THE STOCKWELL REPORT
Earlier this week two long-awaited reports were presented to the Wasaga Beach Council, meeting as The Committee of the Whole. The first was a draft report of the Corporate Efficiency Review, and the second was from the Integrity Commissioner.
The draft report of the Corporate Efficiency Review of the Municipality was presented by Oscar Poloni, a partner in the firm of KPMG, Chartered Accountants. KPMG is highly respected in the field of municipal administration, and Mr. Poloni is well experienced in that field.
In Mr. Poloni`s covering letter that accompanies the report, he states, “As outlined in the RFP, the purpose of the review was to evaluate the organizational structure of the Town with the intention of identifying potential opportunities for the enhancement of operating efficiency and effectiveness. As outlined in further detail of the report, while the review has identified some courses of action that could be considered by the Town, the overall results of our analysis indicate that the Town currently operates with a highly degree of operating efficiency and effectiveness.”
Under the “Key Themes” section of the report it states, “Based on the results of our review, a number of themes have emerged concerning our conclusions as to the Town`s effectiveness and efficiency, which we summarize in this chapter.
The Town enjoys a strong financial position. Based on its most recent reported financial results, we consider the Town to be in a strong financial position, with meaningful surpluses that are funded through financial as opposed to non-financial assets. While the Town has taken on debt in connection with the acquisition of beachfront properties, we do not consider this to pose a significant challenge to its financial situation.”
This should ease the concerns of those citizens who constantly comment on social media of what they refer to as the present Council’s mishandling of the Town`s spending and that the future consists of huge tax increases.
During Mr. Polone`s presentation he commented that he clearly understood the reasoning behind the purchase of the beachfront properties and he too would have supported the position to do so at that time.
Mr. Poloni’s parting words were, “that in all my years of reviewing municipal operations, this Town’s operation is one of the best that I have seen.”
Council has now taken the report onto themselves and will no doubt be referring to it during the budget process.
The second presentation was from the Town`s Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze.
He submitted a letter stating that since his appointment in November of 2015, Wasaga Beach was one of his most active clients. He had 12 formal complaints in 2016 under the Code of Conduct, two of which are still in process and one which has been dismissed in confidence.
Two complaints were laid against the Deputy
Mayor that she generally does not show respect for Council in debating issues. One against the Mayor for silencing Council members in meetings, and three complaints against Yours Truly for “disrespectful comments” against the Deputy Mayor made in social media.
Two additional complaints were made against the Mayor for having meetings with prospective tenants contrary to the purchasing by-law while requests for proposals were out for bids and after proposals had been before Council.
After investigating the complaints the Commissioner agreed with the Town Solicitor that he had no jurisdiction in this area.
The last complaint to be dealt with in this report was a complaint against the Deputy Mayor which alleged that she failed to respond to a series of questions put to her by a constituent. It was the Commissioner`s opinion that it is the electorate who must judge whether a Councillor is diligent and not the Integrity Commissioner.
There are two complaints outstanding and are still in the process of being investigated.
Councillors had the opportunity to question the Commissioner on all matters, and, when it came to my turn, I stated that I totally agreed with members of the public having access to such a process, and having their identity protected in doing so. However, I had problems with members of Council taking other members of Council to the Commissioner, and remaining anonymous while those Councillors that have been accused are publicly named, even though the accusations against them were dismissed.
I pointed out that we are all politicians and must go back to the electorate for support, should we decide to run for re-election. At that time today’s report could be used against us, and I felt it was an unfair process. I also pointed out that the notice of dismissal of both accusations against me was sent to me marked “PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL”, leaving me no opportunity to publicly defend myself.
I also stated that it has always been my belief that complaints that members may have against other members should be taken to Council rather than the Integrity Commissioner. This is because Council is a forum for debate, and all members have the right to join into such a debate.
The Commissioner replied that he too thought it best for Councillors to bring such matters to Council, however, under the Municipal Act he must keep the names of all parties accusing members of Council private.
I then asked that if I went public, giving all details of any unfounded accusation against me, would he sanction me?
His answer was that he would not invoke sanctions against me for releasing details of failed complaints.
Councillor Belanger pointed out that Councillors who choose to file complaints under the Integrity Commissioner process were using taxpayers dollars to pay for that process.
So, when the dust was settled we are left with no change in the process. However, Councillors who have had other Councillors take them to the Integrity Commissioner, but failed to make their case, are now faced with both their accusations, and the defence of those accused, becoming released for all to see.
That just might do away with a number of Councillor vs. Councillor accusations being made in the future.