Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Archive for the ‘CAO’ Category

Opinions, Allegations and Threats

Posted by auroracitizen on September 16, 2010

The Aurora Citizen is again the target of a letter from the Town solicitor demanding that comments be removed from this blog.

On Sept 14th, Mr Bill Hogg received a registered letter from Christopher C. Cooper, Director of Legal Services/Town Solicitor with the comment “While the Town does not seek to stifle fair and accurate comment, we hereby ask that you remove the posts from the Blog, which posts suggest  Mr Ballantyne is or has acted unethically and illegally in his role as the Town’s manager of Corporate Communications.”

Within the letter he also indicates the specific comments that are the subject of the letter.

So let’s be clear –in the quest for accuracy.

The comments identified by Mr Cooper are not posts written by someone associated with this blog — they were comments submitted by readers of this blog.

The first comment suggested that a Phyllis Morris quote included in a Banner article on her campaign for re-election was written by Mr Ballantyne.

The second comment indicated that they hoped that Mr Ballantyne was not responsible for updating comments on Wikipedia since they could be looked upon as electioneering edits.

Both comments expressed opinion. They were not asserted as statements of fact by the commentors.

The issue from the town perspective is that these comments implied that Mr Ballantyne was improperly using his office to help a candidate for re-election — which is inappropriate and a serious accusation under the Code of Conduct governing Town employees as well as the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.

Fair enough — we have removed the 2 comments at the request of the Town since it is the Town’s position that “the suggestions made in the posts were not true, have no basis in fact”. You can read the entire letter by clicking on the pictures above.

We also do not want any allegations published — either by contributors to this blog or the numerous readers who comment.

We believe the protection of staff from being embroiled in political debate is an important issue. Staff are expected to remain outside the political battles at all times. After all, this terms enemy, might be next terms boss.

We trust that Phyllis Morris and the remainder of Council share this view.

Posted in CAO, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 41 Comments »

Mayor “Corrects” Councillor Buck

Posted by auroracitizen on January 1, 2010

On page 7 the December 22 edition of The Auroran, Mayor Phillis Morris, issued a correction about statements made by Councillor Buck in a previous letter to the editor — where Buck indicated that the Town’s Director of Corporate and Financial Services had been appointed without appropriate authority.

Mayor Morris stated “the information is incorrect” and that “the Town’s CAO acted in accordance with the Town Council adopted Staff Recruitment and Selection Policy and a council directive.”

However, Mayor Morris offered neither direction to the Recruitment and Selection Policy — wouldn’t you be interested in the actual wording — or to the Council directive — which would be easy to do since all minutes are accurately kept for exactly this reason.

What is most interesting is that when it would be so easy to simply direct people to the above noted information, she chose instead to make a broad claim without support.

Also interesting is the use of a letter to the editor. Is this a new trend we can expect for the new year. Time will tell.

Possible someone could direct our readers to the Council direction the Mayor indicates took place. That would put us all at ease.

Or possibly someone should submit a Freedom of Information request for this information — just so we have all the “facts” correct.

Posted in CAO, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 8 Comments »

Aurora & Toronto Both Trying to Muzzle Their Critics!

Posted by auroracitizen on June 6, 2009

Spotted a half page article (Pg 17) in the June 4th Toronto Sun (Note to Banner and Auroran — the newspapers in that community are reporting on this issue!). Sue Ann Levy reports that Toronto Council Executive Committee has passed a policy that would allow Councillors to launch lawsuits against another Councillor or a third party (i.e. media or the public). It goes to Council as a whole July 6.

Seems more that just our Mayor is unwilling to allow free speech in their community. Sue Ann refers to “Communist City Hall”.

However, at least in Toronto, “an independent external lawyer specializing in libel and defamation will be engaged to determine the merits of the claim before it is deemed eligible”. Furthermore, it seems that Council will debate this new policy in public.

Aurora Council seems to feel neither are required. There has been no public discussion (possibly discussed privately???) and no checks and balances appear to be in place.

The Mayor is upset — so the CAO has started to take action on her behalf.

Open and transparent? We think not.

Maybe our local politicians should spend less time and money trying to muzzle their constituents and more time listening to them.

Just a thought.

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Posted in CAO, Town Council | 10 Comments »

CAO Repeats Request

Posted by auroracitizen on June 2, 2009

The following email was received from Neil Garbe, CAO of the Town of Aurora Monday June 1. It is posted unedited in its entirety. This is the second request — the original was sent May 29.

Please post the following:

I note that as of June 1, 2009 5:00 p.m. the comment of an individual under the pseudonym “New_Man_In_Town” is still posted on this site that alleges criminal wrong-doing on the part of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora. I am reiterating my request that the moderator of the Aurora Citizen immediately remove the comment, apologize for its inclusion on the site and contact “New_Man_in_Town” and solicit a retraction and apology from that individual. I feel it is a reasonable expectation to fulfill this request by 5:00 p.m. on June 2, 2009.

Thank you,

Neil Garbe
Chief Administrative Officer
The Corporation of the Town of Aurora

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Posted in CAO, Town Council | 20 Comments »

The Town of Aurora Weights In

Posted by auroracitizen on May 30, 2009

The following email was received from Neil Garbe, CAO of the Town of Aurora at 4:46 pm Friday May 29. It is posted unedited in its entirety.

He was not specific which post by New_Man_in_Town was being referenced, but we have reviewed the 4 posted and cannot find a post that “alleges criminal wrong-doing on the part of The Corporation of the Town of Aurora”. However, we did find a comment on Wed 5/27 under What’s up with the May 12 Council Minutes that referenced the Mayor.

As our readers and contributors are aware, anonymous posts are just that — anonymous — and we are unaware of the identity of these contributors. Similarly they are aware of our Editorial Policy & Legal Notice which is prominently displayed on the right side of the blog.

Please post the following:

To: Aurora Citizen blog

A recent comment was posted to this site using the pseudonym “New_Man_in_Town.” The comment alleges criminal wrong-doing on the part of The Corporation of the Town of Aurora and those for whom it is responsible. These are serious accusations which are completely unfounded and potentially defamatory. I found the comment troubling and, as head of the Town’s administration, I am obligated to protect the names and reputations of the Town, its elected officials and employees

I am requesting that the moderator of the Aurora Citizen immediately remove the comment and apologize for its inclusion on the site. I am also requesting that the moderator contact “New_Man_in_Town” and solicit a retraction and apology from that individual. Please be advised that such statement will not be tolerated and the Town will be taking all actions that may be required to identify the individuals involved in order to protect the Town and those for whom it is responsible.

Neil Garbe
Chief Administrative Officer
Corporation of the Town of Aurora

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Posted in CAO, Town Council | 41 Comments »

Aurora Welcomes New CAO in January

Posted by auroracitizen on December 6, 2008

Aurora will welcome a new CAO in January. Neil Garbe is currently at the Region, so he should be fully aware of the situation here in Aurora.

His first job should be to start rebuilding trust in the ranks of the Town staff. In the current economic climate, hardly a day passes without the newspapers commenting about the importance of motivated staff to achieve the best results. Countless research studies have shown that unless staff is positive about their jobs they do not perform effectively.

Why is that important? Until that is achieved, the residents will never receive their full value of their tax dollars. In other words, our taxes are higher because the town does not operate as efficiently as possible.

One example is the amount of time and money that gets spent by Council’s inability to make a decision about issues and continually revisit them. The waste in staff hours and impact on moral must be staggering.

The current Council needs to ensure that our scarce dollars derive the most benefit and the first steps is to rebuild relationships with staff.

We will all be watching with great interest to see how he manages the situation he has inherited.

Let’s wish him best wishes and good luck

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Posted in CAO, Town Council | 30 Comments »

Integrity Commissioner

Posted by auroracitizen on November 30, 2008

Now that Council has hired their Integrity Commissioner, it will be interesting to watch how they are utilized. There have been a number of accusation made about integrity that would be worthy of consideration.

There has been the refusal to sign the Code of Conduct by Cllr. Buck, and possibly some citizen members. Is it even appropriate to force citizen members to sign? Or the Conflict of Interest accusations around the appointment of Ken Whitehurst? Or even the dismissal of the CAO?

Will the new position be used as a weapon to try to quiet dissenting opinions? Will it be used for a little self-evaluation of their own conduct?

Most importantly, will this third party be able to render third party opinions without having to vet them through Council under the cloak of “In Camera” meetings because of the personnel nature of the issues?

How broad or narrow will the scope be? Remember, they are not full-time. Will they only be used at the discretion of Council, or will citizens have the ability to contact the Commissioner to investigate and report on the behaviours of Council or specific members?

All of these are important questions that need to be answered. Stay tuned, I am sure that activities will shortly start to tell the story.

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Posted in CAO, Conflict of Interest, Town Council | 5 Comments »

Let the Facts be Known

Posted by auroracitizen on November 19, 2008

First, let’s congratulate Council for taking the initiative to print ads about some recent issues affecting the town. It seems that the awareness created by this blog and the local newspapers has caused them to recognize that pretending that there are no issues doesn’t make them go away.

Hopefully this will be the first of many ads communicating the facts about issues of importance to the community. Let’s hope that the oft repeated commitment to “providing open and transparent government” is more than just these couple ads.

With regard to Mr Whitehurst, this issue will continue to dog the Mayor right into the next election. She and others continue to ignore the point about a conflict. The issue is not that he resigned or what he is billing the town — the conflict is that he voted on an item that had a financial impact on himself personally. It is one of the most clear cut cases of a conflict ever seen. Given the number of times this comes up with regard to members of Council — it is amazing that they continue to pretend it doesn’t exist in this case.

Did we really pay a lawyer $2,144.63 to attend a single meeting as part of an overall $12,345.83 expenditure. To be clear, the taxpayers of the community had to pay a lawyer to defend Council against the very people they were elected to serve so Council could act against the will of the taxpayers and appoint a person of their choosing. Talk about a slap in the face.

As for the unauthorized spending by staff, let’s hope a lot more questions get answered. Here are a few– you probably have more. Send them along and we will publish them.

  1. How did Council miss this issue when the Auroran reported on it a number of times?
  2. How did cheques get distributed without Council being aware of them? The Mayor and at least 2 Councillors regularly review — and question staff – on the cheque registry. Where were the questions in this case?
  3. If proper procurement procedures are in place — then how did this slip through? Don’t taxpayers deserve to understand what happened and what is being done to fix it. General statements about changing roles and working hard don’t provide much reassurance.
  4. Was this used as an excuse to dismiss the CAO? It seeems the issue has been known for awhile, but only became public when the CAO was asked to leave. Are staff being blamed to cover the real issue — that Council simply wanted John Rogers out?

It is offensive that Council is pointing the finger squarely at staff about not following procedures. Where are the checks and balances by Council that should also have been followed. If The Auroran spotted the issue, them why didn’t Council?

Hopefully the media will continue to keep up the pressure until all the facts become known.

Keep your comments coming. Only through open dialogue will these and other issues get broadly discussed.

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Posted in CAO, Conflict of Interest, Legal, Town Council | 19 Comments »

Update: Where have all the town staff gone?

Posted by auroracitizen on September 2, 2008

Since our original post last week on this subject, we have received a number of comments. Obviously it is an area of concern to many Aurorans so we thought we would update everyone on some of these comments.

It seems we were incomplete in our list of town staff who have left under this new Council. In addition to the 5 Directors, we have also lost the Mayor’s administrative assistant, Cookie Ellis — who was subsequently replaced by both a Mayor’s administrative assistant and a new position this term of an assistant for our part-time Council. What she does for 5 days each week when Councillors are at their full-time jobs is beyond my scope of understanding.

Possibly even more troubling is that we have already lost 2 of the replacements. It seems both our interim Solicitor Robert Cambridge and the Acting Director of Public Works Dave Atkins have already left.

One must wonder who will be next through the revolving door of town hall staff. One of our commenter’s stated that there is already a move afoot to jettison another Director.

To quote Dick Illingworth “Bouquet to the Councillor who will request a report outlining the termination, recruitment, training costs associated with all these departures.”

To see all comments from the original post click here.

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Posted in CAO, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 10 Comments »

Where have all the Town Staff gone?

Posted by auroracitizen on August 25, 2008

Senior staff at the Town Hall are leaving at an alarming rate. Since our new Council started, under the much vaunted open and transparent leadership style of Mayor Phyllis Morris, we have lost our Director of Planning, Director of Legal Services, Director of Public Works, Director of Corporate Service (leaving this year), and now the CAO. That’s 5 of the 8 person Management Team.

The years of experience lost are significant and the costs associated with recruitment, re-training and lost opportunities without these people in place is immeasurable. The termination costs will also be considerable given the CAO had over 3 years left in his contract.

Of equal concern is the abrupt manner of the recent departure of the CAO, a well-respected member of the municipal community who the previous Council hired for a 6 year contract to provide consistent leadership for the town. It has been reported he was “escorted” from the building.

What may be more telling is that two councillors were unable to participate in the decision as one was recuperating from surgery and one was on vacation. Given that Council was informed in advance that the two councillors would not be present, why did Council go forward so abruptly with a decision with such far-reaching implications without a full Council present?

Why the urgency? Why not wait until all of Council could be present and a “special meeting” be called. The mayor has called 4 “emergency” closed session meetings this summer so far, what difference would one more make? The implication is clear — a swift decision was made and executed.

The impact on staff morale should also be of great concern. One has to wonder if this is a purge or is there some staff-wide malaise that has caused all these departures.

At this point, the only members of the Senior Management team from last term still standing are Al Downey, Director of Leisure Services and John Gutteridge, Director of Finance/Treasurer. I guess we will just have to await their fate.

Maybe I’m the only one concerned about the state of affairs at town hall, let me know.

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Posted in CAO, Special Meetings, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 16 Comments »