"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

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Shootout At The Old Corral

On February 12th this year we had a bit of a show down between Mayor Morris, Councillors MacEachern and Gaertner and John Rogers, Chief Administrative Officer of the Town of Aurora. It happened at the end of a meeting. The agenda was almost completed.

Under new business, Councillor Gaertner expressed disgruntlement that she was being required to sign a confidentiality agreement to obtain documents related to the sale of town lands.

The Mayor and Councillor MacEachern took up the complaint. Emails had previously been sent from the Mayor to Mr. Rogers directing him to provide the material. Ultimately, the Mayor had discussed the matter with the Real Estate Brokers who had the town's contract to sell the lands and were responsible for the documents in question.

Mr. Rogers explained his purpose was to protect the integrity of the process by maintaining consistency for all parties receiving the documents to sign an agreement. The explanation did not sit well with the Mayor and the two councillors.

Councillor Gaertner stated; "I find all this extremely hard to believe."

In this instance a motion put forward ordering the CAO to provide the documentation required without an agreement being signed by Councillor Gaertner. Four councillors now had documents; Councillor MacEachern, Gaertner, Granger and Wilson. The three others had signed.

The package was apparently substantial, had always been been accessible for viewing in the legal department as opposed to leaving the security of the Town Hall.

The option had not been acceptable due apparently to Councillors' part-time status and un- availability during business hours.

No explantion was ever offered as to why the Councillors were so adamant about the neccessity to have the documents let aloe remove them from the town hall.

They argued for the process to be by Real Estate Broker. They chose the firm from a competition. The time allocated for the first part of the business was almost complete. As a Councillor, I can think of no reason to have this material in my possession.

When a meeting was convened to receive a presentation of bids, Councillor MacEachern immediately declared a Conflict of Interest.

I said nothing. It is a truism that in the public's business, things must not only be right, they must appear to be right.

The bids were disappointing. A great deal of work had been done. Clearly more remained.

At the nextin camera meeting, a motion was put forward to reject the bids summarily. I voted in favor.

The report came to council. Councillor Gaertner called it for discussion. Council rejected the bids because they were too low, she said.

It was not my reason. Since Councillor Gaertner had chosen to speak for council I was obliged to speak for myself. Sometimes the moment must not be allowed to pass.

I said I believed the process was tainted.

The Mayor was not content. She demanded I explain. I declined - several times. Finally I acceded to the urgency of the demand.

I cited the facts outlined above.

Mr. Rogers had stated his intent in requiring confidentiality agreements be signed was to protect the integrity of the process. The majority of council refuted that position. I did not.

At a following meeting, the matter was alluded to once more. An emergency closed meeting was called to discuss "legal liability the town may incur due to statements made the previous evening."

I did not attend.

Seems the gist of the matter to be determined was; if Councillor Buck were to be sued for
slander by Councillor MacEachern would the town be liable for costs to defend itself against possible legal action by other parties.

Still another lawyer was retained. He has completed his research and rendered his opinion. No doubt it will be reported out in the fullness of time.

I will not be losing sleep.

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