pretend to represent a different company or purpose. Would they lobby staff or councilors about fishing when they are secretly there to lobby about infrastructure? Would they lobby for a competitor?

244: “Lobbyists who receive confidential information concerning Town business either intentionally or inadvertently from Council members or staff should immediately report this to the lobbyist registrar.” How they would know it’s confidential if it was inadvertently shared? Would it be like Hagrid in the Harry Potter series blurting out secret then saying, “I shouldn’t have told ye that…”?

250: “The lobbyist registrar should be independent of the Town of Collingwood Council and staff.” 251: “The lobbyist registrar should be appointed for a non-renewable term.” How long? Aside from the cost of hiring or contracting yet another outsider (want to bet it’s another lawyer?), what happens when our small town has no other qualified persons to act as a registrar? And why can’t the CAO or some other senior staff person assume the role? Does the inquiry question the objectivity or the honesty of town staff in managing this role?

264: “Former Council members and former staff at [sic] the Town of Collingwood should be prohibited from lobbying on matters on [sic] which they were involved during the tenure at the Town of Collingwood.” Why? Wouldn’t they be the most informed advocates, the most-aware of municipal procedures and requirements? “…former Council members at [sic] the Town of Collingwood should be prohibited from lobbying staff or elected public office holders at the Town of Collingwood for a minimum of one year after they leave office.” Why? Whatever happened to freedom of speech? In a small town, former politicians may well be involved in charities, service clubs, or other organizations for which their experience in office and in public speaking may make them the best candidates to approach council or staff.

265: “Municipally owned [sic] corporations of the Town of Collingwood must be accountable and transparent.” And…? How? What needs to be done? What do these terms actually mean in municipal governance? And what municipally-owned corporations are they talking about? Are there any left after the sale of the utility? I don’t think so.

266: “The selection process for board membership on a municipally owned [sic] corporation… must be robust.” Aside from a feel-good buzzword, what exactly does “robust” mean, and what evidence is there that this has not been the case in the past? In my experience, the selection for all of Collingwood’s boards and committees, not just the municipally-owned corporations, has always been similarly conducted and “robust.” It’s almost as if the “expert” didn’t bother to ask what the town did before making those recommendations.

267: “The selection process must be applied consistently.” Aside from stating the obvious, what evidence is there that it has not been applied consistently in the past? What has been inconsistent?

293: “The board of directors of a municipally owned [sic] corporation should not have a direct role in the decision of the municipality to sell its asset.” Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the arm’s-length corporation (as noted in 290)? “The role of the board is to be a resource to staff whose responsibility it is to provide information and advice to council.” Piffle. The board of a corporation is not merely a staff asset: it should be independent and communicate directly with council as a whole, not interpreted by staff.

295: “The integrity commissioner at the Town of Collingwood should be appointed by Council for a fixed non-renewable term of five years.” Why five years? Why non-renewable? Why not require the IC to be renewed concurrently with the start of the new council for the term of that council?

301: “An external auditor should periodically review the operations” [sic] “[sic] of the integrity commissioner.” How often? Who is qualified to be such an auditor? is this another lawyer? Who hires them? How are they chosen?

But I do agree with 16: “The Province of Ontario should explicitly provide that Council members can rely on advice from the integrity commissioner as to whether a disqualifying or non-disqualifying interest exists in a particular matter.” As it stands now, there is no one on staff or under contract to whom a council member can ask advice on conflicts. 

And so on. Some of the recommendations are just common sense, and some have been made before by others who want reforms in provincial or municipal legislation. Many of those aimed at Collingwood are already implemented, and have been for several years. I don’t disagree with all, of course, and support many, but some are frankly confusing or appear entirely arbitrary. Perhaps that comes from having a panel of “experts” none of whom have ever served in office, and thus do not understand the complexities and realities of public service from a personal perspective.

I sure wish the report’s editor had been more vigilant about the wording, grammar, and formatting style. And had given us an index. But perhaps that’s just the editor in me coming out.

And I’m still unsure from my reading what evils Paul Bonwick did. I can see nothing illegal in his actions (nor did a four-or-more-year OPP investigation). He was an independent businessman, acting as we expect any capitalist businessman to do: legally pursuing his business interests and make money. He had no conflicts of interest within the MCOI Act, nor did his siblings, friends, and peers who dealt with him (none of which are listed in the MCOI Act). I still fail to understand why any of them were expected to disclose his involvement or their knowledge of it to anyone else, if what he was doing was legal. You’d almost think there was some personal vendetta against him. Or should I call it a witch hunt instead?

(Of course for some local, Conservative-leaning people, his real “crime” was being a successful Liberal candidate for parliament, for which he could never be forgiven. His relatives, friends, co-workers, or colleagues were all guilty by association. Wonder why the media never questioned that aspect of the story? I digress again…)

And as you might suspect, I don’t agree with all of the conclusions or comments. Some appear to me to have been made with a prior assumption of guilt, almost like the narrative I suspected was in play.

Was this inquiry and report worth $7.7 (or more) million of your tax dollars? Was it better to have 914 digital pages about events that happened as far back as a decade ago instead of, say, repaved streets, better sidewalks, or a restored grain terminal? I personally think not. I personally think that no matter how loudly our mayor bloviates on the value of the report to the town and other municipalities (yeah, right), that the money was basically wasted pursuing a vendetta against people who didn’t agree to the $35 million handout, and who then found a better, less-expensive solution for our recreation facilities. Taxpayers should not have to pay for that.

Collingwood deserves better.

~~~~~

As for my own role, in the first of the four volumes, it notes I declared a conflict of interest on Dec. 5, 2011, and was not present in the in-camera meeting when the bids were opened and council (unanimously by the eight in the room) decided that PowerStream was the winner. This is correct. I was not privy at any time to the names of the companies bidding, did not participate in the selection, and did not know which one had been chosen until Jan. 16, 2012, at which time I was unemployed.

The report notes that I “did not declare a conflict” during an in-camera meeting that updated council on the “negotiations with PowerStream,” Jan. 16, 2012, and again on Jan. 23, 2012, when council “voted to sell 50 percent of the shares in Collus Power to Powerstream.” As I pointed out in my testimonies and submission, council had made the decision to sell and to which company six weeks prior, and the Jan. 23 motion was to affirm the choice, not to decide which bidder to select. I never worked for PowerStream at any time, and I had ended my work for Compenso, which had PowerStream as a client, at the end of December, 2011. The argument from the inquiry was that, although I had sent an email to Compenso at the end of December, noting the final work was done, and included a final invoice, the several-week delay in receiving that cheque placed me in a conflict of interest.” I have to disagree.

If you were fired by your employer today and didn’t get your final paycheque for another two or more weeks, would you still be considered an employee of that company? Would you still be eligible for company benefits until that cheque arrived? When the lawyers who billed the town for their participation in the inquiry sent in their final invoices, are they still working for the town until they get their cheques — some 30-90 days hence? Of course not. Why would my case be different?

The MCOI Act states (emphasis added):

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.

Note the verbs “has” and “isin the Act: both are in the present tense. Not past tense, not future, no conditionals like might have or would like to have… only the present tense is written. And that’s what I believe is how the law should be followed: as it is written, not how someone interprets it. I cannot see how someone can have a pecuniary interest when one is not working, regardless of how long it takes to get paid. Nor can I understand how someone can have a conflict voting for an RFP that doesn’t mention companies, doesn’t guarantee a sale, and is only meant to see what interest the market has, or even if the market is there for a utility sale. But like I said, I’m not a lawyer.

Yet the report says “A reasonably well-informed person would conclude that Mr. Chadwick might have been influenced by his past work for Mr. Bonwick and the prospect of future work.” I might equally have been influenced by the prospect of winning the lottery by that logic, but keep in mind that the decision of selling to PowerStream had already been made without me. Yet my “decisions regarding the Collus RFP and share sale on January 16 and January 23 was inconsistent with his obligations to the municipality.” I again disagree (and I do not recollect any decisions coming from the Jan. 16 meeting).

I would also like to point out this line in the MCOI Act:

“interest in common with electors generally” means a pecuniary interest in common with the electors within the area of jurisdiction and, where the matter under consideration affects only part of the area of jurisdiction, means a pecuniary interest in common with the electors within that part;

Not being employed by anyone at the time, I would think any “reasonably well-informed person” would think I might still have a common interest in the well-being of our electricity utility, and our municipal finances. The inquiry doesn’t agree. But the Act also includes these exemptions (emphasis added) which I also considered at the time:

Where ss. 5 and 5.2 do not apply
4 Sections 5 and 5.2 do not apply to a pecuniary interest in any matter that a member may have,
(a) as a user of any public utility service supplied to the member by the municipality or local board in like manner and subject to the like conditions as are applicable in the case of persons who are not members;
(b) by reason of the member being entitled to receive on terms common to other persons any service or commodity or any subsidy, loan or other such benefit offered by the municipality or local board;
(h) by reason only of the member being a director or senior officer of a corporation incorporated for the purpose of carrying on business for and on behalf of the municipality or local board or by reason only of the member being a member of a board, commission, or other body as an appointee of a council or local board;
(j) by reason of the member having a pecuniary interest which is an interest in common with electors generally; or
(k) by reason only of an interest of the member which is so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the member.

Given that the decision to sell and to whom had been made on Dec. 5 without my involvement, and not being employed by anyone (no pecuniary interest), and being a member of the council of the town that owned the utility, and as a director of that corporation (as all councillors are), and it being an interest that included the entire town, not just myself or any potential employer, it seemed to me on Jan. 26 (72 days after the decision to sell) that, with no pecuniary interest to bind me, the Act allowed me to vote to confirm that earlier decision in good faith.

And the judge — perhaps reluctantly — agreed, noting “I accept Mr. Chadwick’s evidence that he believed he was complying with the applicable conflict of interest law…” and then comes this backhand slap: “… even though he was acting in good faith, his participation in Council’s decisions regarding the Collus RFP and share sale… was inconsistent with his obligations to the municipality.”

I’ll say it again: I’m not a lawyer, but even so, I did examine the law and consider my options, my conscience, and my obligations. He may disagree with my conclusion, but the Act puts the onus on the individual elected official to make that decision. It would have been easier to avoid it (and saved me all this brouhaha) but I don’t believe people are elected to avoid making decisions.

As for the RFP Council approved in Oct. 2011: there was never at any time during that discussion I can recall a mention of any potential buyers by name. The RFP was meant to see if there was any interest in the market. Council had not even made up its collective mind to sell the utility and as I remember, simply wanted to see what if any applications arrived before deciding to do so. It defies logic for me to understand how anyone can declare a conflict over something so vague. Once the RFPs were in (and I still didn’t know from whom), I declared a conflict and was not part of the discussions or vote on the bids.

I was also accused by Ms. Wingrove of being a “significant critic of hers who ‘spent a lot of time just sending me emails and asking for clarification and critiquing my work.'” I am not sure why asking for clarification is considered being a critic; after all, if something isn’t clear isn’t it the fault of the originator?  Shouldn’t councillors make an effort to understand what they’re expected to vote on? Or should councillors simply accept without questioning something that is unclear simply because it comes from the CAO? And as for critiquing her work, while I can’t recall any specific time I did this, I would think that doing so within an email was far more appropriate than doing so at the table in public. Or are CAOs above being questioned?

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