The headline in CwoodToday reads, “OPP concludes investigation into JI events; no charges laid.” After ten years, the OPP finally shut down the investigation that actually concluded several years ago. And even then we knew the results: no one under investigation broke any laws. Not even the Municipal Act or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Ten years during which innocent people were under suspicion, had their lives and work affected, were accused of wrongdoing, had reputations ruined, and suffered defamation. Why did it take so many years for the OPP to close this and clear their names?
The story quotes (emphasis added):
“I can confirm that the OPP investigation has concluded, finding there were no grounds for any criminal charges,” OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson told CollingwoodToday in an email late Monday.
Let me repeat myself: no one the OPP investigated was charged or will be charged for any criminal acts. The OPP read emails, interviewed people, interviewed town hall staff, interviewed employees, accessed bank accounts, and may have even had phone taps on some. And after all that, after ten years, NO ONE was charged because NO ONE was found guilty of any criminal behaviour. NO ONE broke any laws. NO ONE violated the Municipal Act or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
I have been saying this was what they already knew for several years now and I have been vindicated. So is everyone who protested that they did nothing illegal. But it took ten years for the OPP to tell us. Ten years, three municipal elections, and one provincial election before they told us the truth. Either there was incompetence or political interference in the investigation. Maybe both.
Millions of taxpayers’ dollars were wasted on this police investigation. For what? Because a small group of petty-minded people wanted to launch a vendetta against those on council and town staff who thwarted their political ambitions back in 2012. If you don’t realize this was politically motivated, then you have not been paying attention.
And, now it’s closed. Expect freedom-of-information requests to be filed to reveal the names of those behind this investigation. Yes, lawsuits may follow, too.
But the story is wrong when it says, “In 2013, the OPP first announced they would be opening a criminal investigation into the events covered by the inquiry.” In fact, the inquiry wasn’t even requested by council until February 2018, five years later as a pre-election stunt, and six years after the town refused to grant the YMCA a $35 million handout and build them a new facility— the event that spawned the vendetta. The media should know this, and know the difference between a judicial inquiry and a police investigation. Apparently not.
The inquiry (aka Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry, or SVJI) was itself a politically-motivated investigation into the bureaucratic process, but not a criminal inquiry. Residents were assured at the time it would only cost under $2 million, We were lied to. Everyone involved was warned it would be a lot more expensive.
By the time all the sole-sourced lawyers and consultants were paid (including our former mayor Saunderson’s and our current mayor Hamlin’s employers), it had cost Collingwood taxpayers more than $10 million. For what? A 900-page PDF file with 306 recommendations, a large portion of which relate not to Collingwood or even the mandate for the inquiry, but to provincial procedures and legislation. Most of that money went to lawyers and legal firms.
Remember when our CAO claimed the inquiry was more important to residents than clean drinking water? No one at the council table or in local media at the time, questioned whether someone making such a risible statement was competent to be the town’s top civil servant. The previous council’s abject mishandling of our water treatment plant and the pipeline contract was an utter disaster affecting not only Collingwood but communities connected to our water system. It ended up costing residents many millions more because of their bumbling ineptitude and ignorance. But the inquiry was more important than our water, right?
Instead of interviewing any of those who were under investigation, who might have something to say about how this news affected them, who did the local media turn to for a comment? Our new mayor, Yvonne Hamlin, who wasn’t even on council when the judicial inquiry was called, and who didn’t participate in the inquiry. And what did she say?
I am disappointed that no individuals are being held accountable for their unethical behaviours as evidenced through the report of the Judicial Inquiry. The concerns documented in the report, and the financial hardship and duress that have been inflicted on our community as a result of these behaviours are significant.
Twaddle! And poorly-written twaddle at that. She wants to hold innocent people accountable for… what? Making legal decisions? Obeying the law? Acting in what they believed was in the best interests of the community? This codswallop is coming from a lawyer!
Unethical? Coming from someone who as a councillor voted for sole-source contracts for her former employers of 22 years without declaring a conflict of interest, or even publicly stating her lengthy relationship with the firm she voted for, that’s massively ironic. And very hypocritical.
Coming from the mayoral candidate who broke our town’s sign bylaw during the recent campaign, yet offered no public apology for her behaviour, calling others unethical is pot vs. kettle.
Coming from someone who voted to replace Coun. Tina Comi who was bullied out of office with a lobbyist, major campaign donor, and personal friend of the mayor and others at the table, rather than the candidate who got the next number of votes, shows a remarkable lack of ethical values. Yet here she is bad-mouthing others.
These words come from someone who voted to rescind the Order of Collingwood from Ed Houghton for community service he did decades before any investigation was opened. But she didn’t say a word about that abuse of power by a morally bankrupt council kowtowing to the personal whims of its narcissistic mayor.
Oh, to have credible, competent local media who pursued a story as if it was their actual job, rather than falling back on convenient piffle and trite reactions from predictable sources. Who might actually ask tough questions rather than just reprint the propaganda from town hall.
Notice our mayor didn’t address the simple fact that even after a decade of effort, the police could find no grounds for any criminal charges. Nor did she offer a public apology to those wrongly accused. Yet in her blame-the-others Saundersonite fashion, she whinged about “the financial hardship and duress that have been inflicted on our community” when she should have been healing the wounds, not re-opening them.
That expense was the direct result of the vote by five people at the council table to pursue a judicial inquiry against the former CAO’s advice, who knew that costs would soon spiral. It was inflicted on Collingwood by then-Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson who made the motion, plus his lackeys: councillors Kathy Jeffery, Bob Madigan, Cam Ecclestone and Deb Doherty. And after them, the previous council continued to spend even more taxpayers’ money on sole-sourced lawyers (including Hamlin’s previous employers) to look for ways to punish people long after the inquiry had shut down. Those at the table who voted should be held responsible for any “financial hardship.”*
Our roads and sidewalks are crumbling. Parks and the downtown are looking scruffy. All of which could have been remedied by spending the $10 million on our own community’s infrastructure instead of paying a passel of out-of-town lawyers to pursue this vendetta. The money is long gone into lawyers’ pockets, yet our mayor still continues to perpetuate the blame game instead of trying to find reconciliation with those wronged.
Nothing positive, nothing about moving forward, nothing about closure, nothing about healing the community. Nope; she’s all, “We’ve got this albatross around our necks and no matter that it’s dead and stinking, we’re proud to wear it.”
Local resident John Megarry recently wrote a letter to CwoodToday recommending “our new councillors now in the majority, decline to consume any more of council’s time or money in this never-ending sinkhole.” I agree: the public is weary of the cult-like adherence to the inquiry. It’s time for this council to focus on the community, and stop gazing into the shallow void of the SVJI.**
Collingwood deserves better.
* Saunderson deliberately made the motion when councillors Mike Edwards and Kevin Lloyd were absent and unable to debate the motion. Coun. Tim Fryer (now our deputy mayor) inappropriately (and spinelessly) declared a conflict of interest when the motion was made and didn’t comment. That left former Mayor Cooper as the sole dissenter against Saunderson and his abjectly loyal sycophants.
** This includes the clumsy efforts at virtue signalling by changing the town’s already byzantine Code of Conduct to include vapid, Stalinist repressions like trying to prevent people from falling in love and having office romances. Surely, there are more important things to attend to managing other peoples’ biology. Our mayor is wading headfirst into this nonsense, so it will probably continue to waste our council’s time with such trivial claptrap. Typical lawyerish obsession with crafting petty rules and regulations for others to follow.
The revised Code of Conduct, according to a recent story in CwoodToday, contains “57 of the 306 recommendations” from the SVJI. That’s fewer than one in five. Which shows you how much irrelevant material we got for our $10 million. So why didn’t local media ask what happened to the other 249 recommendations taxpayers paid for? Did they just evaporate?
The new code includes hiring even more staff including “a fairness monitor to oversee the town’s purchases.” WTF is that? None of the bobbleheads at the table spoke up to protest this waste of taxpayer dollars. And if you think a piece of paper will make people behave better, you haven’t been paying attention to the last two councils, or my many blog posts here.