"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

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Next Chapter

It's about thirty months of knowing it's wrong and unable to do a thing about it. It's about having five councillors who support their leader no matter what. Their fate is tied.They have to believe, she who must be obeyed must be right.

Others found because I was the only one saying it and it is too incredible to believe that it could in fact be true Of course at some point I stop repeating what I know to be true. It's like spitting into the wind.

Like Shirley Valentine, kitchen wall and rock on a beach on an island in the Aegean Sea, I always have Blog for confidences.

Staff knew but it didn't matter a hill of beans what they said. She would do it anyway and they have the inhibiting factor of walking the plank, or more likely, being escorted from the premises.

Traditionally, municipal people have the next election to anticipate relief from change. There's an awareness of that between politicians and public servants. It doesn't always sit easy. Things are even less comfortable with four years in between. It's a long time to hold the fort.

It's ironic. No other level of government has fixed terms of four years. Stephen Harper passed a law to that effect and broke it within months. Both senior levels have the opportunity to caucus out of sight and sound. If they break the law, they can re-write the law to fit. If there's a serious challenge of confidence, they can call an election. If they generate scandal across the land, the opposition and the media go into full cry and judgment rests with the electorate.

Being alone on a particular issue is not unusual. It happened throughout my career. It was never lonesome. There were always people who trusted my judgement .Others who respected the fact I stood my ground. Always as now, they kept me informed of their support and encouragement.

Then of course, there was time. Time to prove I was right.

But I never said "I told you so." For one thing, it was no satisfaction. Being right and not being able to persuade others is failure of sorts in politics.The guys would have been testy if I had gloated over their error and there was always the need to nurture the working relationship.

I could never tell what I thought of their competence which was just as well because they were equally likely to say what they thought of mine.It would have been an undignified exchange at best from which nobody could emerge unscathed.

Not like this term. The Mayor and her coterie, now somewhat shrunken, made it clear from the start there would be no working relationship. Whoever did not fall into line would be punished accordingly. For six months I made the effort to influence that attitude. But all was for nought. Their resolve was unshakable. So and thus, they set me free. It's been bare knuckles ever since.

Last week I spent a number of hours calling every municipality in York Region and one other. I asked the same question of each: What is the process in your municipality for retaining and communicating with legal counsel?

The answer was the same. Administration advises Council when services are needed. Council authorises. Communication from that point is between administrative staff and counsel retained Occasionally, if the situation merits, there may be direct conference with Council.

In NO municipality does a member of Council have unlimited and private communication with lawyers at public expense.

Except in Aurora.

In No municipality does Council retain legal services independent of advice from the administration.

Except Aurora
In No municipality does the Council retain legal services for political expediency

Except in Aurora.

Not every municipality has an in house solicitor. Most have a roster of firms to deal with items of specific expertise.

Mayor of King, Margaret Black, who is herself a solicitor, may on occasion consult a lawyer. She pays the bill herself.

In Vaughan , members of Council each have an office expense budget. It's probably the same in Richmond Hill and Markham. Each Councillor exercises judgement about how they use the resource. They don't have to but they publish on line how it's spent..

Over the years, I have served on councils with seven different Mayors, including myself. Our practice of communicating with legal counsel has always been, as it currently is, in neighbouring regional municipalities.

The Administration advises.. Council authorises. Direct communications from that point are between staff and legal counsel with reports submitted from staff to Council when necessary.

Mayor Phylis Morris is the first Mayor in Aurora and the only one in the Region who habitually
retains lawyers for political expediency and converses directly with counsel on corporate legal matters.

There is no indication she pays the costs she generates for legal expenses. In fact, when she retained legal counsel to make a futile case of wrongdoing against the former Mayor, she adamantly stated she had no intention of using her own resources.Two solicitors were involved over a period of two years with council never at any time having the opportunity to view the correspondence.


Anonymous said...

so what can be done about this??

Can taxpayers demand that council refund the municipality for all the unncessary legal bills?

Anonymous said...

"Our town staff is hardworking,committed and conscientious in carrying out their responsibilities and duties on behalf of the Town. Their efforts are supported and greatly appreciated by Council. Your publications and statements appear to have unjustifiably and unnecessarily disparaged and maligned Town staff and must cease without delay."

It's clear from this that your comments were aimed at staff. Is this not the the case?

In today's blog you try to indicate that staff are being led by the nose by the Mayor and others and following willing in fear of losing their positions.

What exactly is your position on staff? If they are as innocent as I think you claim they are, then just remove the offending material. Since they weren't the target.

Anonymous said...

"60. The Minutes. The record of the proceedings of a deliberative assembly is usually called the Minutes, or the Record, or the Journal. The essentials of the record are as follows: (a) the kind of meeting, "regular" (or stated) or "special," or "adjourned regular" or "adjourned special"; (b) name of the assembly; (c) date of meeting and place, when it is not always the same; (d) the fact of the presence of the regular chairman and secretary, or in their absence the names of their substitutes, (e) whether the minutes of the previous meeting were approved, or their reading dispensed with, the dates of the meetings being given when it is customary to occasionally transact business at other than the regular business meetings; (f) all the main motions (except such as were withdrawn) and points of order and appeals, whether sustained or lost, and all other motions that were not lost or withdrawn; (g) and usually the hours of meeting and adjournment, when the meeting is solely for business. Generally the name is recorded of the member who introduced a main motion, but not of the seconder."

The above is from Robert's Rules of Order.

The reason I post it, is that there was some debate whether staff had recorded the minutes properly of the famous Sher St. Kitts address to council.

I haven't reviewed the meeting video, but I do remember more motions than that reflected in the minutes. I also remember a point of order regarding the 2/3 majority.

I also remember the Clerk answering that there is a majority when the Mayor asked if it was a 2/3's majority.

I would like to see the lawyer's opinion, in patricular what he has to say about the minutes and the 2/3 vote.