Aurora Citizen

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Update: Morris Discontinues Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on October 18, 2011

On Oct 17, 2011, almost 1 year to the date after stating a $6,000,000 lawsuit against 3 residents of Aurora, Phyllis Morris has discontinued her lawsuit.

A discontinuance by a plaintiff is exceedingly rare in civil proceedings. In essence, the plaintiff, who has brought the fight to the defendants, admits that he or she no longer wishes to prosecute her claim. Where a plaintiff discontinues a claim, it could be reasonably assumed that they have recognized that their claim was fatally flawed and without merit from the outset.

This discontinuance is a total victory for the defendants, and substantiates and supports the position they took throughout this litigation—that they did nothing wrong.

The discontinuance also ends the Appeals to Judge Brown’s recent rulings — which have now been accepted by Ms. Morris.

It was manifestly unfair that the defendants were put to the time and expense of legal fees at the hands of Ms. Morris, most especially in light of the fact that Ms. Morris used tax dollars to pursue them in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack intended to silence their efforts to hold her government accountable.

It is equally telling that Ms. Morris discontinued the litigation when she was called upon to fund it out of her own pocket rather than use taxpayer funds as initially intended. She was fully prepared to use town resources to support her private lawsuit, at the towns’ sole risk and expense to her sole potential gain, despite the fact that the Town’s Code of Conduct states clearly that “public office is not to be used for personal gain”.

While the defendants, Hogg and Johnson defended their principles with their own funds — Phyllis Morris did not.

Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned from this experience. Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right of all Canadians — but it is a right that will be attacked, and will need protection.

Unfortunately, it is another blemish on the good name of Aurora that the defendants were called upon to personally defend this right.

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Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Town Council | 33 Comments »

4/12/11: Council Meeting

Posted by auroracitizen on April 13, 2011

A reader has suggested that we start to open a post after each Council meeting so that people can share their thoughts and ideas with each other and Council. Going forward we will try to do so. and label as above so you know which meeting to add comments to.

4/12/11 Agenda

Posted in Discussion Topic, Town Council | 8 Comments »

Please help me understand how litigation against three Aurora citizens was approved.

Posted by auroracitizen on April 13, 2011

Re: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Payment of Legal Expenses of Phyllis Morris and the defamation action of Phyllis Morris v.Johnson et al.

An Open Letter to the Aurora Town Council and the Citizens of Aurora.

I am writing this as an open letter to the current Aurora Town Council and to the citizens of Aurora as I believe others may have similar questions and concerns in relation to the defamation action of Phyllis Morris v. Johnson et al. I stand open to being corrected if anyone has any new information to be shared and I look to others for answers and clarification as I don’t believe that the current information in the public domain is sufficient to explain how this action was authorized by the Town of Aurora. It is only by sharing the following questions and subsequent answers (and any questions that other Aurora citizens may contribute) that we may all learn and come to understand how this action proceeded to its present state. A considerable amount of Aurora tax money is now authorized for payment of external legal fees for this case but more importantly to me three private citizens of Aurora are still involved as defendants in this action which may take years to resolve and which may jeopardize the financial futures of their families.

I realize that there are those that support Ms. Morris’ argument and reasoning for her defamation suit as equally there are those that support Richard Johnson, Elizabeth Bishenden and Bill Hogg (Johnson et al) and I respect their difference in opinions. I was from the start and still remain in support of Johnson et al but it is not my intention here to argue the legal aspects of their case as this is now in the hands of our judicial system and the lawyers. It is my intention to learn and better understand how this action was authorized by the Town and to understand how it was deemed to follow the proper legislative and administrative procedures.

I recognize that Mayor Dawe and some of the current councillors that ran on a platform that included stopping the Town’s involvement in the lawsuit. I commend them for following through on this promise once they were sworn into office. I also commend those councillors and mayoral candidates that also supported stopping the Town’s involvement but who were not successful in the recent election. I can appreciate that Mayor Dawe and the current Town Council has had to responsibly deal with the matters opened by the previous council and administration and were faced with the difficult decision to authorize the payment of external legal fees to December 14, 2010. I further recognize that there may still be some legal privacy issues in answering some of my questions but that does not prohibit me from asking these important questions and seeking these answers even if they may still be forthcoming in the future when this case is resolved.

In the following, I will reference the letter by George Rust-D’Eye of WeirFoulds LLP entitled EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Payment of Legal Expenses of Phyllis Morris (to be known as the “Executive Summary”). This letter was made public on March 30, 2011 as a Media Advisory by the Town of Aurora. It was authorized for release by order of the Aurora Town Council at its March 29, 2011 meeting and it can be found on the Town website at the webpage http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/aurora/index.aspx?CategoryID=27&lang=en-CA under 2011 Media Releases (March 30, 2011).

It was after reading George Rust-D’Eye’s Executive Summary that I was compelled to ask the contained questions and to seek the assistance from others to help me and the citizens of Aurora better understand how Phyllis Morris v. Johnson et al was initiated by the Town of Aurora. It is the Executive Summary that makes me question past information and/or lack of information to the public in this matter.

I am numbering my questions so that anyone responding to this letter can do so accordingly by the question number.

1. Who has the legal authority at the Town to proceed on the Town’s behalf with a lawsuit?

2. What are or in fact are there any legislative steps that must be complied with by the Town Council in order to initiate a lawsuit? What is the involvement and authority of the Mayor and the Town’s administrative staff, be it the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), the Town Solicitor or any other Town staff in initiating a lawsuit?

3. I recognize that this matter started with the Council directive from the Closed Session of the Town Council Meeting of September 14, 2010. From that point onwards what were the steps and who further authorized that this matter was to be handled directly as a lawsuit?

As stated in Question 3, this matter started with the Council directive from the Closed Session of the Town Council Meeting of September 14, 2010 (Please see 2nd attachment). The entry for this motion is as follows:

Council recessed into Closed Session at 11:33pm

Mayor Morris left the meeting at 1:10 am.

Council reconvened into Open Session at 1:11 am with Deputy Mayor McRoberts in the Chair.

Moved by Councillor MacEachern Seconded by Councillor Gaertner

THAT the Council rise and report from the Closed Session to confirm the direction from Closed Session regarding the potential defamation; and THAT the Town Solicitor be directed to retain external legal counsel and to take any and all actions to bring resolution to this matter.

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

The September 14th Council meeting initially had Mayor Morris and all eight Councillors in attendance. In the minutes it is noted that Councillor Collins-Mrakas left the meeting at 10:16 pm and Councillor Buck left the meeting at 11:01 pm. The Closed session would then have included Mayor Morris (who subsequently left at 1:10am just before reporting out and before the vote) and Councillors Gaertner, Gallo, Granger, MacEachern, McRoberts and Wilson. There is no indication in the minutes as to if any Town staff may have been involved in the closed session but since it involved litigation I would assume that the Town’s CAO and the Town Solicitor would be present, though I stand corrected if they were not present and/or if others were present.

From the Executive Summary (after the September 14th Council Meeting and after the Town retained Aird & Berlis LLP (“AB”) as its external legal counsel): “Then-Mayor Morris requested the Town to pay for the litigation, following the receipt of a legal opinion from AB in which it was advised that the comments were made against the Mayor, as well as the Town Solicitor and the Integrity Commissioner, in their capacity as elected officials or employees of the Town.”

4. Given the answers to the above questions 1, 2 & 3 and the statement “Then-Mayor requested the Town to pay for the litigation”, were the steps taken by the Town in accordance to the accepted procedures and in such a way that Mayor Morris could not be seen as having a conflict of interest as she had direct involvement in the case being that she would be the plaintiff, that the Town would be financing this action and that she would be the sole beneficiary of any awarded damages?

5. As I see no further reference to this action in any other subsequent Council Meeting in the above statement “who” is the Town? Was this a Town staff member with authority to authorize payment for the litigation?

6. Again, who at the Town had the authority to proceed with litigation? If it was the Mayor was it not a conflict of interest for the Mayor to request the Town to proceed? If it was the Mayor, should not another person (be it elected or Town staff) have taken the lead to this action?

7. Was there a reason why this matter was not taken back to Council be it in a closed session to authorize such litigation and the accompanying expenditures?

From the Executive Summary: “The retainer letter signed by the Mayor and the Town on October 6, 2010 leads to the conclusion that both are jointly and severally liable for paying the legal expenses incurred for the defamation action.”

8. Thus the Town and Ms. Morris were equally and separately responsible for the full amount. The Town has now authorized payment of legal fees to December 14, 2010. Should the Town not be demanding that Ms. Morris reimburse the Town now for at least ½ of the Town external legal fees instead of as recommended in the Executive Summary “that the Town give notice to Phyllis Morris of the intent by the Town to look to her for indemnity in respect of legal services paid for by the Town out of any damages or cost recovered by her in the proceedings”? The only way that the Town will be reimbursed will be if Ms. Morris is successful and the 3 Aurora citizens are not and this does not guarantee any funds to the Town as there is no signed agreement for this option.

9. Would the Mayor have proceeded or initiated such action given that she would have to pay ½ the current legal expense?

(This is now a hypothetical question and does not require an answer).

From the Executive Summary: “it appears that, at the time of the meeting of the Town Council on September 14 and 15, 2010, it was accepted by all concerned that the abuse being heaped on the Mayor and other municipal officials by third parties, was seen as an attack on the reputation of the Town itself, affecting the reputation and perceived integrity of Council and staff, and that there was an agreed-upon strategy to vindicate the Town’s name and reputation, which was seen at least as much the target as was the Mayor herself;”

10. Are we to understand that the “agreed-upon strategy” that Mr. Rust-D’Eye writes of was simply the wording in the Council Meeting Minutes of September 14, 2010 “THAT the Town Solicitor be directed to retain external legal counsel and to take any and all actions to bring resolution to this matter”? And that it was this directive that gave authorization to an open-ended mandate and a blank cheque to external counsel without further advice, consultation or authority from Council. (A separate rhetorical question but if there was not an election and a change of Council to stop payment to AB how high would the lawyer’s bill have gone?)

11. If it was an “agreed-upon strategy” then why if I recall correctly were some councillors apparently surprised when the news of the litigation came forth?

12. Were these instructions sufficient to proceed with the defamation suit? (Thus my earlier questions on legislative procedure).

13. Did the Town Solicitor or whoever instructed the external legal counsel of Aird & Berlis have the authority to proceed with litigation without further approval from Town Council?

14. Was the motion from the September 14th meeting so broadly worded that it could be ambiguous enough so that legal proceedings could commence without further authorization or approval from Council?

15. Did council discuss litigation as part of their closed session meeting? Was it understood that litigation was the only option that external legal counsel should pursue? (I realize that this may never be known as it was a closed session). If so, then they knew it could proceed to the current situation along with the financial burden to the Town. If not, then did someone at the Town over-step their authority (thus my earlier questions as to procedure in authorizing litigation)?

Please help me understand how we arrived at the current state of affairs.

It is my opinion that the council directive was far too vague and could be viewed as irresponsible as it did not provide specific direction and limitations and any need for the external legal counsel once engaged to seek further direction and authorization from council. Given the particular care that councillors take in wording their motions and given the fact that this was done at the end of term with councillors having a minimum of 4 years of experience (excluding Councillor Gallo) in their seats as opposed to being inexperienced councillors at the beginning of term it is surprising that this motion as worded was ever approved. It makes me wonder whether there is any part of this incident and/or subsequent actions that could be deemed in any way to violate the Municipal Act and/or the Town’s business and legislative procedures and if so who are we to hold accountable for their actions.

I note that Councillor Bob McRoberts disavowed his approval of the September 14th motion at the September 29, 2010 Council meeting and stated on October 14, 2010 on Rogers TV First Local News, “The arguments presented by town staff and council members didn’t match my understanding of the Municipal Act. I do not agree with the rationale provided. I do not agree that the matter is a matter for Council”.

I have to ask – what would have happened to the Town of Aurora if this past Council were to have directed other external contractors “to take any and all actions” for litigation against land developers in Aurora or for the repair to all roads or to improving Aurora’s water and sewage systems or to providing recreation facilities?

I believe that there is still much to be disclosed to the citizens of Aurora so that we can all understand how Phyllis Morris v. Johnson et al was authorized by the Town of Aurora. I should think that the answers would be simple and straight forward.

Sincerely,

Paul Sesto

Posted in Community Input, Conflict of Interest, Election 2010, Freedom of Information, Guest Post, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Town Council | 30 Comments »

Discussion: What is the Appropriate Use of Electronic Devices during Council Meetings?

Posted by auroracitizen on March 16, 2011

Another great suggested discussion topic from a reader.

I was glad to read in the paper last week that the use of electronic devices during council meetings is under review. The Blackberry activities and twittering that have been going on during meetings have been bugging the hell out of me. I think it is rude, inappropriate and disrespectful to others in the chamber but above all, to voters.

I have heard all the arguments about the “age of multitasking” and being able to pay attention to several activities at once without losing the thread of any. I say hogwash! If that were the case, why is there evidence to show that attention deficit disorders are on the rise or that young people nowadays can only focus on snippets of superficial information and miss most of “meat and details.” I also wonder why basic good manners have disappeared. There is nothing more irritating and demoralizing than having to share someone’s attention with cyberspace, especially during a pre-scheduled meeting.

I have 2 grown up children, both of whom work for large organizations in management positions. While they are Blackberry fiends and avid texters and twitterers, even they acknowledge that it is not appropriate during meetings where one’s 100% concentration and focus is required. If some young people who are relatively new to the workforce can recognize the importance of this concept I would expect older, more experienced people to do the same.

As a voter, I expect my elected officials to bring 100% of their attention to the table when dealing with the town’s business in order to make crucial decisions. I do not want texters and twitterers phasing in and out of the discussions. Nor do I want them communicating with others outside of the council chamber for advice or direction in what to say or how to vote. If I valued those opinions I would have voted for them in the last election. I expect current councillors to use their own noggins and draw their own conclusions and have the decency to carry their own responsibility and do the job they are paid to do. I would be most interested in hearing others’ opinions on this issue.

Posted in Discussion Topic, Town Council | 27 Comments »

New Procedural Bylaw Being Discussed

Posted by auroracitizen on March 6, 2011

In Councillor Ballard’s blog he discusses the new procedural bylaw currently under discussion. Possibly this is the type of unbiased reporting that some readers of this blog are looking for.

He  identifies concern with a number of key areas (comments are from his blog);

  1. Limit who can delegate before Council,
  2. Remove the requirement of a delegate’s need to give advance notice, (Council will have no advance knowledge of why a delegate is speaking at a General Council meeting and, therefore, may not be well informed to ask questions, discus the matter intelligently, and be unable to make an informed decision),
  3. Not allow delegates to speak at a Council meeting (which is broadcast on Cable), and only allow delegates to speak at Council’s General Committee meeting (which is not broadcast via Cable),
  4. Drastically shorten a Councillor’s ability to speak to an item from 30 minutes to five minutes. Complex issues may not be fully explored by Councillors before decisions are made,
  5. Only allow residents, not businesses, to speak at Open Forum even though businesses are taxpayers, too.

There seems to be a fundamental flaw in his whole argument — and that is the seeming lack of understanding of the difference between a General Committee (GC) meeting and a Council meeting.

A Council meeting is too late to be gathering information. That is the purpose of committee meetings. That is where delegates should come forward and present various sides of the argument — where and when Councillors have the opportunity to ask questions. Then, Councillors have a week for “sober second thought”, plus the ability to check facts, dig deeper and come to the formal Council meeting ready to debate the issues based on their research. There is no move afoot to limit who can delegate to Council — just to have the delegate appear at a time and place where their information can best be received and considered.

Imagine arriving at a meeting where you are expected to make a decision and only then start to ask questions. That is the whole issue with the ongoing practice by Councillor Gaertner with her questions — she seems more interested in performing for the TV audience versus getting the facts for decision-making. Everyone else has done their research, asked their questions and are ready to debate the merits of various points of view before arriving at the Council meeting. Councillor Gaertner seems to be a week behind.

It is also a key reason why last term reports and decisions were either deferred or sent back to staff so often. It reflected the facts that too many Councillors were arriving without their research completed and ill-prepared to make a decision.

Insisting that the GC meeting be used as the information gathering session and that Councillors arrive at the Council meeting ready and prepared to publicly debate the issue –televised for all to see — make sense. What benefit is gained by having delegates speak at a meeting that is on TV. We are more interested in hearing what our elected Councillors have to say than listening to the biased, self-interested pleas of every special interest group that comes before Council. We want to hear how our elected representatives view the topic — which we hope will be debated on merits they have researched and in the best interest of the entire community — not just the special interest group.

Further, if meetings were shorter, more people might tune in and find out what is going on in town.

Also, has anyone ever heard of a Councillor in Aurora ever speaking for 30 minutes on a single issue at one time? If you can’t make your point in 5 minutes — may be you need to figure out what you want to say before you start talking.

The real basis for his discussion seems to be based on someone representing “the opposition”. This may be standard operating procedure at the Provincial and Federal levels — but many Canadians are finding the “if it’s your idea, it must be wrong” philosophy behind the party system to be a poor use of time and resources. At the municipal level we hope for a more collaborative debate — versus the confrontational environment that Councillors Ballard and Gaertner seem to be striving for.

On another note, if Council demanded that a delegate could only speak if they provided advance notice — Councillor Ballard would probably have said that was limiting input because of the requirement for advance notice. Sometimes you just can’t win for trying — but that’s just our bias 🙂

Posted in Community Input, Town Council | 18 Comments »

The Importance of Policy

Posted by auroracitizen on March 4, 2011

The recent debate about whether to support or not support the Aurora Jazz Festival reminds us of a couple posts we published back in 2009 — The Role of Council and 2008 — Council Versus Staff Roles.

If Council had a clear policy about how our dollars should be spent for promotional support, there would not even be a discussion at the Council table.

This is the same situation we have recently seen with the pool policy — or lack thereof.

For example, there is an ice user policy and a field user policy. These were developed by Council — with input from all user groups —  and are now implemented by staff without political interference.

It would be safe to assume that no user group is completely satisfied — but they seem to be all equally disappointed but treat equally fairly. Which is probably the best case scenario when the demand exceeds the available resources.

This Council needs to defer any decision on promotional support until a policy is in place (again with stakeholder input) and then let staff do their job — implement Council policies.

Then we won’t have user groups appearing before Council appealing for funds and Council making one-off decisions on an ad hoc basis.

Posted in Town Council | 9 Comments »

The Importance of Words

Posted by auroracitizen on March 4, 2011

Councillor Ballard has again demonstrated what his game is — as announced in his welcome to Council intro speech.

In his blog he has taken umbrage with Councillor Buck’s use of the word “niggardly” and insinuated that it was an inappropriate word to use because some people might feel it is too close to another word.

It sounds too much like a racial slur.

To be clear, Councillor Ballard acknowledges that the word was used absolutely appropriately, both in context and in use. Nor does he imply that Councillor Buck used it with ulterior motive.

We offer no opinion on whether it is appropriate to use or not use this word. That is for each of you to decide.

Our question is what value has Councillor Ballard offered to the community as a whole by his blog posting? Does his behaviour move the business of the corporation forward?

If his intention was noble — which would be for Councillor Buck not to use the word in the future in Council meetings — because he found it insensitive, then would not the best course have been to simply mention it in conversation? A simple request from one colleague to another.

But no — instead he has chosen to try to create another Council drama around its use by posting a comment online. One can only assume this was to try to drive a further wedge into Council and create more of the dysfunction that voters tried to rid the Council of by electing virtually a new slate.

Maybe he felt that Councillor Buck would not respond favourably to his “suggestion”, but given this and previous behaviour — one might understand why.

Our view is that since the beginning of the term, Councillors Ballard and Gaertner have made it their mission to try to derail the business of the town for their own agenda. Which to many observers appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to create dysfunction on this Council — possibly to create the impression that it was not tied to the previous Mayor (whom they have loyally supported through thick and thin).

Instead, what they are doing is proving that those associated with the previous regime continue to conduct business in a manner that the community resoundingly rejected.

Councillors Ballard and Gaertner — it’s time to accept that your team lost the election in convincing fashion. Move on — the community has rejected your style of politics and wants a Council that is willing and able to work together — similar to Councils previous to last term. They want a return to politics where our representatives put their personal agendas aside and work for the benefit of those that elected them.

Goodness knows, we have enough issues to address without these constant attempts to simply try to embarrass your colleagues.

It’s time to put aside the bad blood and get down to working together. It’s time to demonstrate some leadership.

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Town Council | 46 Comments »

Councillor Gaertner Speaks Again

Posted by auroracitizen on February 23, 2011

At last nights Council meeting many were hoping that Councillor Gaertner would do the honourable thing and retract her comment about Mr Leach “doctoring” the minutes — yet none was forthcoming. Yet, surprising to some, she was allowed to address comments towards staff.

Comments on this blog asked why? We wondered the same thing.

If Councillor Gaertner did not retract the comment then the good name of Mr Leach is still besmirched by Councillor Gaertner.

In the absence of specific comments from Mayor Dawe and Council, one can only surmise that they hope to move on from this unfortunate turn of phase by Councillor Gaertner — possibly to focus on the things this council was elected to do.

Mayor Dawe has made the point that this behaviour is not to be tolerated.

Councillor Pirri has made the point that it contravenes the Procedural By-law.

And Councillor Gaertner has made the point that she lacks class and holds the Procedural By-law in contempt (and by default the voters of Aurora) when it does not suit her purposes.

We are also disappointed that Councillor Gaertner did not do the honourable thing, but if Council focuses on this behaviour they no longer are focusing on the key issues and are mired in personality issues. Exactly what many criticized the last Mayor and Council for — for using their position to try to silence Councillor Buck. How long would this continue if both sides stuck to their positions. How long are Council willing to allow Councillor Gaertner to hijack the Council agenda with her antics?

Hopefully by stepping back, Council has demonstrated some leadership that will rub off on Councillor Gaertner. Possibly she will also demonstrate some leadership and step back as well.

Apparently Councillor Gaertner was on better behaviour last night (according to comments) and maybe, just maybe, she has learned a little something about what is expected of her.

So maybe this is best. Although not particularly satisfying.

We can only hope and pray. Time will tell.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Town Council | 2 Comments »

What is The Issue?

Posted by auroracitizen on February 19, 2011

There has been a considerable discussion around the post What Is She Thinking — or Is She? focused on who was in the wrong and who owes who an apology.

But the issues seem quite clear.

First, a mistake was made by staff and Council when it was incorrectly thought that Councillor Gaertner moved the motion. We say staff and Council because no one — including Councillor Gaertner — noticed that Councillor Gaertner had not moved the motion but only requested a recorded vote the evening it took place.

Second, after reviewing the facts it was acknowledged that an error had been made and some Councillors felt that in addition to noting that Councillor Gaertner had not moved the motion — that the motion should be struck from the minutes.

Moved by Councillor Gaertner Seconded by Councillor Ballard

THAT the motion to receive the Confidential Memorandum dated December 14, 2010 from the Director of Legal Services/Town Solicitor entitled “Morris v. Johnson et al. – Defamation Action be struck from the December 14, 2010 minutes.

On a recorded vote the motion CARRIED.

YEAS: 5 NAYS: 4

VOTING YEAS: Councillors Ballard, Gaertner, Gallo, Humfryes, and Mayor Dawe

VOTING NAYS: Councillors Abel, Buck, Pirri, and Thompson

Given the innocuous nature of the motion — simply to receive a confidential report which still hasn’t been released to the public — and the fact that no action arose from this motion — some Councillors felt that the action was unnecessary. A waste of Council time some might say.

Of note, it should be pointed out that if this Council subscribed to block voting — this motion would have been defeated since it was moved and seconded by Councillors Gaertner and Ballard — but alas, it sees the block was not in place that night. Conspiracy theorists must be twitching at that bad piece of luck. But we digress.

Third, Councillor Gaertner impugned the character of a member of staff in contravention of every sense of professional conduct and good government by accusing Mr. Leach of “doctoring” minutes.

Fourth, Councillor Gaertner refused to retract her accusation. And even suggested that someone file a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner. Very witty indeed.

Fifth, Mayor Dawe, in keeping with his role as Chair, in accordance with the procedural by-law and supported by the majority of Council requested Councillor Gaertner retract the comment.

Sixth, Councillor Gaertner refused and has continued to in subsequent meetings.

Seventh, Mayor Dawe held Councillor Gaertner accountable for her actions, while giving her every opportunity to correct herself.

So, those who are trying to mask the fact that Councillor Gaertner accused staff of “doctoring” minutes by turning the discussion towards anything except that simple fact are just trying to obfuscate the discussion (there’s a good lawyers term :))

The facts are simple.

  1. An honest mistake was made, explained — and corrected
  2. Councillor Gaertner refused to accept the honest mistake/correction and stepped out of line by making an unfounded accusation against staff
  3. The Chair held Councillor Gaertner accountable for her actions and supported staff
  4. Councillor Gaertner needs to retract her statement or continue to face the consequences of her actions

By refusing to simply retract her statement Councillor Gaertner is dragging out a simply issue for reasons only she — and her back room advisers — can know.

Councillor Gaertner — it is time to grow up, show a little integrity, get your priorities in line and move on. Believe it or not — you are not the centre of the Aurora universe.

The people of Aurora have more important issues — like budget discussions and growth issues and traffic issues and development issues and OMB hearings. Need we go on.

Hopefully this Tuesday, Councillor Gaertner will come to her senses, retract, and we can all move on.

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Town Council | 16 Comments »

What Is She Thinking — or Is She?

Posted by auroracitizen on February 16, 2011

If you watched former Councillor Alison Collins-Mrakas’ past program on The Auroran-Online, one can hardly believe the scene that was being described as having taken place at the Aurora Council meeting of February 8.

Councillor Gaertner appears to have completely forgotten why she was elected and possibly is showing the strain of trying to serve those who elected her — rather than the community she was elected to serve.

Her attack on John Leach, the Town Clerk, accusing him of doctoring the minutes and her demand that the minutes of a previous meeting be amended to correct, in fact, overturn her own spoken word, is baseless, cowardly and demeaning to Mr. Leach and in contravention of all civil procedure.

“Minutes are to provide an accurate record of what happened. The DVD is very clear that I did not ask to move the motion. I did not raise my hand to move the motion. I would have had no knowledge that I would have been assumed to be the mover of the motion. In my opinion, if the minutes stand as they are now, this record has been doctored.”

Councillor Gaertner ranted on at great and loud length, repeating herself numerous times, despite admonitions from the Mayor and conceivably others present in the chamber.

All of this about a request by the Councillor Gaertner for a recorded vote that was seconded by Councillor Buck, and which request (motion) Ms. Gaertner now says she did not make and thus demands an amendment to the minutes.

Mr. Leach has subsequently viewed the DVD of the meeting in question several times and confirms that Ms. Gaertner did IN FACT made the request which in its context was taken as a motion, was duly seconded and voted upon by members of Council.

“At the time that this matter was considered, the motion was read out by myself and Councillor Gaertner requested a recorded vote. The chair, Mayor Dawe, asked for a seconder and the seconder was Councillor Buck and in doing so I believe he recognized Councillor Gaertner as the mover. It is unfortunate that she did not indicate at the time that she wasn’t the mover because I believe the Chair, as well as myself, understood that she was. Subsequently a recorded vote was taken and the action was confirmed by Council’s confirmation bylaw.”

Of course it is interesting that none of these protestations were made the night of the alleged incident — but only after receiving input from others subsequent to the meeting. It makes one wonder if her speaking notes were again written by others.

It feels to many like there are others sitting at the Council table who were not elected to serve — but have another objective in mind. This ongoing confrontational behaviour by Councillor Gaertner  (often supported by Councillor Ballard) is a disappointing facet to a Council that is otherwise trying to build good relations and work together. Ms. Collins-Mrakas also appeared to be very much puzzled by this entire episode, wondering what might have prompted it.

In light of the lack of apology forthcoming to Mr. Leach, Ms. Gaertner should have been expelled from the chamber for the balance of the meeting and docked financially. Councillor Gaertner’s refusal once again displays her total lack of respect for the rules of procedure when they don’t support her goals — which clearly is not to have a smooth running Council.

In the province of Ontario we do not have the right or the ability to demand the resignation or recall of an elected representative. If we had such a right, many believe that Wendy Gaertner would be gone from Aurora Council already.

We seem to have moved, following the election, from a dysfunctional majority of Council to a dysfunctional minority of one, or possibly one and a half.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Town Council | 60 Comments »