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Councillors expose their hypocrisy . . . again

Town councillors restated their commitment to the often heard refrain of transparency and accountability — and underscored their own hypocrisy.

[Originally published July 29, 2014]

. . . continued

“See if there’s any ability to come up with greater transparency and increased accountability,” said Bob Steckley.

“I think we should all be in favour of greater transparency and increased accountability,” he continued.

“We’re looking for greater transparency,” said Don Lubberts.

“We need to know how the money is spent more clearly. I don’t know that there’d be a problem with looking at that and seeing how we can improve these things,” he said.

“How we increase transparency and accountability, that’s what the report will do,” said Paul Collard.

Perhaps it is best stated in the opening sentences from Collard’s surprise, last-minute resolution at the council meeting July 21.

“Whereas the general public demands transparency and accountability for the funds the municipality derives through taxation,

“Whereas elected officials and public staff are held to a higher standard as trustees of these funds.”

Not to be outdone, ever, John Hill also piped in.

“More effective, more efficient, more accountable, more transparent, etc., etc.”

There you have it. Another round of platitudes about one of the pillars of our system of democracy.

The words are not worth the paper they are printed on or the oxygen that is consumed to mouth them.

Their gums flap, they make noise, but it’s all hogwash.

The purpose of Collard’s motion was to have the acting CAO and the part-time Town solicitor (Ed Lustig, former solicitor for the City of Niagara Falls, who was hired earlier this year) to review the memorandum of understanding with the Economic Development and Tourism Corporation.

The goal is to “report back to council on ways to use and/or improve the language in the MOU to achieve greater transparency and increased accountability of the EDTC back to council and the ratepayers of Fort Erie,” the resolution states.

This is simply a rehash of Ann Marie Noyes’ mayoral campaign that has run from the opening of the 2006-10 term of council, through her loss at the polls in 2010 and continues today.

But the Noyes angles, that’s a sideshow. The battle with the EDTC and specifically its manager Jim Thibert, that’s a whole other story that this council already went through.

The story — the “headline after headline” as the integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig put it when she told councillors it’s best to deal with important integrity issues up-front — is the sacking of the Town solicitor Heather Salter.

The aforementioned four councillors voted 4-3 to deny public disclosure of the minutes of settlement with Salter in September 2012.

This is an agreement which Salter has said she wants the Town to release.

It is an agreement at the very core of a serious conflict of interest legal action against not one, not two, not even three councillors, but four, these four councillors.

It is an agreement which gave her a year and a half salary and benefits for wrongful dismissal.

The four town councillors also gave her $50,000 lump sum so she wouldn’t sue them.

No where, no way and no how has the Town explained the circumstances of her dismissal or the settlement terms.

So before the councillors decide they want to go through every invoice and cheque stub at the EDTC, they should hand over to the public the minutes of settlement and whatever else “the general public demands”.

The four councillors themselves gave us the reasons why this information should be released. It’s even written on paper in Collard’s resolution.

By the way, the motion passed 4-3. Wanna guess who voted which way?


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