Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Open and Transparent? You be the judge

Posted by auroracitizen on August 6, 2010

A familiar refrain throughout the Morris Regime has been that she fosters an Open and Transparent Council environment; an Open and Transparent Council process; she’s Open and Transparent. She makes that statement at virtually every council meeting.

Similarly, we heard this throughout her campaign in 2006 as if to differentiate herself from Tim Jones and the “back room boys”.  She would open the doors to the “backroom” and bring all the council business into the open where all the public could see for themselves what goes on behind closed doors.

Well, that might be what she’s selling, but we’re not buying.

We’ve heard from many posters and many residents and many “insiders” alike that Morris et al have spent more time behind those closed doors – doing god knows what – than any other Council in recent memory.  Every single Council meeting seems to have a closed session meeting.  Everything seems to need a “secret” meeting to discuss, decide and I assume defend the decisions they are making.

Thus far though, those “allegations” as Poppe the apologist calls them, have not been based on tangible, provable, facts.  We’ve only had impressions, or thoughts, or observations of meetings and Town hall going’s on upon which to base our suppositions.  We know in our gut that all is not right but had nothing to prove it.

Until now that is.

As a by-product of an FOI request, we have been provided with a complete list of EVERY closed door session of Council from 2000 through 2009.  It includes start time and end time of each closed session.

This list is a veritable goldmine of information, not the least of which is that it is proof positive that Phyllis Morris is as transparent as a block of wood. 

Closed Door Sessions

The pie chart you see above is wholly accurate.  The 2006 – 2010 (and before anyone and argues we’ve skewed the figures by comparing a 4 year term to three year terms – we used figures from 2007 – 2009 only; so it is an accurate comparison).

Here are the stark figures folks:  Since Phyllis Morris took office, the Town of Aurora council has spent more time meeting in secret, behind closed doors,  than the last two terms of council combined and then some!!  It also shows that more than 30 percent of those meetings started at or beyond the hour of adjournment and a staggering 60 % ended well past 10:30. It begs the question, “Just what the heck are they talking about into the wee hours of the morning??”

Getting back to the numbers though, to be exact the breakdown of time spent in secret meetings is as follows:

  Term Term Term
  2000-2003 2003-2006 2006-2009
       
Total # closed sesion  meetings: 63 73 103
       
Total # meetings starting at or beyond hour of adjournment: 1 12 28
       
Total # meetings ending at or beyond hour of adjournment: 3 24 61
       
Total Time spent in closed session: 30hrs 20mins 52hrs 49mins 115hrs 21mins
       
Average length of meeting in closed session: 29 43 1hr 7mins

 

Look at those numbers — 115 hours and 21 minutes or 6921 minutes!!!!  They are simply staggering.  The difference between this term and last term is a DOUBLING of time spent in secret discussions.

How can Morris continue to claim that she is “Open and Transparent”? Is she being deliberately obtuse or are secret meetings simply how she thinks Town Business should be handled?

Look at the numbers another way.  If a Council meting is, through by-law, generally 3.5 hours long, and this Council has spent over 115 hours behind closed doors, then that means this Council has spent the equivalent of 33 full council meetings deliberating in secret.  

That’s right.  The equivalent of 33 full council meetings held in secret.

If that’s open and transparent government, then possibly you would be interested in a bridge for sale in Brooklyn …

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23 Responses to “Open and Transparent? You be the judge”

  1. Robert the Bruce said

    Aurora in not where I was born. I did however grow in a town in southwestern Ontario that is not that different than Aurora. About the same size, close to a larger city that tend to draw employees and shoppers. With family still there, I keep in touch with the goings on there. The local paper (a 6 day per week real paper – not like the two we have here) ran a peice asking readers to send in questions to ask prospective candidates for this fall’s election. For the record, they have a CAO and no wards. The is a Mayor and 7 aldermen.

    Here is the first cut – some are very applicable here….

    1) Are you in favour of a tax cut/ freeze?

    2) If there is a tax cut/freeze, what are the top three services to residents you feel should be reduced?

    3) Do we need a CAO? Why or why not?

    4) Are you in favour of a ward system?

    5) Can you recognize your own credit card in your wallet?

    6) What makes you qualified to make decisions about the spending of taxpayer dollars and the level of service we receive?

    7) What will you do to ensure taxpayers are consulted and their opinions are valued in making decisions?

    8) Please describe a time when you demonstrated honesty, accountability, leadership, transparent decision-making, skills at dealing with difficult people, great communication, your commitment to something, long-term decision making, etc., and what you did and what you learned from the situation.

    Fuimus

  2. Guy Poppe said

    To Evelyn Buck

    Evelyn, you know I am not talking about complaints under the Code.

    I am talking about complaints pursuant to s. 239 of the Municipal Act.

    Let’s not obfuscate the issue.

    • joker said

      obfuscate?

      how about a red herring?

      you know darn well that it’s a ridiculously labourious and time consuming (and ultimately costly) exercise to have the activities of a Council investigated

      whether a complaint has been lodged or not is hardly an indication of whether one is warranted.

      did you say hi to morris for us

      lol

    • Anonymous said

      Mr. Poppe. You have been called out several times to explain what is so positive about the reign of Ms. Morris.Instead of contributing to the discourse you choose to question the motives of the contributors. Well in the spirit of free speech I await your detailed rationale. Failure to do so or reversing the heat (which most of your posts seem to consist of) only proves you are nothing but a Morris shill with nothing really to contribute here.

  3. Guy Poppe said

    To Mr. Epps.

    First of all thank you for the compliment.

    Regarding your comment about Councilors McRoberts and Collins-Mrakas, I suggest you review council minutes to determine the number of times they dissented from the majority. I have already commented in another posting. You may want to read it.

    Insofar as closed sessions are concerned, these are not the Mayor’s prerogative. They require a resolution of council, and notice.

    I am not aware of a single instance of complaint under the Act, nor is Councilor Buck, nor even a recorded vote objecting to the resolution to go into closed session. I do recall one motion to go into closed session, which was denied by the majority. Perhaps you may want to find out who moved that motion.

    • evelyn.buck said

      Gy Poppe said

      I am not aware of a single instance of complaint under the Act, nor is Councilor Buck, nor even a recorded vote objecting to the resolution to go into closed session.

      Not being aware of a complaint doesn’t mean there were none.

      We know of more than one complaint under then Code of Conduct but both the Clerk and the Solicitor, answering a specific question from the Mayor both responded they were unaware of any.

      Only the clerk of the muncipality knows of complaints, Under the regulations, the Clerk’s role is to be conduit between complainant — the person being complained about and the integrity Commissioner.

      Our current clerk was not on staff at the time of the First Integrity Commissioner. The Clerk who “retired” the day she provided, as required, the first decision to the person complained about.

      It took a bit of juggling but The Integrity Commissioner was also ” stripped of his authorty” about the same time.

      Continued reference was made after by the Mayor to the complaint not having been dealt with and still pending.

      The Clerk and the Solicitor stated in public, for the record, they were not aware of any previous complaints.

      The question had been asked, how the complaints of Councillor MacEachern received the numbers one and two and were dealt with first by Integrity Commissioner David Tzubouchi, chosen for the job by the ever constant majority, including the complainant.

  4. Anon Ymous said

    The 2000-2003 term did not include Phyllis. See the difference people??? Shes been the common denominator in town dysfunction for along time.

    I still don’t understand why people didn’t realize this during the 2006 election campaign. Those voters, and the lazy non-voting public had better have learned their damned lesson this time.

    • Anonymous for a Reason said

      I was one of those people who voted for PM in 2006. Please forgive me. I shall not make the same mistake again.

    • Anon Ymous said

      I forgive you… you are a good person to admit you made a mistake!

    • walt said

      I’m truly ashamed to admit that I too voted for the Phyllistine in ’06 too, as did my wife. We’ve regretted it pretty much ever since.

      The saddest part is that I’m leaving Aurora before October, so I won’t get a chance to vote against her. I won’t even be able to help i some small way someone else’s campaign, which had been my original intent.

    • Richard Johnson said

      Not only did I vote for Phyllis but I canvassed through the rain for her. I will not be making the same mistake again !

      I honestly thought that Phyllis would deliver the change that she promised but the manipulation and deception eventually became very clear and undeniable.

      There are those that do not want to see the truth for what it is on any given issue but I have to believe that the truth will come through loud and clear in the lead up to October 25th. All one has to do is watch a few council meetings on Roger’s Cable and get the story behind the story to know what direction our council is going in.

      This is not the first time that I’ve been disappointed by a politician but hope springs eternal.

    • Anonymous Indeed said

      Ditto, Richard Johnson. I also campaigned for Phyllis and realized too late. I’m campaigning a hundred times harder for her NOT to be re-elected, but don’t know how possible that is.
      I’m just sorry the mayoral candidates are so lacklustre. I fear she’ll ride to victory unless Nigel finally comes to his senses and bails.
      And Geoffrey Dawe and Roger Whatshisname aren’t much to write home about either.
      What to do, what to do…

    • Knowledgeable in Aurora said

      I would like to see Roger, Nigel and Geoff sit in a room together and decide on one to run for Mayor and the other two for Council.

      If they throw their collective supporters together and all campaign hard to unseat Phyllis it can happen. I think the other two could easily win Council seats just by showing us their co-operative interest in doing what is good for Aurora. All three would have my vote.

      We would then have the start of a new Council that could bring back some pride to our local government.

      Guess I’m dreaming……….

    • Anonymous said

      I would like Bob McRoberts to throw his hat into the mayoralty ring. He received the most votes for councillor in the last election; he obviously has a good base of support; but what is most important is that the man has integrity, intellect and logic. If he went head to head with the current mayor (no other candidates) I think he would win hands down.

  5. Guy Poppe said

    Faux Pas

    Your comment suggest you seem to know what goes on.

    Please do tell us.

    • Anonymous 'cause it bugs Guy! said

      Guy,

      Your comment suggests that Faux Pas’ comment is correct. Because we know you know what goes on – even if from a skewed perspective.

  6. Guy Poppe said

    To Evelyn:

    How would you deal with this issue?

  7. Guy Poppe said

    To The AuroraCitizen

    While I agree that the number and extent of closed seasons is high, I do not have sufficient facts to comment whether this some scheme to deny transparentcy.

    S. 239 of the Municipal Act sets out the rules for open and closed meetings. It provides also that anyone can challenge whether a meeting ought to have been open or closed. This results is an investigation by an independent investigator.

    Is anyone aware or asked whether any such challenges occurred?

    • evelyn.buck said

      I am not aware of any such complaints or requests for investigation.

      We do have a contract with a firm to do the investiagtion ,if there were such complaints.There is probably a retainer involved. We entered into it with other municipalities, to keep the cost down.

      The legislation in my opinion was just another knee jerk reaction by the orovincial government to complaints they were receiving from the public about how in-camer meetings were being abused.
      Obviously ,it’s about as useful as the proverbial nipples on a bull.
      Much like the Code of Conduct legislation.
      It’s intended to protect whistle-blwoers who may be aware of corruption but are afraid to talk about it.
      Instead it’s used by half-assed politicians who don’t know an ankle joint from a hole in the ground to settle political scores at public expense.
      Who would have thunk it?

    • Broderick Epps said

      Surprise, surprise. Mr. P does not have enough facts to support the argument that Ms. Morris’ tenure on council has resulted in an inordinate amount of behind closed doors meetings. I guess when you have staff problems, a councillor that does not follow, and of course the refusal to work with two other councillors (McRoberts and Collins-Mrakas) using lawyer speak to twist the facts and say you see nothing wrong is classic. Mr. P would have been a great addition to the dream team that got OJ off. He certainly knows how to spin….B@@@s@@@.

      BTW I am still waiting for Mr. P to deliver his facts on why Ms. Morris is doing a great job.

  8. Tim the Enchanter said

    The numbers are indeed shocking and unacceptable but we’ll probably never know EXACTLY what happened in those “Star Chamber” meetings but I can guess at the response from Morrisville.

    This is just a guess mind you.

    “We certainly didn’t want to hold so many in-camera meetings but sadly we were legally obliged to do so in order to protect our wonderful and hard-working town staff from the misconduct of a certain council member who cannot be named although she sounds a bit like Sean Connery. Of course we’re not at liberty to discuss the content of the meetings”

    Election soundbyte for her supporters?

    “Mayor Morris’ plan for a more transparent council was sabotaged by Evelyn Buck”

    See how easy it is?

    Little town? oh yeah.
    Funny? not so much sometimes.

    • PArkview 7 said

      Paraphrasing Charlie Rich, Faux Pas?

    • Richard Johnson said

      If a councillor can get away with trash talk behind closed doors, while another councillor gets away with screaming at a young lady who is legitimately selling ice cream at the park, while the Mayor turns around and conducts a hundred thousand dollar witch hunt at our town’s expense, in order to get Clr Buck to say she is sorry should be a real concern to the average voter, if that is what is in fact what is going on.

      There are so many reality checks required with this council that we can only hope that the truth comes to light over the coming months. What is promised and what is delivered are often two very different things and I expect that the spin doctors have never been busier.

      This is not a Mayor that builds trust, respect and consensus.

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