"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Q and A

Today A question is asked  about siignatures during the period of  circulating acting-interim -responsibility of CAO in town administration 

I don't believe there's an issue. 

Town cheques bear two signatures; the Mayor's  and Treasurer's. Security is the objective. 
Theoretically, both signatures  guarantee propriety. 

I'm not sure how effective the security if the parties are aligned on the same side of the operation.

For example if  both believe it appropriate for a Mayor to personally retain legal counsel for a purpose having nothing to do with town function and more to do with obsessive compulsion. 

A Treasurer is  a  Statutary  Officer. I  have always understood that to mean legal  authority and responsibility to ensure adherence to Provincial Statutes 

Bylaws and Contracts also require signatures of Mayor and Municipal Clerk. 

The Municipal Clerk and Deputy Clerk  are also Statutory Officers with a wider role and many separate responsibilities including Commissioner of Oaths. 

Unlike Clerk and Treasurer, no Statutary authority attaches to a Chief Administrative Officer . 

I believe I have only seen CAO signature on Reports to Council. 

Reports of Directors bear signatures of the Director and CAO.  Reports form a record. The record is confirmed by By-law at the end of every Council Meeting. 

CAO is not a statutory officer. 

You know, I do not claim  professional status.  My understanding of process comes from 
engagement  in town affairs over a lengthy period . Laws change and sometimes lapse. 

The less collective experience  or common sense exists on a Council, the easier to mislead.

That they might be misled by StatutRy Officers  is unthinkable but it happens.

When it happens, it is inexcusable. 

Public servants are not immune to bad judgement. 

If I put a fact forward in a blog it can be challenged. Corrections will be published. 

If I make conjecture or offer opinion, readers may disagree. 

The conjecture or opinion is mine to offer and the blog is also mine.  

THE MENTALIST

Finally... an official  Mayoralty announcement of  the CAO's departure. 

Weeks after a media statement the CAO was looking forward to the challenge of being at the  helm of Richmond Hill's administration. 

At the time of which Aurora's  Mayor stated  "no official statement at this time."

At or about the time of a Council query about staff training and conference budget of $199,000.
with a view to reducing same in 2015. 

Such a palaver ensued. 

The CAO vehemently argued against cutting the  training budget. 

The Treasurer argued details  of  2014 spending would take a long time to gather.

The Mayor and one other argued against a motion to direct staff to gather it  anyway. 

Despite the Treasurer's specious argument,figures were produced in a week. 

In the last of several pages ,two figures stood out from all the others.

AHA...I thought.  Herein lies a clue.  

$15,000 and  $8,000 for two courses at Schulich Business School of York University. 

I  queried a Councillor for names. He was unable to say.  Staff had informed Councillors if names were released, employees would be discouraged from taking courses. 

What a crock!

No media account of this exchange.  We may assume therefore it did not happen in public. 

The plot thickens.

First, vehement opposition by  outgoing CAO to reduction of a  budget because of advantage of encouraging  staff initiative for benefit of the municipality.

No evidence of said advantage. 

The crock runneth over.

The CAO had already made the decision to leave Aurora. 

Why the need to distract Council's focus from that specific budget?

What purpose the Treasurer's  fallacious argument against producing the figures?

Elements  of panic and desperation? But why?

Figures were produced, clearly in orderly and efficient composition within days.

Why did the Mayor enjoin staff and oppose the motion to direct figures  be produced?

Just as he opposed four years previously, a motion to direct the solicitor to review the nefarious Purchase  of Culture Agreement after he had attended board meetings for a year without Council's knowledge. 

Said agreement by the way, proved to be entirely to the disadvantage of the municipal corporation. 

Mayors of Richmond Hill and Aurora are colleagues at Regional Council. 

What chance no communication about Aurora's  CAO  departure to join Richmond Hill Administration? 

Remote, I'd say.

A recent public statement by Richmond Hill Mayor notes the incoming CAO  has a Master's Certification in Municipal Management from York University Schulich School of Management. 

So, who paid for that I wonder? And who authorized the expenditure?

So...we may be closer to the truth of it.

The need for obfuscation, prevarication, secrecy and flat -out misrepresentation?

Well....Let me guess   ....like there's a chance I won't. 

The two largest expenditures in the 2014 conference and training budget were courses taken at the Schulich Business School in York University .

Was that successor planning? think not. 

In his public reference to the separation, Mayor Dawe made an illuminating reference to his reliance on this CAO when he and others "were like deer in the headlights " after the 2010 election. 

We may take it as admission that every step he took ,every word he uttered, was guided. 

The blind leading the blind on a path well-trodden. 

In each of two years after the 2009 appointment,the  CAO's budget ,as I re-call,  included $75,000 for "training"

The CAO came to Aurora from the office of the Regional CAO, where he was manager of data base something -or -other. Before which he was manager of community planning.these were cited in the Riichmond Hill Mayor's statement as leadership positions. 

 Nowhere did his profile , prior to Aurora, note experience in managing a municipal corporation. 

During the time since, bad things happened in this little town that I have loved so much. 

Public resources were used to retain external legal counsel to sue three residents on spurious grounds  for political purpose as  ultimately decided by the Judge.

The town solicitor, under authority of the CAO,provided the only affidavit in the case. 

He was found by a judge to have evaded questions and lied.

Cooked-up Code of Conduct and Harassment complaints against a veteran sitting member of Council
(Moi) were hatched and implemented with legal assistance at exorbitant cost and collateral damage.

A Municipal Clerk ,with a freshly signed five year contract abruptly left the town's employment. 

An Deputy -clerk went on stress leave for months. 

An Integrity Commissioner had to retain legal  counsel to protect his own reputation. 

Loyal and competent employees had jobs spirited out from under them. 

A Director of Legislative Services with relatively short service was paid off with a substantial severance package for no apparent benefit to the municipality. 

The town's insurance company changed a decision to deny liability which led to $850,000  and -counting expenditure resulting in 41% increase in town premiums for protection in the following year
And forever thereafter.

Destructive and horrendous personal damage was enabled during the time since 2009. 

In my judgement, the community has not been well served and still has no reason to be complacent. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Oh Woe

I am at a disadvantage. 

Initially e-mail was delivered  by Rogers. Then service was interrupted. Communication with someone in New Brunswick indicated the problem was not  technical and not at our end. The problem was Rogers.

Service  was transferred  to Yahoo. It did not work the same way. Small differences are huge  to someone not born to technology. My first language is English. 

Periodically a request  comes through to rate Yahoo  with a query if I wish return  to Rogers. 

I never state a preference for Yahoo. Always indicate my wish to return to Rogers. 

It never happens. 

Then sign in was required  by Yahoo with user name and password.

I have never had a user name and password for Yahoo that I know of. 
I did not choose to use it. 
Itwas foisted upon me. 

Access required me to create an account. A mobile number had to be provided to complete the process. 

I do not have a cell phone therefore no mobile number.The process could not be completed. 

I discovered comments could be accessed  and moderated through the Blogspot. 

That worked for a while except all I accessed were comments to blogs and spam. No e-mails.

I wrote blogs and published  them with a blogger icon. 

Soon I was writing blogs and publishing comments without Yahoo  service. 

Then a grandchild brought back Yahoo. 

Yeah.

Suddenly, with no explanation,  Blogger needed sign-in. User name and password were discovered. 

Then Yahoo would not publish comments without sign -in to Blogpost. 

Now I can write and publish posts. 

I can read comments. 

I cannot moderate comments. 

For a while I could not cut and copy comments as lead- ins to posts. Then I learned how. 

Now I have comments waiting to be moderated. 

Please be patient and keep them coming. 

My  second cataract surgery is healing nicely. 

My Go Go scooter  has developed a hiccup. 
Lights come on ...it's fully charged ...But Go Go  won't go. 
Ah Woe is me.

FIrst ADDENDUM TO THE LAST POST ON JUDGEMENT CONSPICUOUS IN ABSENCE

In 2013  a consultant study reported on town service levels and the relationship to higher than average tax levels. 

The conclusion intended was to prove high taxes were attributable to a high services levels. Questionable  municipal comparators were used to prove the argument. 

At the end, as if tossed in as an afterthought, the consultant advised savings could be 
achieved by reducing  by one the number of directors on the management team. 

Without further ado ,the  Director of Legislative Services  was chosen to be the one expendable. 

As required by the Municipal  Act, the director was replaced by a municipal clerk, placed under the authority of the Municipal Solicitor now Director of  Legal and Legislative Services. 

I did ask once about savings realised. 


With friend and protector in the chair and remarkably uncurious Councillors in support, awkward questions from a lone,vintage Councillor were not required to be answered. 

Now we learn of a budget overrun in 2014  of close to half a million dollars. Savings were obviously not  reflected in that circumstance. 

Which prompts  the question....what  really determined redundancy of the position of Director of Legislative Services the week before Christmas in 2013 ?

Y'know , for eight years, town budgets failed to win my support. 

Hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred to a non-elected  body to spend as they pleased ,and a continued grant of $70,000 to five  or six people on the Historical Society were ancillary reasons.  

The over- riding concern was  lack of confidence in the integrity of the process . 

The budget is the most significant function of any municipal council.

Nothing matters more. 

 It determines the burden Imposed on weary taxpayers. 

For eight years, I was unable to provide assurance the system was working as it should. 

Expenditures having nothing whatsoever to do with municipal function were paid from 
public resources. There were no checks or balances. 

Funds collected  legally for a specific purpose were used for a different  purpose. 

The Treasurer's statement to Council, as reported in the June 24th edition of The Auroran, reveals revenue realized from development charges were used to cover an operating budget deficit, simply confirms my long-held concern town resources were not being properly managed. 

The community interest is not well-served. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

JUDGEMENT ....CONSPICUOUS IN THE ABSENCE OF

I read The Auroran piece about  the town's 2014 budget deficit three times to be sure I understood it correctly the first time. 

The headline was hardly explicit.  "Budget numbers "concerning" for Councillors and staff" 

The treasurer's quotes were concise. No paraphrasing there. 

Mealy-mouthed responses from Councillors fell far short of the mark. The Mayor's silence resounded 
 across the page. 

In his inimitable  style, Council were informed by the Treasurer, staff had spent half a million dollars more than the approved budget thereby creating a deficit in that amount. 

It was argued the fault lay with the elected body for not allocating sufficient funds in the first place to meet  all exigencies.

" Despite the efforts of my colleagues around the table  to constrain our spending and trying hard to stick to budgets, we have snow events, weather events, facility repairs that sneak up on us.These are all things that add up together."

Well WHOOP-DI-DOO ... since  when have municipal services not included exigencies such as "snow events " and "weather events" which occur to me to be one and the same.

Recent provincial communication noted  four municipalities received grants from a fund to help out with extraordinary costs of severe winter weather early in 2014. Only four applications were received. 

Aurora was not one of the four. 

The Minister had noted previously only one municipality had applied for available support.

After the Minister's perplexed statement, Aurora's treasurer informed Council that an application had been subsequently successfully processed. 

Could two such  circumstances have occurred in the same time period? 

I think not. 

As for facility repairs sneaking  up unawares; in November 2011, the Treasurer and Director of Environment and Infrastructure  jointly recommended the  purchase of a WAMS software system...A WORK AND ASSET MANAGEMENT SYSTEM designed to take the guesswork out of financial management at a cost of  $440,000 for starters. 

Council approved with one vote opposed. Moi once again. 

Eventually it became known ,despite efforts to conceal, the  system was purchased without consultation with  IT department  and no attempt had been made to determine compatibility. 

Shortly after, a query was advanced  about the cost of a particular exercise. It should have been available at the touch of a finger if the system was everything touted was in fact true. 

Ah ....Dear Me No.....the  information was not available. 

 The system was not up and running . 

From time to time over several years, additional  purchases of equipment had to be approved. Not always identified with the $440,000. system.

 No statement  was ever made about the WAMS being finally up and running. 

There's more . The  story does not improve with the telling. 

Now we have a statement  by the  Treasurer,  reported in the media, " facility repairs sneak up on us "

The  $440,000. WAMS software was intended precisely to take the guesswork out of financial management. 

Obviously that is not a fact. 

November 2014 was  three years since the system was purchased. Six members of the current council
voted for the purchase.  

Further.....the scandalously incompetent management of the Renovation and Addition to the Family Leisure Complex  under supervision of E .I. Director might well be "facility repairs that sneak up on us" ; software system notwithstanding. 

It's  another story that does not improve with telling. 

The function of a Chief Financial Officer is to monitor and control spending to keep it within limits of a budget approved. 

A public scold of the governing body to excuse faillure is not within the terms of reference of a highly paid post. 

A complacent and acquiescent Council without leadership is however an over-riding failure.

The Treasurer is accountable to the Council. 

Council is accountable to the electorate.

In my judgement  the community has not been well-served by either in the matter of the budget deficit.

Monday, 29 June 2015

SO MANY QUESTIONS....SO FEW ANSWERS

Supposing I'm right and Council has agreed to retain a consultant on a six month contract to  recruit the new CAO and serve as Interim Chief Administrative Officer at the same time.  What does he bring to the job ?

From the release provided  on the Town's web site, he has advised many other municipalities. Of what?

Municipalities provide a basic level of services. Many similarities exist between them. But none are precisely alike.  

Different problems and priorities needing to be resolved.

A  parachutee ....no matter how smart ,knowledgable or experienced,  cannot simply pick up where another left off. 

Pending  decisions like disposition of redundant buildings will have a definite stay of execution.For a minimum of six months but probably longer. 

Directors of Departments  will have the responsibility of bringing the new and interim chappie up to speed. 

Aurora has an eight member management team.  Each with authority for a  department and substantial staff resources. Each has a  record of  competence which should be known to Councillors and  the Mayor.  

Each director has a different level of institutional history. 

Some are better known in the community than others. Some know the community better than others.

Each has had ample opportunity to demonstrate level of competence. 

Last we read,  the Mayor and Human Resources Manager ( both on the sunshine list) were delegated to  develop terms  of reference for the  position of CAO. 

A job description is already at hand. Lord knows we've seen enough organizational charts. 

But that's not what they recommended .The Mayor and HR did not do as  Council directed. 

Instead, an outside consultant on a six month contract to act as Interim Chief Admknistrative Officer and assist in recruiting a  Chief Administrative Officer  is recommended. 

It creates a needless hiatus in town business. 

Nothing commends it. 

Cost of the exercise is not indicated. 

Will the town advertise the job and conduct interviews? There's a known cost for that route. We have the staff resources on hand. 

Will the town retain a head -hunter consultant? Fees can be determined for that service too. 

Is  a consultant  needed to advise  Council which decision to make? Isn't that part of their job? 

Has consideration been given to promotion from within? If not, why not?  There must be a rationale. 

From the sunshine list, we know the CAO job pays $220,000 a year.  Are we not entitled to share the logic that determines the means of filling that position? Who is accountable? 

Maybe we should spend less time worrying about cell phone towers, how best to deliver mail  and  why a Howard Johnston Hotel did not succeed in Aurora and more time talking about things that are town business and Council's responsibility.  

BTW , the town's economic development department has at least two planners on staff. One on the sunshine list.  Why is  the hotel's failure such a deep dark secret?

Isn't that their  job to know ? 

If it isn't ....what is?










Sunday, 28 June 2015

QUEER GOINGS ON

It's a dreary day. Things needing  to be done in the garden. Or just enjoyable time to be spent. The weather is not enticing  and a couple of stories in The Auroran keep demanding I read them again. 

One was  about Council and staff's concern over budget numbers. The other  the appointment of an interim CAO .

Memories of the last interim appointments are hardly satisfying .

First was appointment of statutory office of treasurer.

 According to the Municipal Act, the position must be filled by recruitment . The appointment is by bylaw and only Council can approve a Bylaw.

That's not how it happened. 

Council was informed  by CAO Neil Garbe in a closed door  meeting, he  had appointed a  treasurer on an interim basis. 

The previous treasurer had provided three months notice. He stayed until the budget was completed. 

Despite repeated enquiries  no recruitment process ever took place. 

After the interim appointment, Council were later informed ,Mr. Garbe had made the appointment  
permanent.

The  previous twelve months  employment  had been with a consultant. Prior to that he had been Treasurer of Richmond Hill for a number of years. 

 Richmond Hill had adopted a Commissioner system and the top position was filled by recruitment of a new Commissioner of Finance. 

After his appointment ,Mr. Elliot  apparently informed new colleagues in Aurora, the job offer was made over a coffee in a donut shop.

Aurora's current Manager of Communications  was appointed in equally unusual circumstances.

 Prior to Mormac , the town had one and a half persons in communications. 

The work load grew but  additional resources were denied.

It was decided to create a manager's position  requiring a Master's  Degree  in English. 

The  person doing the job satisfactorily for seven years  had a humble B.A.

A Manager was  ultimately appointed without the required Master's Degree touted in the media by the CAO.

The person doing the job returned  from vacation to find her office occupied and her stuff in boxes
elsewhere.

She left the town's employment with a satisfactory settlement .

The new  Manager was not long on the job before he disappeared into  long-term disability. 

Current Manager of Communications. was "seconded" from York  Region and appointed on an interim basis  to the Aurora position. Soon as per previous practice it also became permanent.

Communication staff swelled substantially in numbers. 

I  must admit I find  it hard to imagine how the eight hour days are  filled  five days a week. 

So now we have another interim appointment to fill the Grand Pooh Bah position. 

Listed credentials are incredible. ..literally. 

Nowhere is the title of consultant stated.

Yet it cannot be otherwise

Why so shy?

And why is no fee stated ?

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Addendum to the last post.

Council had authority to fill the vacanct seat  by appointment.

It could have been accomplished without inviting individuals to  make presentations as candidates only to be publicly rejected in turn. It was certainly clear to some of the people who came forward in good faith that there never was a possibility of being selected.

Public rejection  is no small matter. 

Without Mr. Constable, a majority vote for the project was by no means a certainty. His friends were at the meeting  to Celebrate his "victory" . No subtlety was employed. 

The joint facility is a  $26 million project

A simple majority vote, engineered, is hardly  a good way to inspire public confidence . 

The decision deserved greater time and effort to arrive at a consensus.

It was my judgement then and it's my judgement now.    

Since the election ,it has been learned  the AFLC project was terribly mismanaged. 

It was an add-on to an existing facility at a fraction of the cost of the joint facility.  

To this point, it  exceeded the budget by  twenty-five per cent and completion was months beyond  
schedule. 

Opening was celebrated twice. Once before and once after the election. Further remediation at considerable expense is still pending.

Now " soil problems"  are cited on a site that had to be created as compelling the need for  a 
supervisory contract not anticipated at the time estimates were presented to Council. 

The Officer responsible is no longer responsible and Council has approved a process to replace the individual by open competition.

It is conceivable a person having no idea what has gone before will be appointed. 

There is no reason for  public confidence. 






LORD HIGH ADMIRAL OF THE KING 'S NAVEE

Anna has references in  the Community in Focus post on the Joint Facility project. One  in particular.
needs to be expanded. 

Anna remarks how  big a chunk of the  Arboretum  has been taken  for the town project. . 

Therein lies an irony. 

The town acquired the site from Joseph Lebovic at  a "good price". 

At one time, the developer inquired about possibility of changing the designation from industrial  to residential. Difficulty of access and rear of the parcel being  ravine were cited.  

The town disposed of the current works/parks site without offering it in a public sale. Whether an appropriate price was obtained cannot be determined.  

Mr Lebovic was happy to sell to the town. 

As noted by Anna, the  ravine is the Arboretum. Because it had to be protected. 

But not  from the town apparently. 

Problems of access  on a hazardous bend on a heavily travelled  artery intended  as an industrial bypass for Yonge Street were acknowledged. The solution  suggested was to double the points of 
access and egress. 

"Remediation" of the site contributes substantially to cost of the project. 

A shelf had to be built on the side of their ravine to create a  building site. "Remediation not available  to private developers. 

As noted in Anna's  post,  reason given by the director for extra cost of hiring a project manager  is "soil problems"  "discovered" on the site .soil problems are discovered when a site is being excavated And only if  soil tests were not completed beforehand. 

It seems when a shelf is being constructed on the side of a ravine slope ,the problem might be more of  a landslide rather than an excavation. 



Almost a year  into the project it has been realized by staff that  architects, engineers and staff all  had their normal work loads to accomplish. Adequate supervision of the project could not  be provided at the same time. 

Well ...DUH !

Readers may re-call compelling urgency to approve this  project. 

call went out to invite candidates to fill  the vacant seat on Council to secure a majority. 

An exercise was undertaken with presentations from a number of candidates for a seat that did not have to be filled for three months. 

Two candidates said they would not accept compensation  for the task. Considering the timing the offer was reasonable. 

Don Constable , personal friend of Councillors was appointed. 

. When the  joint facility project was decided. Mr. Constable voted in favour  because " there was an urgent need". 

There never was an  argument about need..

Disagreement was about suitability of  location and  exorbitant cost. 

It seems full extent may not yet be known 

But revealing over-runs to correct" unanticipated soil problems " no longer  rest with he who was 
originally responsible. .

 Or the CAO who delegated responsibility. 

The latter has already flown the coop. 

The  former, no longer the Grand Pooh Bah. 

On hand  am I to answer questions needed to further clarify the idiosyncrasies 







Tuesday, 23 June 2015

NEITHER FISH ,NOR FOWL ,NOR GOOD RED HERRING.

Anna has a story of  total ineptitude on the  $26million joint parks and works facility project. 
Anna doesn't describe it that way.  It is my determination and was always my fear. The Mormac crew were intent on creating an apparatus that would serve their bidding with little regard for professional 

After the fact,the administration discovered required supervision of the $26million project would not be possible. 

After the fact of appointing Don Constable to fill the council vacancy to ensure a favorable vote for the project without a complete analysis. 

And after the  fact of the total screw-up of the Family Leisure Complex addition construction. 

My cataract surgery was completed last Tuesday. Three more weeks of eye drops and I'm good to go. 
I was actually good to go immediately after the surgery. 

Yesterday I  sat in a spot on Heather's driveway and  clearly saw two storks  with long legs and necks and small heads with long black beaks standing at the fountain at the rear of her garden. Weeks ago all I saw were indeterminate splatches of green. 

I had no idea how much my sight had faded.

 We live in wondrous times.

I took last week off from writing for comfort sake. 

I concluded I should stop writing the blog and start on the story of my Joust with Justice. 

But first I need to comment on a couple of things f

The media handling of John Tory's flip-flop on the police carding issue is worthy of note. 

Tory said he changed his mind  after listening to people and decided it could not be continue. He changed his mind again at the board meeting and voted to continue the procedure. 

Toronto's Mayor was  a right-hand man to former Premier William Davis. It was a puzzle that he could be so close to the power source and not understand that  police are governed by a body separate and apart from politics. 

I went into Wikipedia to  see if the Ontario Police Commission was still operating. It's a  body provides oversight and has authority of  the police function in Ontario.

 Come to think of it, I don't know why municipalities are responsible for providing police services, considering laws being enforced are provincial. 

I found an interesting  Wiki story about the Mayor of Peterborough being thrown off the Police Board because he was critical of the police.

 He defended himself with a lawyer. 

Said he had a duty to express his views on behalf of the people. 

The  OCPC  would have none of it. They  insisted he had to be thrown off because he had a legal right to be on the board. 

He  tried a couple of other moves to prevent it from happening. ....Like resigning. 

am not making this up. They said he had  undermined the police with public criticism.

They didn't say what he said ...Just that it should have been said in private. 

As a contrast,John Tory's criticism of the carding policy seemed not to call for attention. The media, the President of the Police Asociation, they seemed to tippy-toe around the situation. 

The Province had nothing  at all to say about it until after the  board vote was taken to confirm the carding policy. 

In another contrast the Ford brothers were unfailingly  and pointedly supportive of Toronto police. 

No matter how clumsily, inappropriately and repeatedly former Chief Bill Blair spoke of investigating wrong-doing by Mayor Ford that was never proven. 

Bill Blair lost his $400ks a year plus benefits galore job and still the media makes no reference to the  difference between Tory and  Ford in this matter. 

But days later, they made the comparison  between the political rivals in support and lack thereof for Gay Pride week and raising the Rainbow flag at city hall .