"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

Wednesday 31 December 2008


Hours remain of the old year. Knitting on the needles must be finished. Every corner of the house must be clear and clean as a whistle. Copper and brass must be polished and floors shining. In the past, there were not many corners or cupboards or much of anything else for that matter. But homemade wine, fruitcake, shortbread and being ready for the clock to strike at midnight filled the day with a sense of exhilaration and expectation.

Five years of war interrupted the age-old tradition. I left Scotland a couple of years after. Christmas was the mid-winter festival in England. For one reason or another New Year got short shrift in my house but projects were completed, the house was ready and shortbread fruitcake and suitable libations were on hand.

When the media took on a more prominent role in public affairs, looking back on the year's happenings and outstanding individuals featured in the news became an annual event. The media has the advantage of selecting what was meaningful and what was not.

Experience is undoubtedly a factor in my judgement but it's hard to see much positive in any review of 2008. Without doubt, the American Presidential election came out front and foremost. The entire world waited to see how events would unfold. It was history.

John McCain did not acquit himself in the campaign. One wonders, at a time that called for the best he had to offer, how did that man last as long in American politics? Did he lose his judgement overnight or was its absence obscured by the image of his "heroism"? How could a person of such limitation arrive at a time and place on the world stage with so little sense of what the task required?

Barack Obama on the other hand, was remarkably successful. So much so he seemed to be walking on water. He attained with limited background, the most powerful office in the world at a time when problems are as many and as bad as they could be. He has created great expectations. There is no room for hesitation let alone a false step.

So while the drama plays out on the world stage, at home we finish the knitting, clean every corner, polish the copper and brass to gleam in the flickering firelight. We clear out the rummage from the old year and cheerfully wish each other "All The Best in the New."

All we have to go on is hope, good cheer and being ready. Oddly enough, it seems to be enough.

Friday 19 December 2008

Code of Ethics

The Code of Conduct is in place. There appears to be a glimmer of understanding it is not the weapon hoped for. The process is straightforward but not simple. The cost is an annual retainer plus actual time spent dealing with a complaint at a rate commensurate with legal fees. We have not yet seen an agreement. No estimates are available. Suffice to say, it will not be cheap and whoever files a complaint will be responsible for the extra burden on the taxpayer.

The first requirement is for a complainant to sit down with the person complained against to discuss the complaint. The response may be an apology - or not. If not, the complainant must submit the complaint in writing, accompanied by an affidavit, to the Integrity Commissioner.

The Commissioner will decide if the matter is within his mandate. If so, the alleged offender is given ten days to respond to the written complaint.

Then complainant is required to respond in writing to the response within ten days of receiving it.

The person complaining is advised to obtain legal advice before making an allegation of a conflict of interest. I fancy it would be wise to consult with a solicitor before making any allegation of bad conduct against an elected official. Written allegations of wrongdoing could well be harmful to a person's character and reputation. It is unwise without giving serious consideration to potential consequences. Laws of Libel and Slander come to mind. Being complained about could very well become a complaint against a complainant.

Section 2 of the Code deals with Confidentiality. Breach of Confidentiality was the reason given for retaining George Rust-D’Eye to “investigate” a leak. The definition in The Code carries an interesting qualification - “If disclosed, could result in loss or damage to the Corporation.”

That phrase is a key distinction. I previously took up the question with our former Director of Corporate Affairs. More than once. What responsibility does a councillor have to keep decisions made behind closed doors secret, which do not cause “harm or loss to the Corporation”? The non- answer was, “That's a good question, Evelyn” Never fear, it is now stated in the Code. Stuff can only be kept secret if.it may cause harm or loss to the Corporation. I doubt that can be interpreted to cover the collective posteriors of elected or appointed officials.

Section 3 deals with Communications and Media relations. It states, “Members of council will accurately and adequately communicate the attitudes and decisions of council even if they disagree with the majority.” Now there's a tricky situation. My colleagues are not likely to appreciate my conjecture about why they made a particular decision .. I believe Rules of Order prohibit a councillor from interpreting another's reason. It might be uncomplimentary and that's a no-no.

Section 4 states, “Members of Council shall acknowledge and respect that staff work for the Town of Aurora as a corporate body and are responsible for making recommendations that reflect their professional expertise and corporate objectives without undue influence from any individual member.” There's more along those lines. It has a hollow ring considering events throughout this term of council.

How The Code might evolve from this point on could be very interesting.

Sunday 7 December 2008

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen..Let Nothing Ye Dismay

Jag Baduria is a name some readers may re-call. He was elected as a Liberal to Jean Chretien's government from a Markham riding. Certain embarrassing factors emerged later. Furious voters demanded he be unseated and a new election held. Instead he was expelled from the Liberal Party and isolated in Parliament.

In times past, a member so disgraced would automatically resign his seat. Our culture however continues to evolve and traditions fall by the wayside. Jag Baduria stayed put until the end of the term.

When he was expelled from the party a couple of Liberal MPs of colour accused their party of racial bias. He sought the nomination a second time. He still had supporters.

Comments to the Blog indicate dissatisfaction in Aurora with the state of things. People keep asking what can be done. The simple answer is - NOTHING - until the next opportunity to cast a vote.

No recommendation will be forthcoming from the provincial government to change a decision made by the voters in a duly certified election. We do not live in a Banana Republic.

In the face of lost confidence, a provincial or federal government is compelled to resign or, to avoid an election on top of an election, hand over to a majority coalition. This week in Ottawa, Prime Minister Harper had to ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament to avoid a confidence vote. It's only a stay of execution Either he learns to consult with her Majesty's Loyal Oppositions to ensure support for his policies or his fate will be sealed in January. Either way, he has lost face. His leadership days are numbered.

There is no forgiveness in politics. The game is played hard and for keeps. Every play is critical and chancy. It is not for neophytes , struggling intellects or namby-pamby personnas..

Joe Clark will forever be known as the shortest-serving Prime Minister, because he presented his first budget without ensuring enough government members were in their seats to support it. They had barely warmed the benches. The Liberal opposition, doing what an opposition is supposed to do, spotted the gaffe, called in their forces and the Clarke government was history. A new election was held and Liberals won again.

And so it goes.... Things used to be better at the municipal level. We elect nine people hopefully with independent judgement. We are not controlled by party discipline. Because we live among the people who elect us, communication flows.. Even easier now with Blog. If councillors have aspirations, it is wise to listen to tax-payers and be able to justify decisions. Our biggest current problem is the length of the term of office.

Our present situation dispels all logic. In the last election, we had several coalitions intent on electing candidates who would best serve their separate interests. The Coalition of Ratepayers was organised by Susan Walmer, campaign manager for mayoralty candidate Phyllis Morris. The election produced a majority block of councillors beholden to their leader. The Mayor did not win a majority at the polls but still fails to recognise the handicap.

Rampant power rests in the hands of one individual. There are no checks or balances, no rules; no separation between administrative authority and political imperative; no shame; no conscience; no sense of fairness or accountability; no perception of consequences and no relief for two more years. The price paid will be high.

Friday 5 December 2008

'Tis the Season!

In the little town of Aurora, stars on the Christmas tree lit up on Wednesday evening. Every year is more exciting than the last. The Salvation Army came with their band and we all sang carols for an hour.

Hot chocolate was served from the Sally Ann trailer. In the town hall, children made decorations for the tree. After the lights came on they climbed the stone wall and hung them on the branches.

Rosy-cheeked babies in strollers laughed and clapped hands with glee and called out to Santa. The Town Crier in his red and black medieval garb, vellum scroll and brass bell welcomed the season with loud acclaim.

Barbara Stoecklin looking every inch Mrs. Santa in her red mob cap, shiny gold rimmed glasses, sparkling eyes and beaming smile, invited the children to the Seniors’ Centre for freshly baked gingerbread and a reading of The Christmas Story.

Cars were parked as far as the eye could see on both sides of John West Way. The children were small, their parents young. Everything was exactly as it should be. The Sally Ann Kettle hung in a prominent place to gather funds for a kindly cause.

To see the Town Hall fullfill its every promises would have warmed former Mayor John West's heart. Grace Marsh, chairman of the initial T.O.A.S.T. committee would have shared his satisfaction in the super planning for the smallest among us.

The funds to purchase and strategically plant the courtyard tree, the focus of the evening's celebration, were raised by TOAST (Town of Aurora Staff Together).

The Christmas tree was their first project. For the past fifteen years they have been making their contribution to needs as they find them. They worked with P.A.C.T. (Police and Community Together) to make the Children's Safety Village at Bruce's Mill a reality and an amazing success.

This Christmas, town employee members of the committee will shop for thirty-two Aurora children who would otherwise not have a visit from Santa. They will provide a specially trained dog for a seventeen-year old girl who suffers from epilepsy. The need was urgent and TOAST took care of it.

The largest part of their fund-raising comes from an annual auction. In 2008, it was down two thousand dollars; no doubt a reflection of hard times.

TOAST is not the only caring organization in town, but it is an example of how people in an otherwise impersonal employment situation come together to create a family environment, look out for each other and anyone else who might need their help.

Like the Christmas tree lights, the seniors’ freshly baked gingerbread, the Salvation Army band and the kettle, they cast a long shadow in the lives that they touch.

Birth of the Code of Conduct (and other stuff)

I am never surprised but always intrigued to read the Mayor's responses in the media on any town issue. Last week's quotes on Code of Conduct were no exception. There was reference to lawyer George Rust-D'Eye having been retained to “investigate” after “privileged information was made public.”

The night he was retained, Mayor Morris refused to disclose precisely why. “Ah no, Councillor Buck. You will not drag me into that” she said in answer to my respectful inquiry.

The “leak” referred to above appeared three months after a decision was made behind closed doors. Mr. Rust-D' Eye never did ask if I was the source. Neither, I believe, was The Auroran queried.

Residents may recall the news story that council refused to sell land we had for sale to York Regional Police as a site for new York Regional Police Headquarters. Even now I shudder to contemplate what we lost.

The decision was made in September, following a meeting with the Chief of Police and the Regional Chairman. In November, there had still been no disclosure. Why would a leak take three months to filter out? Why, in that time frame, had the matter not been “reported out” as required by legislation governing public decisions made behind closed doors?

Fast forward twelve months; there is still no public record of the fact Council refused to sell land at the appraised value to the Region for a Central Police headquarters.

The Region and the Regional Police Department knew the facts. Why should it surprise anyone a story like that might be the talk of the town and eventually drift back to The Auroran.

From thence came an allegation of “a leak of privileged information.” The Mayor retained legal counsel to “investigate”. By -the-by we have no reason to believe the action was in accordance with Administrative Policy No. 50, the Town's Procurement Policy which governs how public funds shall be expended.

The night the decision was made not to sell the land the vote was four to three to direct the CAO to continue discussions leading to a sale. One councillor was absent. The Mayor voted against and created a tie thereby defeating the resolution.

Invariably, when an issue emerges which may reflect unfavourably on the Mayor and her loyal band, shouts of Mayor-Bashing are heard throughout the land. Lawyers are retained and the hunt is on to catch the dastardly villain who has failed to act with proper decorum and discretion. The focus of attention is redirected.

As a consequence, we now have a Code of Conduct. Staff spent time to research and write it. According to the Mayor, we spent an additional $4000 for a legal review of staff's work by Mr. Rust-D'Eye. I did not know that. We have retained an Integrity Commissioner to deal with complaints against councillors. We do not know specifics of the terms of his contract. But the Mayor already has a work schedule prepared outside of the complaint process.

In summation, A leak of privileged information was presumed. We retained legal counsel to “investigate”. Results of “the investigation” were never released. We paid a legal bill of $16,200. We did release Mr. Rust D'Eye's recommendations There were two; we could appoint an executive committee composed of all councillors except one or we could adopt a Code of Conduct with penalties for non-compliance.

Council directed staff to prepare a Code of Conduct. According to the mayor we then paid George Rust-D’Eye $4000 to review the document. Presumably, with wisdom and decorum, it was read, understood, signed by eight out of nine councillors and passed into legislation as a Town Bylaw. Even though., as it eventually transpired, it contained unenforceable requirements. So much for the $4000 worth of legal review.

Now the Mayor informs us in the media more tax dollars will be expended for the Integrity Commissioner to review the document again and “make amendments if necessary”

If the Mayor's quotes are accurate, directions have already been given to the new Integrity Commissioner without the authority of council If the Commissioner is not sufficiently aware of how a municipality functions to understand that a Mayor has no authority to act except through a resolution of council, can we realistically expect improvement over our current situation?

The saga continues to unfold.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

More Bafflegab

A legal opinion on our recently passed Code of Conduct is on hand. It was vetted behind closed doors before being released for public consumption. That's the weirdest thing!

Councillor Wilson was ecstatic. He read the final paragraph aloud and exultantly moved the recommendation be adopted. Mayor Morris prepared to call the vote. I asked for it to be repeated. It magically changed to a motion to receive as information.

A motion to receive simply means a record is noted.

The legal opinion by our interim solicitor notes there is "no tool available to force a councillor to take the physical course of action required under the Code."

The Code also states a councillor must read and understand it.

Councillor Wilson's excitement about the last paragraph and his motion to adopt a non-existent recommendation is a perfect illustration why that course of action cannot be enforced either.

Dire warnings of what might transpire with a councillor's refusal to sign are included in the legal opinion. "Conduct will be under close scrutiny by stakeholders" it claims. A complaint might be filed and an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner might mean it will be difficult to keep my seat on council.

Well you know, I can't believe any research was done to support that opinion. The right of the electorate to choose a representative without interference from any source is a principle held inviolate in Canada. It would take a very serious crime indeed to separate my posterior from my rightful place on council. I have no plans to become a sociopath any time soon.

So, in the first place, we have a bylaw which cannot be enforced because of ridiculous requirements. In the second, a convoluted legal opinion which acknowledges the fact. In the third, a councillor who reads a paragraph aloud in a public meeting and concludes it means something it does not. In the fourth Mayor Morris covered up his error and the fact the combined effort to coerce and intimidate is a bust.

I've posted the The Oath of Office that every elected official must swear before being allowed to take a seat on council. The Code of Conduct is on the town's web site. The opinion submitted to council by Ms. Maclean is also posted here.

Except for the Oath of Office, we have perfect examples of meaningless baffle-gab. I suspect the Mayor's heavy hand was involved in the Bylaw and the legal opinion.

I am no longer confident of receiving independent professional advice from town staff.

It's a sad state of affairs.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Likely Not the Last Word

Because I am a councillor, I have a ring-side seat to all that transpires at meetings of council. Because I have forty-five years of experience and all my wits about me still, I have a perspective on things which, despite my best efforts, is not always welcomed by colleagues.

When I recount in this space things said and done, it's because they were. They are part of the public discourse. People have a right to be aware and to decide for themselves what to make of it.

In the past, relaying information was the prerogative of the media. Times change. Ironically, I am often reminded of that by colleagues. as though I am least the likely to notice. Yet I am the one with the blog. My colleagues are the ones screaming foul.

When I recount an event, I am accused of Mayor-bashing and putting my own slant on town affairs.
Whose slant should it be in my writing?

I provided sections of the Town's Administrative Policy No. 50, to prove my contention that nothing was amiss in the payment to a contractor for a project he completed. The onus was on the other side to put forward the relevant sections of the policy that proved their opposite contention. They didn't do that.

Instead they fulminate against my character and reputation. They obsess about skullduggery behind the Aurora Citizen and insinuate nebulous ,nefarious crimes and misdemeanours against former Aurora Mayors and Councillors before the fortuitous arrival of Mayor Morris and her Merry Band.

It's Almost THAT Time Again!

Click on the picture to watch us dance!

I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up.

The same lawyer who attended to steer council and keep them in line on the night of the decision not to hold a Byelection to fill Grace's vacant seat. was retained to "investigate" whether the Town's Procurement Policy had been followed in the payment for bulkhead repairs at the new rec complex. I am aware of three meetings he attended. Other services were apparently provided between meetings, such as consulting with the Mayor. He did not consult with any staff member.

He brought a law student to one meeting . She made a record of what was being said.

The Director of Corporate Services did not object to her presence or that a record was being made.

At the third meeting, a labour lawyer from the same firm attended to give advice.I was not at that meeting.The following morning Mr. Rogers was escorted from the building.


It is my understanding councillors were placed on their honour not to share what happened with Councillor Collins Mrakas or myself.There is no record to check. Only decisions are recorded at in-camera meetings.

Rumour has it, the cost of legal services for this fishing expedition are in the range of $80,000. I do not doubt it.

You asked the question. You do the math.

Thursday 20 November 2008

We Are So Very Kind.

A delegate had a harrowing tale to tell at Tuesday's committee meeting.

In 2005, he experienced a time lag in an agreement prepared by our former solicitor. He said he finally had to write the agreement himself and objected to a $5,000. legal fee.

He said the agreement waived all fees and taxes and complained he was improperly charged $6,800 for a building permit He had been trying to get it refunded ever since and named various people he had approached without success. After the last election, he approached Mayor Morris who referred the matter to our former CAO. Still, he didn't get the money back. After Mr.Rogers departure, he once more approached the Mayor who referred the matter to Acting CAO Bob Panizza.

On Tuesday, Mr. Panizza offered several options to council to resolve the matter. Councillor MacEachern moved half the fee be returned to the delegate.The mayor moved to amend the
motion for the full fee be refunded. And so it was agreed.

"Ethics" were cited.

The town's Building Bylaw requires a Permit Fee be charged when a building is being constructed. No agreement can contravene a town Bylaw. The Bylaw could have been suspended to allow the fee to be waived. It was not.

A building permit fee recovers only the cost of service.

The Soccer Bubble is erected on a field behind the Aurora Legion. The town owns it.The Legion once owned it.

Legion properties are assessed like any other at market value. .The books show taxes owed by the Legion. Taxes paid by the Legion. And taxes rebated by the town.The Legion pay no taxes. We have two buildings on the Aurora Legion site not paying taxes,

The rest of us shoulder the tab for these two buildings In the amount of $32,000.. and rising every year.

The Soccer Bubble on former Legion property houses a business. After the agreement was signed and it was constructed, the property became commercial and liable for Regional and Board of Education taxes. Apparently that was not realised at the time of the agreement. Council did not learn of it until 2007

The taxes due this year were $56,000. Last year's were $54,000. The agreement is for fifteen years. Over that period , allowing for tax increases, the bubble will cost Aurora taxpayers almost a million dollars .

According to the delegate, Aurora Youth Soccer Association gets $100,000 free use of the facility each year.The agreement is tri-party with Aurora Youth Soccer as the third party.

The town has summer use of the Soccer Bubble. We pay for Hydro. And we pay the taxes.

This year ,from May to September, revenue from user fees was $5,800.Last year it was $3,400.

We receive $2.00 a year for lease of the land. Our expenditure of $56,000 plus for Hydro shows up as a line item in the Leisure Services Department budget.

Added to all that munificence, on Tuesday evening , we voted to refund the building permit fee in the amount of $6,800.

Staff advise it must be paid in the form of a grant.

How's that for generosity? With other people's money.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Funds are Not Missing

The impression continues to linger that $438,000 hard-earned taxpayers dollars have been misappropriated and that Council allowed it to happen.

It is not so.

Let me re-iterate - the money was paid by the town to the contractor who did corrective work on the new Rec Complex. Responsibility for the expenditure was acknowledged and liability accepted by the architects who designed the facility. The appropriate action has been taken by staff to recover the funds from the party responsible for incurring the cost.

Town staff did nothing except fulfill their responsibility. Council did not evade theirs. The circumstances are not unusual. There is nothing sinister about the process.

It is not surprising that people still believe public funds have gone astray and council was asleep at the switch. A formal statement issued by the town created that impression. The Mayor's comments supported the misinformation. The information was accepted by The Banner and a harsh and accusatory editorial was written. Now even more public funds are being spent in advertising to fend off the backlash.

Staff have been maligned. Reputations ripped to shreds. It's hard to see how that can be put right. Equally devastating is the underlying damage to the town's reputation for competence and integrity.

When an official of the corporation puts out a statement unsupported by the facts, how can the tax-paying public be expected to sort out fact from fiction?

The choice is simple; choose the version they prefer or the one which makes most sense or who has the most winning smile or great skill with baffle gab.

Aurora deserves better.

Light on the Subject

The Town's Procurement Policy is entitled Administration Policy No. 50. It was adopted on June 11, 1997 and revised on March 25,2003. There are thirty pages but it ends on page twenty-nine. That's just one of those little mysteries that happen occasionally.

The stuff relevant to the question of whether staff improperly authorized spending of $438,000 is on
page 17 - Section 4 - Clause C., under the heading Emergency Procurement; You'll have to scroll down to it as the Town's website doesn't let me link directly to that section.

Notwithstanding the provisions of this policy, the following shall only apply in case of an emergency, when an event occurs that is determined by a Department Head or the CAO to be:

  • a threat to public health
  • the maintenance of essential Town services
  • the welfare of persons or of public property or
  • the security of the Town's interests and the occurrence requires the immediate delivery of goods or services and time does not permit for competitive bids

The above criteria are to be applied on the basis of:
(i) Procurement under $50,000:
Wherever feasible, the Purchasing Co-ordinator, upon the recommendation of the Department Head, shall secure by the most open market procedure at the lowest obtainable price, any goods and services required.
A purchase order shall be issued.

(ii) Procurement Over $50,000:
The Department Head shall obtain the prior approval of the CAO.
An information report shall be submitted to Council explaining the actions taken and the reason(s) therefore.
A purchase order shall be issued.

As can be seen from the Memorandum of May 14th, 2007 (posted
in the Blog), Mayor and Council did receive a report outlining the circumstances. Three days later it went to the Leisure Services Committee and was then adopted at the second Council Meeting in May 2007. From the various factors noted in the memorandum, the matter was urgent. Immediate attention was required. Tenders were called, bids received and the contract issued by the architects who were the acknowledged responsible party.

There's more. Page 20 of the procurement policy has a section that relates to Reporting:

2. Council approval is required where the:

  • value of the goods and services is over $50,000, or
  • purchase is for vehicles or heavy equipment, or
  • purchasing policy is being waived, or
  • acquisition exceeds the approved capital budget amount by more than 10%, or
  • lowest responsive vendor submission is not being recommended, or
  • there was no provision in the budget for the item, or
  • CAO requests that a report be presented for Council consideration and approval
Based on the above criteria, a purchase order shall be issued and/or contract executed by the Mayor and Clerk in accordance to the reporting guidelines in this policy.

The expenditure did not exceed funds available in the capital budget. Funds were available. Responsibility had been acknowledged by the architects.

In light of the various factors, clearly the CAO did have authority to make the decision. The merits of the decision is established by the fact it was made by a management team of the CAO, Director of Finance and Director of Leisure Services.

Council was informed. Tenders were called and properly awarded. A purchasing order was issued. Good and services received by the town were to the value expended. At no time was the town's interest at risk.

I had been back on council four months after a considerable absence when the procurement policy was revised. It was thoroughly discussed. After years of involvement in a particular field, one acquires a sense of the rightness of things.

People sufficiently interested to read and comment need accurate information supported by documentation to make a judgement - particularly when written statements to the contrary to the facts are made and distributed by an official who certainly knows better.

In my judgement, something shameful and grossly unjust has happened at the hands of Aurora Council. Substantial public resources for legal services were expended to accomplish a cruel objective. It happened on my watch. I was not able to stop it. What I do here will not reverse it or correct it. Still a person must try.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive.

HEATHER'S NOTE: Memo is here.

I hear that people believe half a million dollars have been siphoned from the town treasury . The Banner obviously believes it. They wrote an editorial deploring the circumstances. If it's in print, how can the story not be true? Some people are saying it's a good thing Mayor Morris was there to uncover the dastardly deed.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Imagine what it's like to be falsely accused. Can the harm ever be undone? Was there malice aforethought? You betcha. If we follow logic, are we the people responsible for this injustice? ? Was it not done in our name by our elected representatives? What will it cost us?

On one side of my desk this morning, there's The Banner. On the other, various memorandum which establish the Machiavellian twists and turns of the story.

Councillor MacEachern is quoted in the paper that she found out about the matter by accident through the rumour mill.

The mayor said she "could not comment in detail due to litigation, only that the town's primary focus was in recovering $442,000 spent in contravention of municipal procedure and without council's knowledge"

Does that not suggest money was misappropriated?

"As soon as we discovered this had happened council took measures to review what had occurred and has since that time accepted the advice of legal council," Mrs. Morris said.

Does that not suggest criminal wrongdoing?

That last comment about council taking measures to review what occurred and accepting the advice of legal counsel refers to stuff that happened behind closed doors.It is clearly offered as evidence of due diligence. There is no record of what they did. But I am glad it was mentioned. It leaves me free to reveal that I did make a record . I submitted a written statement expressing, more or less, my repugnance for what they were doing and how they were doing it and disassociating myself from their actions.

I forwarded it to the Director of Corporate Services and asked for it to be distributed to the Mayor and Councillors, three Officers of the Corporation and the lawyer retained by Mayor Morris to conduct "an investigation" along the lines of her direction.

But that's not all; there's a copy of a memorandum dated May 14th 2007 submitted to the Mayor and Members of Council, with copies to various Officers of the Corporation advising them exactly the circumstances of a deficiency in the new rec complex. How it was detected, how it was to be corrected and that it was acknowledged by the architects as a design deficiency which would be funded through the architects' insurance provider.Cost was not relevant because at tha time ,it was not the the town's responsibility..

Three days later, the same memorandum was submitted to the Leisure Services Advisory Committee, chaired by Councillor MacEachern and attended by Mayor Morris. It was subsequently included in a report to Council.

When I can figure out how to scan it and post it in the Blog, I will do so, as evidence for the defence. It is a public document and can be found on the Town's web site in the record of committee or council minutes.

I plan to get a copy of the Procurement Policy as well and let you know what that says.

Sunday 16 November 2008

What Can We Do?

Anonymous comment : (November 16, 2008 10:39 AM)

Yes, the Mayor does have a hit list. Once she's done decimating the town hall I wonder what her next goal will be. World domination? She's like a crazy comic book villain. Hard to believe she thinks she can really do these things. How do we stop her?

It is not hard to believe at all. She is doing it. How do we stop her? The gelatinous council is an unlikely resource.

There is no Chief Administrative Officer. It is that officer's responsibility to stand between the town's employees and politicians who don't know their ankle bone from a hole in the ground.

There is no solicitor to receive a complaint of harassment.

In a matter of days, the Director of Corporate Services will be a person with no background whatsoever in the town's affairs.

The Manager of Human Resources might be the person to go to for advice on unfair labour practice. But she is absent on long term disability leave.

There is the Code of Conduct. It has a clause that prohibits politicians from harassing employees, but since the persons doing the bullying and intimidation, are the ones who passed the Code of Conduct, I wouldn't put much store on that instrument.

The only other resource I can suggest is The Ministry of Municipal Affairs . They may have some responsibility. They are the ones who gave us the four year term of office. At the very least, they should be made aware of the negative impact of the change in this particular neck of the woods.

In the meantime we will just keep letting people know what's going on in their name, behind the scenes in the Aurora Town Hall.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Behind Closed Doors

Before this council term, in-camera meetings were occasional with perhaps one or two items on the agenda. Now, it's a regular event and the agenda grows ever longer. There are often items on the list which in my view, do not belong behind closed doors.

In the "Report Out" last week I chose a sample. Job evaluations are an administrative function. I said so behind closed doors. Not so, said the Mayor." Council is responsible.We need to be concerned about the taxpayers' dollar." The Mayor claims expertise in the field of job evaluations as well as all other credentials.

When the Agenda came up for approval in council, I repeated my position publicly. The Mayor called upon the Director of Corporate Services to "explain" to Councillor Buck why I was wrong. Mr. Panizza stated identifiable individuals could be discussed. I recall no names being mentioned.

With a block of votes aligned behind the Mayor, there's little purpose in pursuing any debate beyond a certain point. It's like spitting into the wind.

The fact remains, job evaluations are a function of the administration. The exercise is not about individuals. It is about jobs. The objective is to ensure equity.The process was mandated when the province committed to pay equity for women in the workplace several years ago.

The Mayor's failure to comprehend illustrates perfectly, why politicians should not be involved in the process. Ideally they should understand the purpose but there is nothing in the Elections Act that guarantees intellectual competence or even reading comprehension. That judgement rests entirely with the electorate.

Last Tuesday, staff held a Retirement Celebration for the Director of Corporate Services. His was a ring side seat for events of the past two years plus.. Notably the determined efforts of Mayor Morris, aligned with Councillor MacEachern to undermine the authority of our former Chief Administrative Officer John Rogers. In short to make his life a living hell.

On appointment, Mr. Rogers made a contract with the town which called for settlement if the association between the parties came to an end. The agreement would be void if Mr. Rogers resigned of his own accord or was terminated for cause

There could be little doubt in the mind of anyone witnessing the ongoing efforts to denigrate and humiliate the CAO, of the consequences of failing to obey the Mayor
without question.. Mr. Rogers was spared nothing. Yet he endured.

Nothing daunted, the doughty pair, Morris and her chief cohort, proceeded to the second option. They were only half successful. Mr. Rogers did eventually leave the Town Hall under escort but WITH the settlement from his contract secure.

We are now witnessing the final effort to obscure the reality of how the evil plot was accomplished; THE REPORT OF UNAUTHORISED SPENDING.

The time I spend at the town hall is limited mostly to Council and Council-in-Committee meetings. Dates and times are set by Bylaw to deal with the Corporation's business. Unless something useful is being accomplished, I do not stay beyond the hour of adjournment
.I do not attend in camera meetings if I believe items are improperly being addressed in secret..

Since Mr. Roger's departure, agendas are substantially less.. Staff reports have undergone a metamorphosis and not for the better. I am told the town hall is like a morgue. Now we hear through comments to Blog, Councillor Wilson spends time in various departments directing tirades against individual staff members. I do not doubt it.

Rumour has it the Mayor has informed staff she has a list of people who will be gone before the end of this term and others should be careful of their associations

If only a fraction of what I hear is true, Aurora Town Hall is a workplace from Hell. The gelatinous make-up of council makes change impossible. Being a part of it, knowing what is going on and being powerless to change it, is a hard row to hoe.

But it helps to talk about it and know you are listening.

Friday 14 November 2008

A Reader Answers Her Own Question.

A reader asks why the town was liable to pay out a settlement to former Chief Administrative Officer at the time of termination. Should the account of unauthorised spending not be cause for termination and therefore cancel the employment contract?

Despite an elaborate and contrived smokescreen. people are not persuaded.My reader has answered her own question.

If there was cause for termination, there was no requirement for settlement. If there was settlement there was no cause for termination.

There was a settlement.

There is also transparency. You just must trust your own judgement. If an official account of events doesn't sound credible ... it isn't.

Two More Questions. Answers Not Mine To Give..

Anonymous said... (November 14, 2008 11:43 AM )

It is interesting how this story has two different perspectives in the press.

In The Auroran, the focus of the story is this is why the CAO was escorted from the Town's offices and dismissed. In The Banner, the story never mentions the CAO by name or title and refers to the entire matter as "Staff".

In reading Ms. Buck's account, and if it is factual, I have a couple of questions.

1. Why was only the CAO terminated and not the other directors that made decisions to pay the contractors?

2. Why is the CAO not suing for unlawful dismissal (maybe he is) because it certainly seems to me that he (and other senior staff) performed their duties as they should?

Clearly there is a paper trail indicating that there was fault accepted by the architechs. Whether their insurance covers it or not, they are responsible to pay the costs that have been accrued. I understand perfectly why the payment to the contractor was made, what else could they do. My only caveat to that would be about making sure the council of the day was aware of what was going on and that a cheque had to be cut.

Clearly this is an example of the responsibilities of staff versus council. Council is there to create policy. Staff is there to implement said policies. It does not surprise me that once Phyllis got involved, things go off the tracks.

These Two Questions I Cannot answer.

1. The decision to terminate was not mine.

2, The consequences of media revelations and the contradictions therein are as yet unknown.

3. My account is a matter of record. You have already made the choice of which makes sense and which does not.

Since writing the above, I recall a question I asked at the table during deliberations of the judgement and authority exercised in making the payment for the bulkhead repairs. As Mayor, I signed every cheque issued by the town..Even though it may not be manually signed. the signature is necessary for the cheque to be honoured. .

The Mayor is equally responsible with the Chief Financial Officer for all cheques issued on the treasury .I would argue therefore the Mayor's signature is certainly sufficient authority for the payment to be made. If she does not know what cheques are issued under her signature, she certainly ought to. My question was not answered.

Anonymous and Nasty

A particularly odious comment came through a couple of days ago. I rejected it immediately. But I want this disgusting human being to know that I know who he is.

He repeats that he writes anonymously out of fear. In other words, he is a coward and afraid of what I might do to him.

He does not disguise himself well. I can hear his namby-pamby voice whining in righteous and constant complaint.

As long as he continues to send vile comments, he does well to fear me because I will continue to carve small slivers out of his hide.

I do not pretend to be righteous. I take immense satisfaction in skewering people like him when they stray into my space.

Old is not neccessarily fragile, sugary or spicey. Old can be spiteful like any other age.

You Asked.

A reader would like my take on the Bulkhead issue at the new rec complex. I have not seen The Banner story. Reporter Sean Pierce called me yesterday to get a better understanding of the situation. I answered the questions I could, without breaching the privacy of our former CAO.

Here's how it was :

The arena was completed and in use. Condensation was forming on the ceiling and dripping on the ice. The ice became pitted .That is not a good thing. Staff determined the problem was warm air leaking into the space above the cold air of the arena.

Staff did an excellent job negotiating a contract with the Roger Neilsen Hockey School to our beautiful new facilities. The revenue would go a long way to reducing an anticipated deficit of $350.000 in the operation of the pool. Closing the facility until the problem was corrected was not an option.

The Hockey School would have gone elsewhere.

The architects acknowledged a design flaw and committed to correct the problem. Mistakes happen and they had liability insurance The town's interest was never at risk.

The complex had been completed under budget.

The architects , true to their word,designed the change, wrote specs and tendered the contract. The contract was let and work was completed efficiently and on time. Problem solved. Roger Neilsen's Hockey School continued uninterrupted .

The architect's insurance company denied liability.

The contractor had in good faith, completed the project. Tradesmen and suppliers had been paid. If he did not receive payment,his option would be a lien against the property he worked on and legal action.

Our management team, Chief Administrative Officer John Rogers, Chief Financial Officer John Gutteridge and Leisure Services Director Al Downey conferred and determined the contractor should be paid. The circumstance was similar to a change order and was processed as normal financial management of a construction project.

Staff did their due diligence The next step in the process to obtain the funds from the architects. was through the town's legal department.The architects had, remember, acknowledged their responsibility in writing and accepted liability.

The town's legal department took over. Politicians are regularly reminded that in legal matters they should clam up. It is not in the Corporations interest for politicians to mix in to legal matters. All hell can break loose.

But in this matter, in my view , everything staff did was logical and in order.

Time passed. A new council had been elected with minimal collective experience. Some of them decided they should know about legal issues on hand. Now we are seeing the consequences.

I have never known politicians who deliberately set about creating enemies and bad guys to make themselves look like heroes. Especially against the public service. Politicians under attack can fight back. Ergo Blog.

Attacking the public service is like shooting fish in a barrel..They can't shoot back. It isn't even good strategy. Politicians never escape blame or responsibility , no matter how many gobbledy-gook lawyers they hire to do their bidding .In this instance, in my view, they contrived wrongdoing by staff for their own ulterior purpose.

There is always a time of reckoning. Dirty stuff acquires an aroma. Dogs find it and dig it up.

The people will have the last word. But not soon enough to prevent or undo the harm. Our administration is decimated and demoralized. and I believe the worst is yet to come.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Debate Continues on the Phone Logs

Anonymous said...
Councilor Buck, I agree with you there shouldn't be a problem with monitoring outgoing or incoming calls to prevent abuse. Where we part company is in your definition of abuse. The abuse you refer to originating from the Councilors Town hall phones amounted to about $35 over a period of 2 years for all 8 phone lines.

I see that all reports and comments on this matter refer to "the former Mayor". There can only be one "the former Mayor" at this time, so let's call it as it is - the former Mayor Tim Jones took it upon himself to instruct staff to provide him with a log of all incoming and outgoing phone calls from the Councilor's phones. If determining the source of this rampant abuse was the only factor, me thinks the former Mayor Tim Jones should have consulted his fellow councilors before beginning his surveillance.

Is this an invasion of privacy? Apparently not. Should it be. I would say yes. Police require a warrant before they install a number recorder on a phone. I don't see this as any different. What distinguishes surveillance from routine office administration is the purpose for which it was carried out.

I believe a communication begins the moment a number is dialed. Vital information can be gathered from this data - who's calling who and when. The courts and police recognize this as well. Do you think maybe the former Mayor Tim Jones saw the same opportunity? Some will have you believe the former Mayor only did this for 2 years because he wanted to save $35.

PS. Wasn't it during this time that staff had determined that about $500K of repairs to the ARC were required? Did the former Mayor know about any of this? Maybe not, he was hot on the trail of $35 worth of unauthorized long distance calls.

Thanks for providing your perspective on the issue of phone log monitoring. A couple of other things were going on at the time that contribute to my own slant on the matter.

It was apparent the Councillors' rooms were barely used and therefore to my mind a waste of space. We have young staff in Aurora. Some starting families and others with pre-school children.

Because we are small, we have difficulty competing with the salaries of larger municipalities. It occurred to me, providing space for child care would encourage our employees to stay with us. At the time, there was talk of government support for outfitting child care centres by employers.

I think staff are the most valuable asset of any organisation.Continually replacing and training young professionals is not conducive to a productive workplace. We were in effect providing a training centre for our neighbours.

I moved a motion that council consider the possibility of changing the use of the councillors' rooms and staff investigate the possibility of creating a child care service. I was not aware of the phone monitoring but apparently it proved my point the rooms were not being used . The motion failed for lack of support..

On another occasion,I became aware of a circumstance with potential for abuse. I alerted the Mayor and apparently because of phone monitoring, it proved not to be a concern. No more needed to be said then or now.

You noted phone abuse amounted to $35, I did not know that. You draw a comparison to thousands of dollars of repairs needed to the Aurora Recreation Complex and suggest the Mayor failed in his responsibility. The two are not comparable.

I note the cost of phone monitoring was not measurable. Yet it did establish certain facts.

On the other hand, legal costs as yet undisclosed, to pursue a political vendetta against a defeated rival will no doubt be considerable . As seen in the "reporting out" nothing was accomplished.

I respectfully advised the Mayor from the beginning this action would be seen for what it was and using town resources to pursue a personal vendetta would not be well-received by the taxpaying public. Nor should it.

years ago,as a brand new politician, I myself received a reproachful admonition;

"When you throw mud... some of it always sticks"

You may be right and I may not. Time will tell.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Questions and Answers.

1. A resident can ask for particulars of any expenditure..You certainly have that right. It was your money they spent on legal fees. I will be interested to hear the response you receive. You could also ask for an investigation of why the matter was discussed behind closed doors. If there was any likelihood of litigation against the town. it would have to have been taken by she who believed her privacy had been invaded.

These legal costs are new during this term. In the first budget, the Chief Financial Officer proposed a new line be added to the Budget for Mayor and Council The Mayor and Councillor MacEachern objected to that. The CFO was directed to include these new costs in the Legal Department Budget.

I have asked for details of costs incurred this way to date this year. I received invoices of general matters normally handled by the legal department.I have yet to receive those incurred for lawyers retained by the Mayor. Except for the $16,200 paid to George Rust D"Eye. There have been others besides the telephone log issue..

The Mayor's often states I am the reason for the need for frequent legal advice. To save the Town from litigation as a result of comments I make as spokesperson for the people who elected me.

I am informed a list of complaints is currently being compiled against me under the Code of Conduct. Fees for the Integrity Commiissioner's time will match legal fees.They will also come out of your pocket.

2. The York District Separate School Board is aware of exemption from Cash in Lieu of Parkland. That's the reason the request was made....twice.

At the time, I was not aware of the town's authority to exempt public bodies. It simply made sense to me that taxing a body with the same source of revenue we do, would be double dipping into the same pockets.

I do not know why it is so hard for common sense to prevail.

Originally, four members of this council opposed this school being built. The logic? School Boards do not pay taxes. Taxpayers should not have the burden of carrying another school that doesn't pay taxes and doesn't provide jobs.

The Board had already assembled the land and spent Lord alone knows how much on the project. Planning staff were recommending the site plan. Soil tests were underway. Years of work had probably been done to bring the project to this stage. And half of Aurora council was ready to refuse the permit

Elizabeth Crowe had to assemble parents with spokespersons from each separate school and Father Don Maclean the parish priest to come to council and stress the urgent need for the school to be built.

A few weeks later, the same councillors were ready to mount the battlements to fight the the public school board's plan to close Dr. G.W.Williams High School. The argument then was turned around . Closing that school would have a detrimental effect on the local business economy.

In forty-five years,I have heard some weird and wonderful arguments on various councils. But this group really takes the cake.

Thank you for asking. It helps to talk about it.


My Dilemna

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Crowe our Separate School Trustee, came to Council in Committee to ask for exemption from Cash in Lieu of Parkland levy of almost half a million dollars. An offer of land for a park was made.The new high school will have substantial outdoor sports facilities.YorkSeparate School Board has always generously shared facilities with the town.

I argued the request was reasonable. At the Mayor's invitation, John Gutteridge CFO said the money had to be collected under provincial legislation. Al Downey, Leisure Service Director, said he would rather have the money than the land.The request was refused.

At the following Council meeting, I presented further arguments to support the request.
Again the Mayor invited Mr. Gutteridge to respond. Again he assured council there was no alternative to collecting cash-in-lieu. Legislation requires it.

I subsequently received a copy of a Bylaw of the Town of Halton Hills. Section 2 sets out exemptions to the policy established under the Planning Act for the collection of Cash-in-Lieu of parkland. They apply to various agencies starting with the town and local boards. The list includes the Region,both School Boards, Hydro-Electric Commission, Hospitals, Province.Nation,Places of Worship,non-residential farm buildings and expansions to commercial and industrial buildings less than 25% of a sites buildable area.

The Bylaw is six years old. The exemptions have been in effect since at least that time. .

I forwarded my copy of the Bylaw to Aurora's Director of Corporate Services, Bob Panizza. He is Acting Chief Administrative Officer at this time. I waited for the misinformation to Council to be withdrawn and an adjustment made. It never happened.

Now the dilemna is mine. A negative decision has been made based on inaccurate information. New home owners will pay the development charge levied by the town. They will pay for land for a park in their neighbourhood. They will pay again in the development charge levied by the Separate School Board for Cash-in-lieu of parkland .A school does not bring new students to the town and create a need for parkland. Residences do.

If a private corporation double charged like that, there would undoubtedly be a name for the practice.. Not a nice one. But we are a municipal corporation. Our sole reason for being is to serve the residents and to protect their interest.

Just because we can stick it to them twice, doesn't mean we should. I said all that in debate.Under the procedure bylaw the question cannot be re-introduced for six months.

It has been the pattern during this council for the Presiding Member to direct staff to refute debating points made by a Councillor. Particularly moi. We even had a lawyer at the table during the debate on the issue of a by-election to fill the vacancy left by Grace March's resignation. He was apparently there to ensure the decision went exactly the way the presiding Member intended.

I have regularly expressed opposition to the practice of inviting staff to participate in political debate. Just as regularly my point fails to register. Couple that with the usual voting pattern and democracy is clearly at risk in the Town of Aurora.

The Town of Richmond Hill also has a Bylaw which exempts public agencies from the requirement to pay Cash-in-Lieu of parkland. The information is as close as the telephone or Richmond Hill's web site.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

The Secret Formula?

The simple answer to the last "anonymous" question, why did Tim Jones lose the last election is that he didn't win enough votes.

I am not much given to post-mortems on election victories or defeats. What is, is. There can be as many reasons as there are voters or grains of sand or hairs on the head. There is no going back.

I left Council-in Committee lickety-split last Tuesday. World history was being made to the south of us . I intended to watch it .

I was in Scotland when Bob Rae was elected in Ontario and again when Tony Blair was elected in the U.K. They were times of high drama..

A friend sent me the Toronto Dailies when Rae became Premier. I was here and on the Police Services Board, when he legislated Rae days to help with the economic crisis and avoid cutting jobs in the public service. Sid Ryan, leader of the public service union brought about his defeat. It was probably then he realised the New Democrats are not a real political party. I think Stephen Lewis realised it when his father David was betrayed.Ed Broadbent was a bitter man after the 1989 election despite the fact he brought the seats in Parliament to an all-time high,

When Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister in the U.K. I was asked what I thought of him. All I knew was that he was young and not cut from the same cloth as other Labour Party leaders. I remember saying that if he accomplished what he promised, he would be a great leader.

In the first years he made good progress. Then, incredibly, he followed President George Bush into Iraq and was eventually forced from office in repudiation.

I watched Barack Obama making his way. I supported Hilary. I respected her hard work, intelligence and raw courage. No candidate could be more aware how brutal the task. She made the right preparations and looked like she would surmount the insurmountable. That too would have been a historic event. She contributed substantially to Obama's victory.

When Barack Obama mimicked the cadence and quaver of the voice of the late Martyr Martin Luther King ;when he strode down a platform ,microphone in hand and told the emotional crowd he had talked to Jesus. my blood ran cold. He clearly intended reaching into people's hearts.Did he have so little to offer he had to borrow elsewhere?

I never saw that blood-chilling exercise repeated. Catastrophic events unfolded in his favour. His performance was awesome. His rival's, by contrast was as ignominious as Obama's was almost flawless.

So now, he is President-Elect. Throughout the world, people have taken heart and found hope. Can this man with so little experience make the difference? If goodwill has currency, yes he can.

Inexperience may be his greatest asset. It means doing things because you don't know any reason why you shouldn't.

Now the restraints begin and inevitable realisation of why he can't. In the meantime, in the flush of success , triumph of optimism and wise counsel he may well accomplish great things.

We wish him safe passage. We shall hold our breath.

Phone Logs and Vote Counts

Anonymous asks for my thoughts on Town Hall phone logs being monitored .It concerns me not. I never used Town Hall phones. I was never engaged in any covert activity that needed to be kept a deep and deadly secret. If I had, I believe I would have used my own home phone.

Councillors' phones at the Town Hall were in an unsecured room. There was potential for abuse. When it was explained there had been overseas long distance calls made and traced, the fact of their monitoring made sense to me. I had no reason for concern that my privacy was being invaded. I did not agree to authorise the Mayor to retain legal counsel at taxpayers' expense to advise on the matter.

It is almost two years that the item has been kicking around in camera and talked about in public. Two lawyers have advised. Neither concluded an invasion of privacy. Even if there was, legal action would not succeed because no harm could be proven.The cost of the exercise has not been shared with Council No written advice has ever been circulated.

Last night , the issue was" reported out". The expression is used when it is deemed appropriate to let the public in on in camera deliberations. Apparently, all they need to know is that phone monitoring took place and will not happen again. How's that for openness, transparency and accountability?

Monitoring phones to ensure town resources are not being abused seems a sensible idea. On the other hand, inflating the issue to invasion of privacy and spending public money to prove a case of wrong-doing against a political rival and failing that,ultimately sweeping the whole thing under the rug with an innocuous comment for public consumption is considerably less palatable in my view.

The second part of anonymous' question deals with my political support for the rival candidate for the office of Mayor in the last election.The claim is Aurora did not support him. Mais non , mon ami.. His vote was not far behind. But since you have resurrectedthe issue, it may be worth noting a considerable majority of voters did not support the successful candidate.

Agreed.... Il ne fait pas de difference maintenant......So .... What's up Doc?

Monday 10 November 2008

What's Up Doc?

A reader seeks to understand the ruckus about the appointment to a temporary support position with the town on a fee for service basis. "What damage is being done?" she asked.

The controversy was about the manner of the appointment. The need arose from a resignation. Weeks were left for the task of administrative assistant to the Director of Finance. The person recommended for the position was a member of the town committee appointed to oversee, among other things, the creation of a management structure for the Arts and Culture Centre at the Church Street school.

There was no competition, for the job and no documentation of credentials. The individual chosen was an open and active supporter of the Mayor in her election campaign and a friend of long-standing.

Subsequently, there was a flurry of public commentary questioning the propriety. The issue died down with the Mayor's statement that a decision to accept the appointment had not been made ..

Weeks later, it occurred to me, council had not been informed of the status. The need for assistance had been urgent. Hence suspension of normal process. I had not yet seen a notice of acceptance or resignation from the committee by the member.

I inquired of staff. There had been none, I learned. I raised the question publicly.

That's when the fecal matter hit the fan. I was bitterly accused of all manner of villainy by the Mayor and several cohorts, Councillor Wilson in particular.

As it transpires, there is no record of appointment or resignation. The person did accept the position and simply stopped attending meetings as a member, while attending as a resource person receiving pay for service.

From my perspective, there is clear and obvious risk of Conflict of Interest. I indicated a legal opinion was required... The mayor ruled instead that I needed to submit a resolution to that effect.

In public affairs, there is a maxim tried and true:

"It is not enough for things to be right. They have to appear to be right"

A great noisy ruckus is one way to deflect attention from the facts when things do not appear to be right..

Sunday 9 November 2008

A Flippant Response

Heather Sisman is a friend. She is equidistant in age between my youngest child and oldest grandchild. Sismans were a founding family in Aurora. We became friends when I discovered she was a close neighbour. She has a proprietary interest in the town although she grew up in Newmarket . She is keeper of her family's history. I have an interest in Sisman's as part of the town's history. There may come a time when she will put her name forward to serve.

At the time we became acquainted, I had just acquired the web site and was contemplating a Blog. I knew very little . Heather knew lots. It was an exciting prospect and I was more than happy to have assistance in its creation.

Heather created her own Blog and linked it to mine.She is mostly content with that. But now and then she strays into my territory. As when she made a recent joking comment about men. It was a flippant response to a reader's question. . Had she asked me, I would have said no... It is not a sentiment I share and undoubtedly someone would take it seriously.

Five of the men who lived in my house are my sons, fathers of my seventeen grandchildren. Heather and Theresa are my daughters also mothers of grandchildren.Of the total grandchildren,ten are sons and seven daughters.

Mr. Buck and I have not shared a home for thirty-two years. He joins us when the family is together and on other occasions.

My girls and I are in daily contact. Blog is a mutual interest. It makes for vigorous conversation.

Some of my grandchildren are already in their twenties. They share their experiences as I do mine
New partnerships bring new personalities into the family.. A new generation has begun and already there are great-grandchildren. Two of whom are delightful little girl children and twins are on the way. Life continues to excite me.

The question about men in our lives was posed. in a comment..It was odd and frankly, nosey.Yet an answer would have been conspicuous by its absence. I am assuming the interest was friendly. There is nothing about my family that does not make me feel blessed and thankful. And that I think, is all anyone needs to know.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Editor's Note

We have a tie vote in the house. My daughter Heather and associate Heather believe that all posts should be published; the good with the bad. My daughter Theresa and myself are not convinced it is conducive to civilized debate.

When I am called names and insulted, my inclination is to give as good as I get. I do not claim to be a paragon of virtue but I like who I am and where I am at.

The written word is more powerful than that spoken. The impact of nastiness and absence of logic is magnified when read. It strikes a discordant note and brings down the tone.

When I started the Blog I hoped people would participate and benefit from considering differing thoughts and opinions. It happened and I relish the freedom to post my perspective on anything and everything. Never did I dream I would have this opportunity.

Once I made my friend Ron Wallace, Former Editor of The Aurora Banner angry when I wrote a satirical letter to Santa yearning for my own newspaper. He was certain I was being critical.

I always swithered about which activity gave me greatest satisfaction; being involved in the decision-making process or relaying the word about town business. Now I am doing both.

But letting people abuse me in my own space is not contributing to the Blog. It adds nothing . It takes away. I am cutting it off.

People wishing to engage are more than welcome. Contributors are free to express themselves however they choose, so long as there is respect. You would not come into my home and insult me. If your hostility knows no bounds, then be a good guest and stay out of my space.

I was not comfortable when I posted the hate letter. I took it out after I posted it. Heather Sisman thought it had been lost and re-posted it.But it really was a disgusting piece of work. I think the resident flighty wrote it. It's too much effort to go back and remove all the nasties. But from now on abusive comments will be rejected unless there's a smidgen of logic contained therein.

I also wish for the sake of balance,there were more positive things to write about. Posting gaps occur because I am conscious of the negative. But I have no control over how council functions. I must write about stuff you need to know or not write. I have no options. Polly Anna I am not.

Monday 3 November 2008

Allow Me To Explain

Several people responding to the Hanky- Panky Blog were unclear how and where the discussion came about. Though it was apparently not a hindrance to suggesting another time and place out of the public eye.

It happened at an Aurora Planning Board Meeting. The agenda item was a site plan proposal for three lots on Wellington Street. A single site plan for three separate lots is not the norm.

The house in question is a former vintage home currently used as a Spa but named as an Inn. Two rooms upstairs can be used for spa services. If memory serves me right a "Stop Work" order had to be issued against the owner previously for doing alterations without a permit. The site plan application is to allow the same rooms, plus two , to be used as "overnight accommodation".

It is my responsibility, as a Councillor, to understand a proposed change of use. I am part of the approving authority.

The term "Overnight Accommodation" covers shelter variously described in the town's Zoning Bylaw. Four rooms furnished with beds and showers upstairs to a spa in a vintage home on Wellington Street mere yards from the central intersection of Town is not one.

Had the use been accepted as presented and approved by council, a new zoning definition would be created by default. In my judgement, it would not be a good thing. I needed to emphasise the point. I know of no better way than pointing out potential illegal use of "Overnight Accommodation"

My debating skills are the result of many years of practice. They are apparently acceptable to those who trust me to represent them. I am not about to change to suit a bunch of prissy misses who regard themselves, with no justification, as arbiters of taste, function and legality in the Art of Politics.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Not To Worry

Several phone calls came in after Council aired on Cable last week. It happens after the gang goes berserk and beats up on me. People sense I might need re-assurance so they call to tell me to keep doing what I am doing. The encouragement is much appreciated. It's good to hear from people who see things as I do.

Last Wednesday, as soon as the program ended, a resident called to express her concern. The ferocity of the attack by the Mayor and her friends convinced her I was at risk. I re-assured her. The situation is not worse now than it has been since the term began.

Councillor Wilson is an old antagonist. He was a losing candidate for the second time in the 2003 election. I registered at the last minute and won the last seat at the table. He apparently thought it was stolen from him. It's all in the way one looks at things.

During that term,Mr. Wilson came regularly to meetings. He frequently took the microphone to demonstrate his superior understanding of how a municipality should function.

He discovered he could turn his invective in my direction. I told the Mayor Mr. Wilson's behaviour in the council chamber, during meetings was disorderly and it was his job to stop it. The third time it happened, I took the Mayor aside and told him if he let it happen again, I could give him no guarantee I would sit quietly and accept it.

He did it again. The Mayor stopped him in his tracks. Councillors Keane and Vrancic ventured that a citizen had a right to do what he was doing. Mr. Wilson continued his criticism of how things were done in general but his screaming diatribes against myself ceased. Then he was elected on the slate.

At the first meeting of the new council , the first time I spoke, Councillor Wilson raised a point of order and objected to my comments. Councillor MacEachern repeated the exercise the second time I spoke. It was a sign of things to come. Each time I spoke, Councillor Wilson rolled his eyes to the top of his head and let his tongue hang out of the side of his mouth. It was quite bizarre. The Mayor seemed not to notice.

I, of course, was the very model of decorum. After a while he stopped . But it wasn't long before old habits returned. Councillor MacEachern threw a couple of spectacular rages, complete with yelling and screaming. The Mayor indicated the behaviour was my fault.

Councillor Granger darts in with feeble shots every time things turn raucous."Right on" he mutters "Right on". Even meek and mild Councillor Gaertner enjoins with lofty pronouncements about the baseness of my conduct. The Cardinal Sin is my lack of respect for the Mayor, Councillor Gaertner's esteemed leader.

The Mayor presides without notable concern about the average age level of council deportment. All are confident of their righteousness. They have safety in numbers. Debate is a foreign concept. Rules of Order are meaningless jargon. In their collective wisdom, they know one thing for sure. Whatever point Evelyn Buck might make must be immediately beaten into the ground like a splayed out wooden tent peg.The impostor must be kept in her place.

They keep trying. It's not working.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Quite The Ruckus.

Aurora Council recently accepted a staff recommendation to appoint an Interim Director of a new half-million dollar tax-funded program in Arts and Culture. The appointee was a member of the committee which recommended the position. At the time, there was negative reaction in the community to news of the appointment. It was noted the new appointee was the Mayor's friend and had participated in her election campaign.

The last reference on the issue was a quote from the Mayor that the individual had not yet decided to accept the position.

At Tuesday's Council meeting I asked if the position had been accepted . If so, had the new Director submitted his resignation from the committee. Councillors normally receive copies of resignations and appointments.

The answer was not immediately forthcoming. Instead, I was accused of making accusations of something improper. My conduct was again deemed shameful , inappropriate and damaging to the individual in question. The mayor professed her long-time friendship and gave a strong defence of his honorable reputation and competence.

Eventually it was acknowledged the appointment had been accepted and the individual had not since attended meetings of the Leisure Services Advisory Committee . Councillor MacEachern Chairman of that committee ,volunteered that he was taking temporary leave of absence..

I indicated a legal opinion was needed to clarify that a temporary leave of absence from a committee while holding a paid position with the town was sufficient to avoid a conflict of interest.

The Mayor professed further outrage. Legal advice on the question is a waste of taxpayers' money She ruled the issue must be handled through Notice of Motion.

In my judgement, a person cannot accept payment for services from the municipality while holding an appointment on the committee to which he is accountable.

I asked the question to inform myself and the community. I believe the answer defies logic and bespeaks culpable ignorance of the meaning of Conflict of Interest.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

A House of Hanky-Panky ?

The issue before Aurora Planning Board last Tuesday was a site plan for a vintage property in the centre of Town. Three lots of record were involved. The applicant proposed the use of a vintage home as a spa with four rooms upstairs for "overnight accommodation."

I am familiar with the nature of zoning. Among other things,it qualifies detached and semi-detached houses, apartment houses, and town houses, nursing homes, retirement homes, boarding homes and hotels are all "overnight accommodation". But they are not so defined. Separate requirements define each classification.

Four rooms with beds, upstairs in a vintage home converted to a spa house, is not a defined purpose sufficient for my comfort.

Nottawasaga Inn has re-named itself a Spa. It has a swimming pool, tennis courts, golf course, exercise rooms and recreation programs for children while parents luxuriate.

The Hotel I stayed at in July for my grandson's wedding in Ottawa is also a spa. The women in the
bridal party had hair and make up done in leisure and comfort on the day of the wedding. They were all beautiful. The wedding was on the lawn, the reception in a marquee.

In my mind's eye, four rooms upstairs in an old house on congested Wellington Street in Aurora do not fit the image.

The loose phrase "Overnight Accommodation" as a commercial use suggests a continual business operation. Hotels do not lock their doors at a particular hour. Traffic comes and goes at all hours of the night. Hotels are also governed by legislation other than municipal planning.

My function at the table in a planning debate is to give serious consideration to every angle of every proposal and how it might impact on neighbours' right to enjoy their property.

Wellington Street is no longer residential. Centre Street is. It abuts the proposal. Whatever happens at the spa definitely impacts the residential neighbourhood.

A planning debate is not about morals. It is not about lifestyles of the rich and famous.It is not about the applicant who makes a request for a change in zoning.

A planning debate is about a proposed change in use of property. A zoning definition is about specifying the use for present and future owners to know precisely how a property can be used.and how it cannot.

In fact, on Tuesday night at the Planniing Board Meeting direction was give to staff to provide a better definition of the use proposed by the applicant.. A resolution approved the application in principle. There were no opposing votes.


HEATHER'S NOTE: Wordle is an online gadget for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Here is the Wordle that I've created using the top 150 words from Evelyn's political blog.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Mothers Are All The Same


This is a reprint of a letter Evelyn wrote to the Editor of the Auroran in 2003. I found it again yesterday and have printed it here for you to read.

Mothers Are All The Same

I was 15, he was 20. He was on leave and we were comparing notes on some of our experiences. He said when a person falls from a great height, he blacks out and is unconscious when he hits the ground. He told me the bombers were like huge metal canisters. With shells exploding on every side they would shake and shudder and the noise was horrendous.

I recalled the time five bombs fell on the town. They came down in a straight line. The last one made a huge crater on the shore. That's how we learned about the effect of concussion. It bounces like a rubber ball. All the windows on one side of the street can be smashed and on the other not even a crack.

He talked about the precision of bombing raids. The squadron would take off, reach the target, drop the bombs and leave at the same time. Any bombs not dropped would be dropped in the sea. That's when we realized the bombs dropped on our town were an accident. The pilot must have believed he was over the sea. A couple of houses were demolished and three or four people were killed. That was during the Clydebank blitz. It lasted a week.

There were air-raid sirens every night. Searchlights criss-crossing the sky and anti-aircraft guns firing for hours. We could hear the planes going over...it seemed for hours. No German planes were ever brought down. In the mornings when we walked to school, we found the pavement littered with ugly jagged chunks of metal.

I can't believe how matter-of-fact we talked about these things. He said the violence of the raids was terrible. When the crews got back they would climb into the trucks in absolute silence. It was as if their voices were locked inside their throats. It would be hours before they could speak again. There were always planes that didn't come back.

He went back off leave on a Sunday afternoon...his cap set at a jaunty angle, his kit bag hoisted on his shoulder. He left the house alone. We were not much given to hugs and kisses. There was no sense that we might never see him again. It was about the same time on the next Sunday afternoon that two policemen came to the door. They asked for our mother. She came down the stairs as if she was tumbling. I could hear her breath catching in her throat. She screamed when they told her his plane had not returned from a raid the night before. He was "missing in action".

We had a full house; grandparents, three aunts, a younger brother, three sisters, including me and a chubby little baby cousin. We all knew that whatever we were feeling, it was as nothing compared to what my mother was going through. It was November. The war was over within months.

During those months we scanned the papers for news of airmen being picked up at sea. It was my job to write letters to inquire if my brother was one of them. My mother kept on gathering and saving all the things that he liked - pineapple jam for instance - for when he would come home.

The war ended and soon we received a letter from the father of a crew member who had been taken prisoner. That's how we found out my brother was dead. and how he died.

As the flight-engineer, he didn't wear his parachute. The plane was hit and on fire. Half the crew had been killed. Patrick was wounded . . . his parachute burned...he and the boy who survived, wrapped their arms around each other and jumped together, hoping one parachute would save them both. It didn't.

When he came to, he was alone.

When we learned he was dead, it was my job again to write to the War Office. Promptly, as soon as they received my letter, they sent a priority telegram telling us he had been "killed in action".

War is weird. They have all these rules. Only drop the bombs on the targets... otherwise people might get killed. My brother was buried in Dusseldorf, by the enemy. They retrieved his identity tag, his little penknife and his rosary without the crucifix. These things came back to us.

My mother lived until she was 90. At the end, the only thing in her possession was his last letter. It was just a note, written on a typewriter. He apologized for his mistakes, said he had enjoyed his leave, especially the baby...and got back to base safely. Just a single sheet of war-time stationery. I don't know how it has survived this long.

Funny thing...on one of her last visits to Canada, my mother brought with her the last letter written by her brother to his mother before he was killed. He called her "Mother Mine" and thanked her for the parcel of nice baked things she had sent.

James was my grandmother's first-born child. He was the eldest of 10, the youngest was just a babe. He was 22 years old when he was dropped off on the beach at the Dardanelles along with almost an entire generation of young Scots. Their bodies were torn apart by the machine gun fire that awaited them. He had already been wounded in the hell-hole trenches in France, had been sent home to recuperate and recalled before he was healed. He was killed in Turkey in 1917.

When a child dies of an illness or an accident...a mother's life is never the same again. But time and other children can help to bring acceptance. But when a beloved son's body is ripped apart by weapons of unimaginable brutality, on the decisions and orders of strangers, there can never be peaceful acceptance. No fine words of glory and honor and courage and awards of medals and coloured ribbons can heal a mother's broken heart or take away the cruel memory of the horror of the manner of their death.

There is no dignity in savagery.

British...Canadian...American...German...Korean...Vietnamese...Israeli or Iraqi. God help them...mothers are all the same.

Remembrance Day

I seldom start a fight. I generally prefer not to tussle with someone several generations removed from myself. The match is uneven. Oddly enough, though, the difference is not always appreciated.

I was recently solicited to purchase advertising to promote Remembrance Day. I did not respond. On a second approach I refused the offer and proffered an explanation. Remembrance Day is sacred to the memory of those who died in service to their country. I consider its use to promote business, politics or any other endeavour inappropriate.

The solicitation was to all members of council. I circulated my response to colleagues. I expected that to be the end of the matter. My respondent however was apparently not satisfied to let it rest. She circulated my response and hers to several individuals. She informed me she had met with Aurora Legion's executive. In return for free advertising, they supported her enterprise. She is a member of the Legion and her grandfather was a veteran.

Subsequently I received copies of other emails. Freedom to express an opinion was acknowledged but mine was deemed to be negative, disrespectful of the debt owed to veterans and lacking in progressive thinking and positive change.

From my perspective, some things cannot change. History can be enlightened. It cannot be changed.

Remembrance Day commemorates the casualties of war, not the survivors. It calls upon us to contemplate lives cruelly cut short before they had a chance to begin. They died thousands of miles from home and family in circumstances too terrible to imagine. Allied Cemeteries in foreign lands have row upon row of gravestones bearing thousands of names, ranks and numbers. But for many there are no resting places. At War Memorials throughout the world people gather to remember, relive their sorrow and loss and offer a prayer that the carnage and waste may never be repeated.

The Mayor will lay a wreath on the Cenotaph to pay respect on behalf of all the people. Representatives of other levels of government will do the same. In the past, a mother would be chosen to personally represent families of those who never came home.

The awful and continuing reality of their sacrifice should not be used to promote business, politics or any other mundane endeavor. Such change is neither positive nor progressive. It is crass opportunism, materialism in the extreme and degrading to their memory.

Directly “From Falling Hands” I claim the right to say so. Loud and strong.