Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Why Must We Pay For FOI’s From Government That Claims to be Open & Transparent

Posted by auroracitizen on June 3, 2010

Council Watch #10 – by Richard Johnson

I have a question that I would like to pose to the participants of Aurora Citizen and maybe Councillor Buck could assist me here, given that she is the only named Councillor that participates openly in our discussions.

Regular readers of this Blog will recall the following two postings:

Town Solicitor Demands Removal of Blog Comments, Posted by auroracitizen on April 25, 2010

A Monument to the Leadership of Mayor Phyllis Morris, Posted by auroracitizen on April 18, 2010

In an effort to follow-up on the underlying question raised in these postings, I asked the Town Clerk if the staff turnover we have witnessed recently is typical of past councils and after multiple e-mail attempts to get a response I was asked to pay $5 and file a Freedom Of Information request, which I promptly did. Putting aside that this is supposed to be a more open, responsive and transparent government, I am happy to receive a response near the end of the legal time limit permitted of thirty days, however I am now not sure how I should respond to the latest development.

Earlier this week I received a phone message stating that there I could pick up a response to my FOI at the Town Hall. Again, I set aside the suggestion that the cost of a postage stamp might be more than the town wants to pay in order to respond to me, so I phoned the town and ended up speaking with a very nice receptionist on the main switchboard (at this point I honestly think she should run for council, but I digress).

I am now faced with the question as to if I should pay the requested $25 in order to get an answer to my simple question. While I am thankful that this is hundreds of dollars lower than what I thought they would ask for given that the town is racking up legal charges and other costs these days, and it is thousands of dollars less than another FOI request that I once filed (and never got an answer to), at the same time I am wondering why I should be paying to receive an answer to a question that the Council itself should be asking ? Am I alone in asking myself this question ?

It occurred to me that an alternative option would be for a Councillor to ask Council to waive the charge given the importance of the question being asked and especially given that it is an election year and it is not just me that is asking if the natives are in fact wrestles. Maybe even the local media could pay the freight.

Your thoughts ?

Richard Johnson

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23 Responses to “Why Must We Pay For FOI’s From Government That Claims to be Open & Transparent”

  1. Guy Poppe said

    To Richard Johnson

    Mr. Johnson, can you share with us any information you have received from the Town regarding the alleged staff exodus?

  2. Guy Poppe said

    to Mr. Maddocks:

    I agree to no longer favour you with any input. Have a great day.

    • someone who loves this town more than politics said

      to Mr. Poppe:

      I agree to no longer favour you with any input. Have a great day.

  3. Knowledgeable in Aurora said

    The problem with a report from staff (the CAO, I guess) documenting who has left during the term and why, will not be very enlighting. In many cases he will report the reason for leaving like; Resigned or Retired. What will never be clear is why someone chooses to resign or retire when they do.

    I’ve said it before – you generally don’t go looking for another job unless your working conditions are no longer acceptable. Many employees in the town have municipal careers, therefore their future employers are other municipalities and it’s a small community, therefore most will simply say “I’m leving for a better opportunity”, or “I left for personal reasons”. They are not going to burn bridges by publicly slamming the politians at their former employer. Word gets around when you do that, particularly the more senior the position. I think most are happy just to be getting out of Aurora and know there is no personal benefit to revealing why they moved on.

    Those that were “let go” or “fired” or whatever word is used, will also not be reported becuase that is a breach of privacy of that individual.

    So the bottom line is Councillors or the public can ask all they like there will never be a reavealing report. Unfortunately all we have to go on is the sheer number of changes particularly at the senior level and the stories we hear from those willing to share ‘Off the record”.

    • Richard Johnson said

      I agree with you 100%. Some time ago I asked why exit interviews were not being done by an arms length organisation, with the results being provided back to the town without names being associated with the comments. The town could also survey its staff via an arms length and confidential process in an effort to determine if the number of people that have taken time off on stress leave is an indication of some management issues that need to be addressed.

      If the town really wanted to establish how employees felt about the working environment in an effort to fix the issues of concern they have tools to do so. The problem we face is that our council and apparently at least some of the senior staff appear to be more interested in protecting their political interests and installing their own people than creating a truly constructive and professional work environment.

      When you see the pathetic behaviour of some councillors and the recent efforts of the Mayor to smooth everything over by stating how well things are going at the town and noting what a great job staff are doing, while in the same meeting they call for yet more studies on the same issues while ignoring the staff input, it is no wonder why staff is so frustrated. That being said, the insulting behaviour we have witnessed towards staff in the past from some councillors appears to have diminished somewhat but I guess that is to be expected just before an election.

      The sad truth is that you can’t change a leopard’s spots and if the staff and public don’t speak up and let the voters know who has been naughty and nice, then we could well end up with four more years of amateur hour(s).

      As far as I am concerned, there was good reason why I was told by some senior people on Mayor Morris’s 2006 election campaign, with apparently Phyllis’s full agreement, to “watch out for Evelina” but what is not explained is why Evelina has been permitted to become the shadow mayor and has been allowed to get away with so much.

  4. Guy Poppe said

    In the hopes of bringing some conclusion to this issue, I invite any previous Town employee to advise whether their leaving was a result of the behaviour of the current Mayor.

    Should any such person feel intimidated or does not wish to disclose their identity, I will respect their privacy.

    You may write to this blog or contact me at guy.poppe@yahoo.ca

    • Nice Try said

      Right, contact a FRIEND of the mayor to badmouth the mayor?!?

      What’s that I hear? Oh, yeah:

      *crickets chirping*

    • anonymous said

      What an a@@$^*!.
      You know nobody is going to respond.
      Of course you will then conclude nothing was amiss and Ms. Morris and the evil one were blameless. Too bad we can see right thru you Morris shill.

    • Matt Maddocks said

      Couple of thoughts;

      Guy, I’ve read most of your postings on here. I respect the fact that at times, you feel the need to defend the mayor and her group. What’s bothersome though, is that you won’t come clean about your objectives on this blog. Every citizen who joins in to post on this blog has the right to voice their opinion. But each one of them, except you, has made it clear where they stand, and what they stand for. They have nothing to hide, as far as I can tell. Your postings, however eloquent and greasy they may be, seem to be constantly cloaked in a “but I’m just average Joe trying to say my piece” point of view, but we all know that’s not true. We’re not idiots Guy, so please don’t treat this blog’s contributors that way. Man up.

      Further to this point, my suggestion to the folks on here who are tired of Guy’s game, would be to hit the ignore button on all of his future posts. He can bleat all he wants to, into an empty room.

    • someone who loves this town more than politics said

      Mr. Poppe.

      I don’t see any benefit to offline any free and open discussion that is happening here to just yourself.

      Why exactly should a citizen that may “feel intimidated or does not wish to disclose their identity” feel comforted by your offer to respect their privacy, when you have such close ties to the administration that is being heavily questioned?

      I have to agree with “quacks like a duck” when they said that you were “identified him as a person known to run interference for Phyllis Morris. He took issue with that characterization, but he’s done nothing since to convince me otherwise”.

      So, exactly what “conclusion” do “you” hope to bring to this issue?

      I thought you said “let the citizens decide”….sounds a little hypocritical to me.

      I guess that would be consistent with the MorMac’s Ministry of Propeganda and Spin that is starting up, the only comfort we have is that the morons running the show are very transparent when it comes to their own mistakes, of which there are several.

  5. Guy Poppe said

    To Anonymous. Do you know who the late Richard was referring to in his comment you quoted?

    Perhaps you should find out. The answer may embarrass you.

    • anonymous said

      To Phyllis Shill.

      Yes I do know who Mr. illingsworth was referring to. I was at that council meeting.
      Master Rec Plan. You know the one Evilina said she disagreed with staff because she knew better!

  6. Anonymous said

    Nice try poppe or poppy or popeye whatever the heck your name is

    Councillor Buck knows EXACTLY what you are up to

    and so do we

    no one is falling for it

    now go back and report to phyllis that you have failed..

    • Guy Poppe said

      we’ll let the citizens decide.

    • Guy Poppe said

      By the way, if you can’t figure out what my name is, have some courage to tell me yours. I promise not be insulting.

    • If It Quacks Like A Duck... said

      Yeah, I recall that when Guy first ‘popped’ up, someone (Anon Anon, maybe) identified him as a person known to run interference for Phyllis Morris. He took issue with that characterization, but he’s done nothing since to convince me otherwise.

  7. Guy Poppe said

    Mr. Johnson, I would consider yourself lucky. You fared better then I did.

    Nevertheless, the point is that you want to establish that the Town has had an unusual staff turnover, and if so, to blame the Mayor and Council members for this supposed exodus.

    In order to establish this, you want access to the employment records of all employees that have departed, and you want the taxpayer to fund such investigation.

    Aside from the fact that you would need to get each employees consent for such disclosure, (See the act), these records may or may not reveal the reason for leaving.

    May I suggest a more valid approach. Councilor Buck has published a list of employees that have left. Why don’t you ask them the reasons?

    Should the Town agree to perform the search, gratis, it better have a good and valid reason for doing so. So far I have not heard one.

    • anonymous said

      Mr. Poppe.

      The unprecedented high turnover did not begin with this term. Since the election of a certain person who embellishes “over ten years HR Experience”, (I once cleaned floors at a hospital, so i guess I did brain surgery)there has been an unusual pattern of senior level departures. Marc Neeb,Larry Allison, and most troubling Lucille King to mention but a fraction.Connect the dots and it all leads to Phyllis and her consigliore Evilina a name affectionately attached to her by Town Staff!
      There were many warnings this might happen once Phyllis became Mayor. Chris Sorley in a letter to the editor and even the late Dick Illindsworth warned this would happen.

      April 24, 2007 the Auroran

      BRICKBATS to members of Aurora Council for dragging
      out almost every issue on the agenda causing
      meetings to go on and on. While good debate is
      beneficial, some councillors waste time by asking questions
      which are answered in staff reports and refusing to accept
      those reports on trust. It’s a good way to lose staff!

      The last part a direct reference to the actions of Ms. Evilina M.

      What about Evilina and Nigel supporter Walter Mestrinaro, allowed to speak to council
      about some underhanded staff conspiracy and incompetance re: a bid he was not qualified for nor conformed with.

      Yes privacy does prevail as for why people leave, but come on there are legions of employees past and present even at the regional level who will tell you that Ms. Morris is one despicable individual. Your points above are analogous to the legal mumble jumble that got OJ Simpson off in the Nicole and Ron G case.
      Mr Poppe you really do sound like a Phyllis shill.

    • Richard Johnson said

      Thanks for your response Guy.

      I think we should all be concerned by the fact that the Mayor and Council are not asking if the recent level of staff turnover is typical of past councils. The turnover of management staff and the labour unrest with the outside workers could well be a sign of something seriously wrong at the town hall and you can bet that this unrest could cost us all a whole lot of good will and a whole lot of money, not to mention experience walking out the door.

      I think that it should also be concerning that the town’s standard response to a simple and reasonable question given the facts, was to ask me to file a freedom of information request and pay a total of $30 to get an answer. This approach by the town seems to me to stand in stark contrast to what Mayor Morris promised the town in the past election in a number of key areas; including the promise of transparency, responsiveness and the creating of a more positive and constructive working environment at the town.

      Truth is apparently a moving target for Phyllis and I suspect that the reason for the town not wanting to ask certain questions is that they either already know the answer, or they don’t want to hear it, or they don’t want the public to know the truth, so feel free to take your pick on this issue. Why is it that a resident has to pay money to get an answer to such an obvious question ? I think I know why; it’s an election year.

  8. evelyn.buck said

    If the question being asked requires searching documents a fee must be charged. There is no line item in the budget to pay for a research service. Any service not generally provided and used by the entire community, carries a user fee.
    I don’t know much about records kept in Human Resources. We haven’t always had a Human resource Department. I’m not sure when it was started.I can’t say if there would be any records to search about staff turnovers or if it would even be possible to provide the snswer to the question.
    I think it’s fair to say ,if the turnover was normal, we would not be asking the question and that gives an nswer right there.
    Privacy laws would likely mitigate against naming people who have left the municipality.
    Maybe a more relevant question would be, which records are required to be public?and where can you have free access to public records?
    Which records are confidential and why?
    I have been refused answers to my questions about legal costs. I believe they are a matter of public record.
    I believe the only solution to the problem of refusal of access to public records is an election and a substantial change of the gueard.
    Residents should be able to obtain answers from their elected representatives..
    Elected representatives should be able to get answers to question they may have about town business.
    I have questions.
    I don’t get answers.
    I need to make a decision about my next step.

    • Guy Poppe said

      Mr. Johnson, I tried to get answers to your questions from Councilor Buck, who initiated the comment that staff were leaving because of the behaviour of the Mayor and council members.

      Notwithstanding my begging for information in support, none has been forthcoming from Councilor Buck. Perhaps your personal plea will be more successful.

      On the other hand, my feeling is that Councilor Buck prefers the keep this issue in a state of uncertainty, for fear her allegation may prove to be unfounded.

      As she said in her latest blog “You must trust me”.

    • Richard Johnson said

      To Evelyn and Guy:

      Thanks for both your responses.

      Guy: It looks to me like your comments seem to be shifting the blame. In fact your comments more logically apply to the town given that they are the ones stone walling me as well as the media (at times) and it is the town that is asking for $30 in this instance, not Evelyn. Evelyn just offered some logic which is not what I typically get from the town these days, if I should be so lucky to get any response at all.

      I may not always agree with Councillor Buck but I trust her to be consistent and offer her own rational in support of her stance, even in instances when we may respectfully disagree. That clearly is no longer the case with Phyllis, Evelina, Granger and others because the truth seems to be a moving target and their logic is often missing altogether or highly erratic. Phyllis is politically motivated and I do not for a second think that Evelyn takes any stance solely for selfish reasons, which I don’t think can be reasonably said of others.

      At this stage I am surprised that Council is not asking if the town’s current working environment is breeding an unusual level of discontent, but then again maybe they know the answer to this question already but don’t want the public to get wind of what is really going on.

      In order to fix a problem you have to admit that you have one, and there remains the distinct possibility at the Town Hall that some people would either prefer to live in denial or at the very least, be willing to put on a good face for the cause.

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