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May 24, 2012

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I do not agree with this outcome. I find that even going to CAo would provide the same result. i find it upsetting that we can not critize staff for the information provided yet blame the elcted officals who are being withheld the information in the first place!

Hmmm, this guy actually sounds like a bright and reasonable problem-solver to me. We could use more of his sort on Carden Street. "Move on" is the right approach here.

Staff and the Mayor refusing to release the MOE report to councilors was, well, stupid and arrogant. Janet Laird had no right to do that and the Mayor had a responsibility to override that week long game of secrecy. Filing a FOI request to then get that report was an understandable, but intentionally aggressive, move by some councillors, and then council referring the whole dirty laundry back to Swayze was little more than immature whining "Mom, look what Johnny did. Tell him to stopppppp." Sour grapes.

Swayze is saying as polite as he can ... grow up. And I agree. I sincerely hope that council doesn't feel a need to rake up the muck again. Move on, there a City here that needs responsible governance and administration, in case y'all forgot.

I wouldn't be surprised if council does call for a money-wasting full investigation. The rift in council, with Swayze alludes to, is so deep there will be some who want to lambaste those who made the FOI request.

If there's a perception that political points will be won, those on council's left wing will do everything they can to win those points - despite the cost.

Lots of immaturity to go around on this one, D C. As the report says, filing the FOI and complaining to the press before exhausting all internal channels wasn't the best approach. Nor is an investigation of those involved. Take Mr Swayze's advice and let it drop.
The infighting has to stop. Councillors flying their left-wing and right-wing flags has no place in council chambers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following comment has been edited as per our policies.

Ah, here we go again, Scott or Phil ... why did you delete my comment that Janet Laird should be fired? It's a call many people have made before, and likely will continue to make.

This whole thing likely started because Janet Laird and the Mayor felt they were entitled to keep a critical government report secret until they had a chance to spin it. And look at the mess that caused.

There was nothing inappropriate about me saying that I think she has become arrogant and beyond criticism. There is a great deal of publicly available evidence that would directly speak to that.

That I said she had therefore become just like the former, and very unpopular, CAO Hans Loewig was clearly my opinion, and one that is no doubt shared by many people in town.

Feel free to delete this comment as well, but understand that people were highly critical of her and the Mayor for keeping the report secret. It was a huge mistake and one that suggests a lot about the character of those running this city and their respect for the people who live here.

Being critical of Staff is a no-no. I do not know why. they can be just as biais as a city councillor!

So, let me see if I've got this right.
If you read the report, such as it is, between the lines it says that city staff are not to be held to account for bad judgement, errors, misappropriation of funds, lack of concern for public opinion, lateness, abbsence and slothfullness.
Just to name a few.
And who employs Mr. Swayze?
Has he got any skin in this game?
And exactly when was it that coucil was given the job of defending city staff, rather than doing the right thing for taxpayers?
And let's not forget the drive by local media who seem to have access to all sorts of leaked reports from all levels of government except the one right under thier nose.
Odd that!
HINT:
City hall is not the only source for "provincial" reports.

In Guelph, "Integrity Commissioner", is code for Henchman.

My Editorial

This is an issue of accountability and transparency. That this is an issue of "integrity" is shameful.

The powers-that-be would be mistaken if they want to use reports from some "Integrity Commissioner" (nice guy, I'm sure) towards enforcing some kind of board discipline. It's a dangerous game that voters will not reward come election time.

In short, they can expect voters to call bull-crap on why their councillor would be denied info, anytime. It's their money.

What voters expect: when a councillor wants a report that staff have in their possession -- a Provincial report no-less -- they are provided with a copy of it in a timely fashion.

Come election time, what message do councillors want to campaign with: "I went to get a document as part of fulfilling my duties to you, on a major issue, and I was told 'no'" -- Or, "I support staff with-holding a Provincial report from me -- here are the reasons why [blah, blah, blah]".

To the powers-that-be: this issue goes to the heart of the mandate of the Governance Committee. Beyond this issue, it suggests a deeper frustration with how City Hall is being run.

And that's what voters will respond to.

It may well be that the solution will not be in team building exercises and what-not but in a change in the Chair of the Governance Committee. So on that note, for those willing to move beyond the childishness of refering issues to an "Integrity Commissioner", they should heed the frustration that led to the FOI request, and amend policy. And corporate culture.

What was the timeline for these events? When was the report received by staff? When did Coun. Guthrie make his requests(s)? How long was the report "withheld" before eventually being released?
City Staff claim they were reviewing the report for factual errors and inaccuracies before releasing it. Is this a common practice? How long does it typically take between receipt of a report and release to council?
In short, was the release of this report unduly delayed because it contained unfavorable results and conclusions? Or was this typical SOP for the release of any report?
Does the city currently have a responsibility to release any and all information an individual councillor requests? Do they have such a responsibility to council as a whole (through a voted and approved motion)? If 'no' the former and 'yes' to the latter, does this need to change?
Obviously, I feel like we I just don't have the facts or the insider knowledge to draw conclusions from any of this. All I see is allied blocks of councillors split along idealogical lines having childish spats in public. I don't know which 'side' started it or is more to blame, but it needs to stop.

(Steve, in the end, staff could have released... err provided a copy of someone else's report i.e. photocopy it if necessary, with a caution that they are still reviewing it and haven't yet finished compiling comments about it... It didn't have to come to this and I actually would like to see some accountability on the staff side of this.)

This is starting to remind me of the Cuff report era....

The report was not ours. Staff were in possession of it.

Did staff have an electronic version of it? How hard would it be to request one from their contact with the MOE and forward it along?

This strikes me as another example of customer service not entirely being what it could be at City Hall. There is also something called internal customer service which helps to move things along towards more positive outcomes, easier.

It seems to me this whole affair COULD have been dealt with quickly by staff. The request wasn't particularly burdensome. It could have been accomodated if the will was there. It seems as though we have a log-jam of sorts at City Hall that voters will have to clear out, with a clear mandate to the next mayor.

As I have said, voters will call bull-crap on this one.

In case you are interested... Cam Guthrie will be joining us again on Beyond the Ballot Box on CFRU 93.3fm for the Big Interview, this coming Monday, May 28 from 8-9 a.m.

This issue will definitely come up.

Jan

About Beyond the Ballot Box
Beyond The Ballot Box is Guelph's home for Politics and Current Affairs. Beyond the Ballot Box takes you beyond the elections to discuss the issues and challenges that drive our democratic institutions. Beyond The Ballot Box is produced by Jan Hall and hosted by Jan Hall with Oliver Rockside.

Listen to Beyond the Ballot Box on CFRU 93.3fm, Channel 948 on Rogers cable and worldwide at www.cfru.ca.

Join us for the Gang of Four roundtable every Monday between 7-8 a.m., as we tackle the big issues of the week with Scotty Hertz, Adam Donaldson and Phil Allt.

Stay with us for the Big Interview between 8-9 a.m. each Monday.

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The key question is: when a provincial government report is sent to city hall, when are councillors able to see it?

In this case, at least two people (the mayor and CAO) decided that because there were "errors" the report was going to be withheld until it was "corrected." When councillors asked to see it, city staff told them they couldn't have it. Hence the FOI request.

The irony is, because this was a final report by a provincial department, anyone could have filed an FOI request with the province and probably received a copy of it before councillors did.

Therein lies the problem.

Hopefully this problem will be rectified and City Council will wisely accept the Integrity Commissioner's report as information and deem further action isn't needed.

I highly doubt either of those things will happen.

In keeping with the direction Jan has taken us in, I'd like to remind everyone to be sure to visit the Stone Road Mall.
They have many fine retailers and free parking.
Let's all remember that we should all plug our favorite hobby and use social media to promote ourselves

In keeping with the direction Doug has taken us for years on here, I think we should deport him to America where he will fit in better.

Will you be stopping to shop, Doug, or just be doing a "drive-by"?

Thanks for another insightful and informative comment, Doug.

In the name of more silliness I'm telling the Integrity Commissioner on all of you. All you bloggers, the Merc, Scott Tracey, all of you. Once Mayor Farbridge let's me use her Commissioner hotline you'll all be sorry. So listen up, better not talk, better not speak out, and you had better tow the line or else you'll be reported!

I'm smiling as I write this (I amuse easily), but I should actually be crying - This Integrity Commissioner thing is a total farce and a total waste of money. I can't believe this is what council has come to.
:-(

I've been lax in being active on this blog... have been busy re-reading my Kafka collection.

Ed - Would that be "The Castle" or "The Trial"? Seems both would be appropriate.

I wish I could pull the quite that they betrayed the law, and leave this he

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aaubVlhNK4

But regardless of what it is, they didn't break the law

Edward... you've been "re-reading" Kafka? What happens the second time around? ;)

A Mayor committed to an open, transparent municipal government does not squirm in her chair like a kid at her brother's poetry recital whenever Councillor Cam Guthrie comes dangerously close to speaking the truth.

@geo Yes, exactly! What are the mayor and city staff trying to hide? Why deny the release of public information? Why does the city feel the need to edit a provincial report? Is it that this 32 Million dollar composting facility has big problems and they don't want the public to know? I have a feeling we have only scene the tip of the iceberg with respect to problems at the composting plant.

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Joanne

Joanne Shuttleworth is the newsroom lead in municipal affairs coverage for the Guelph Mercury. She is a former Guelph YWCA Woman of Distinction honouree and a past winner of an Ontario Newspapers Award for her work as an editor. You can reach her at jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com

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About Chris

  • Chris Herhalt
    covers municipal affairs and politics for the Guelph Mercury. Prior to joining the Mercury he worked at The Record of Waterloo Region and at The Canadian Press. He can be reached at cherhalt@guelphmercury.com