What does one do with a City Clerk who treats a totally unacceptable breach of the election rules as a learning experience?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

August 12th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

OPINION

Earlier today the Gazette published an article on some problems that were brought to the public’s attention by Blair Smith and Lynn Crosby.

The problems they discovered after an exhaustive analysis of the data that was submitted to the City Clerk by each candidate brought some very disturbing matters to the surface.

Small administrative errors and typos happen. But when significant amounts of data just don’t appear a full public understanding of who contributed what to whom is no longer possible.

What makes the democratic system we have the success it is – is that we all abide by the laws in place and everything is transparent.

If the numbers aren’t available transparency isn’t possible. And once those who set out to game the system become aware that they can hide where their campaign election money came from, just imagine what can happen.

In a series that will follow in the Gazette in the weeks ahead we list who got what from whom and do our best to identify known developer interests.

Does receiving campaign funds from a developer mean that a candidate has compromised themselves – no but – know that developers are in business and they use their money to enhance their business interests.

Brant looking north - Kellys

Two of the four buildings are done deals – two are working their way through the approval process. Did election campaign funding make them possible?

high profile 421

Done deal

nautique-elevation-from-city-july-2016

Done deal

Pearl and Lakeshore

Looking for approval.

The public depends upon the bureaucracy to protect their interests, to ensure that the data they get has been fully reviewed and meets the criteria.

How Mike Wallace got away with filing a return that did not have critical dates in his report is not just an oversight. It is sloppy administration done by people who don’t understand or appreciate that accuracy is important.

Are the results of the election in question? No.

The vote count was pretty decisive. The Office of Mayor was not won by money – it was won by a person who heard and responded to the cries of the people who pay attention to civic matters.

The disappointment is that less than 40% of the people who had the right to vote actually cast a ballot.

Mayor Meed Ward was not as unequivocal as she could have been on this matter; she has certainly had her issues with the way this Clerk has handled a number of matters in the past.

The comments made by the Clerk that this was a learning experience cannot be accepted. The position of Clerk in municipalities is significant; for example a bylaw is not in force until both the Mayor and the Clerk sign the document.

Smith and Crosby argue that the Clerk’s behaviour is “a completely unacceptable contravention of information practice and protocol, particularly for one entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the official record.”

It is up to Tim Commisso, City manager to decide what to do next, if anything. What he decides to do will say a lot about the kind of City Manager he is going to be.

There was a situation a number of years ago when the then Director of Planning, Bruce Krushelnicki, sitting at the Council table, advised council that a very senior member of his staff would no longer be in the employment of the city. He walked the individual back to his office; that was the last we saw of him.

Strong managers take strong action when it is necessary, providing they have just reasons for doing so.

Related news story:

Clerk revises public record – considered a no no.

 

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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4 comments to What does one do with a City Clerk who treats a totally unacceptable breach of the election rules as a learning experience?

  • Stephen White

    Kudos to Blair Smith and Lynn Crosby for uncovering this litany of errors and mistakes on election filings and returns! Maybe the Mayor should hire them and have them audit and investigate other departments at City Hall to see what skeletons, missteps, errors and transgressions they can uncover.

    Seriously….this latest fiasco borders on the comical, and again highlights the need for a full organizational review at City Hall. When you look at these oversights in the City Clerk’s Office, the reluctance of this Department during the last election to investigate highly questionnable campaign practices conducted by the Mayor’s critics, issues of employee turnover and poor morale, an inability in the Planning Department to meet critical deadlines, problems with the entire consultation process during the Official Plan Review, and finallly, a senior Human Resources official who attributes most problems to inadequate compensation levels, it is clearly evident that there are a number of things wrong at City Hall.

    What was that slogan Shawna Stolte used during the last election campaign? Oh right: Demand better!

  • David Fenton

    Agreed….

  • Fred Crockett

    This is a simple, bureaucratic task that was unacceptably screwed up due to incompetence or some form of misguided hidden agenda.

  • Hans Jacobs

    I applaud the Gazette for informing the public about this serious issue. If Council can no longer have confidence in the Clerk, unfortunately there is really only one solution.

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