In a recent story on CollingwoodToday about the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI), Councillor Bob “Lapdog” Madigan commented that he wanted, “…those who are responsible for this need to be held accountable.”
Since neither the inquiry nor the OPP found anything illegal or criminal in the proceedings (no charges have been laid, although the OPP began its investigation in 2014!), the basis for a lawsuit would be… what? Council’s opinion? Or just Madigan’s umbrage?
We assume from the story’s headline, “Council wants to know litigation options following inquiry,” that he and others at the table want the town to sue people involved in the events because they made decisions the current councillors don’t agree with. Or maybe because those whose decisions displeased their wannabe-autarch-mayor, who launched this inquiry. Or just because a former council wouldn’t cough up the $35 million handout for the YMCA Saunderson and his committee demanded from taxpayers in 2012?
Well, Bob, when we measure accountability for this ongoing debacle, we must include you and your fellow Blockheads who voted for the inquiry, back in 2018. All of you need to be held accountable because you five started this and who ended up wasting $9 million or more of taxpayers’ money on it. If you’re suggesting that those who are responsible for this debacle should be the ones to pay for it, then open your wallet, Bob, because you’re one of the five.
This inquiry was sneakily called for at a council meeting in Feb. 26, 2018, at a time 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 you, Bob Madigan. This is who should be held accountable for the costs. You ordered it, you pay for it.
You and the rest of council were warned then that the costs could escalate very quickly. Chief Justice Heath Smith – who was originally chosen to oversee the inquiry – provided the report on the Mississauga inquiry with a letter about the potential cost escalation to the town (it was shared with staff and all members of council) to “give some idea as to potential costs.” according to the newspaper. Council blithely ignored her warning. And at least one ditzy councillor back then rather dimly didn’t think it would cost anything at all!
Even I, an outsider, knew that it would cost a LOT more than the $1.4-$1.6 million estimated at the time. And I continued to write about the escalating costs for months while council sloughed them off and essentially told the electorate to “eat cake.” Even the former, former CAO questioned council about the too-low cost estimates in a letter that appeared on the council consent agenda, April 30, 2018. Like my vox clamantis, his letter was ignored.
And now you, Councillor Jeffrey, and others want to add to those already outrageous costs and “meet with the legal team that represented the town at the inquiry. ” That’s the same sole-sourced legal team that already cost the town more than $1.4 million in legal costs just for the inquiry, and cost taxpayers an undisclosed, but likely high amount for work done before the inquiry to “advise” council on the process. All done without even a nod to the town’s procurement bylaw. Ka-ching! The town hall cash register just keeps spitting out our money for them.
All of council in 2018 was told by the former CAO in Staff Report #T2018-06 that the costs could escalate, but also warned that (emphasis added) this was an inquiry, not a trial:
- A public inquiry is a public investigation, carried out in the public eye and is not a trial. A public inquiry seeks to explain why something occurred and not to determine guilt or liability. Unlike a court, it is not an adversarial proceeding.
- The findings of a judicial inquiry are not binding in subsequent court proceedings and there are no legal consequences attached to them.
Apparently, none of these former councillors who received that staff report bothered to read it, because now they’re bloviating and chuffing about litigation despite these caveats. But no wonder: we knew even back then they were all reading-averse. Who would have expected our elected representatives to actually read a 17-page report? Way too long for them! And there wasn’t even a single pie chart in it!
Nor, does it seem surprising they didn’t read the 917-page judicial inquiry report itself (another pie-chart-less, too-lengthy read), which states at the opening of its recommendations (emphasis added):
Public inquiries investigate broad systemic and institutional issues and report to the public. Their reports include findings of fact and recommendations made in the public interest. Public inquiries are not trials. They are not intended to resolve disputes between parties or establish the guilt or innocence of accused persons in the criminal context.
And on page 95-96 (emphasis added):
An inquiry does not find anyone guilty of a crime and cannot punish anyone with penal consequences. An inquiry also cannot hold anyone civilly liable or order anyone to pay monetary damages… the purpose of public inquiries is to understand holistically how an event transpired or a condition emerged as well as all the contributing factors and circumstances that facilitated their materialization.
So how many more millions of dollars will it cost taxpayers for the town to sue people not guilty of any crime? And what about the cost of the expected countersuits against the town for such action? How many more years are taxpayers going to be paying for the SVJI and the actions of those five who should themselves be held accountable for the costs?
Of course, these upcoming meetings with lawyers and former CAOs will all be held behind closed doors because this group has a long history of hiding its activities and decisions from public scrutiny (it’s more difficult to betray the public trust in the open):
Each meeting would be in-camera and for the purposes of receiving advice from the solicitors and former CAOs on next steps.
Collingwood deserves better.