Motion on negotiations: collusion or simply a majority in action?

June 16, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Orangeville’s other weekly newspaper recently ran an article questioning the motive behind a motion put forth in Orangeville Council concerning the Town’s negotiations with third parties.

The recently passed motion describes how negotiations within Orangeville should be conducted by council. This is where the story goes awry.

The Banner article calls the motion an “affront to democracy”.  It labels four members who voted in favour of the motion by Councillor Don Kidd “colluding councillors” who could potentially control town business by voting as a bloc.

The motion, seconded by Councillor Sylvia Bradley, reads:

That Council confirm its role as set out in s. 224 of the Municipal Act;

And that individual members of Council are prohibited from purporting to represent the Town by virtue of their status as members of Council;

And that individual members of Council are prohibited from negotiating on behalf of the Town with any individual, corporation or other body, except with the express approval of Council authorized by resolution or by-law.

It was approved 5-2, having been supported by Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock and Councillors Scott Wilson and Gail Campbell and opposed by Mayor Jeremy Williams and Councillor Nick Garisto.

Why would any councillor put forth a motion that speaks to how council members must conduct themselves during negotiations? In my view, this is simple. As frank as I can be, in my view Mayor Jeremy Williams has acted inappropriately in some past negotiations.

The truth is that he did act inappropriately when dealing with Amaranth and the potential for Orangeville to offer policing services. It was inappropriate for him not to bring such a significant development back to Council and include the other members in the deliberations.

Councillor Kidd has offered the following as to why he initiated the motion: “I read where the Mayor feels with the passing of the bylaw (sic) regarding negotiations that his hands are tied unless he is cutting cake. Nothing could be farther from the truth; the mayor or any other member of council can still enter into negotiations if the majority of council agrees. That is the way a democracy works. Mayor Williams referred to four colluding members taking control of council; now I am not real strong in math but there are seven votes at council in Orangeville. Would I be wrong in thinking four votes will pass any motion brought forth? I believe it is wrong for the mayor to refer to members of his council as colluding or to even put that thought out there.”

Mayor Williams is a brilliant politician. Unfortunately, the Frank Underwood political style of running the town that he employs has become tired.

Jeremy Williams operates by creating chaos. He drives uncertainty. He does things that are outside normal protocols. The disregard that he has for these traditions or rules is the very reason that this has been a noisy council.

The Banner article suggested Mayor Williams was elected to negotiate on behalf of Orangeville and its citizens.  The article went on to espouse that councillors should stop playing games, end their vendettas and get down to work.

I think the citizens of Orangeville are smarter than that. We all know where the noise is coming from: the Mayor’s chair.

Personally, I am still wondering about the police investigation into the Mayor. We know that he put forth expenses totally $7,831.69. Peel Police will not offer any type of comment. Councillors and senior Town staff members are petrified to share anything. They are all rightfully afraid of prejudicing the investigation and being sued/dismissed themselves.

We know that $3,486.04 was put on the Town credit card for the Mayor’s trip to China, a  trip not authorized or approved by either Dufferin County Council or Orangeville Council. Accordingly, Mr. Williams did not have permission to charge this trip to the taxpayers.

County Council has very appropriately let Mr. Williams know of their decision regarding reimbursement. They simply voted to receive the request for the expense. Essentially this means they plan to ignore it. In reality, they are telling the Mayor, “thank you for letting us know about your trip. You did not go through the proper channels, so now you are on your own.”

The next item that has come up for discussion is $2,064.20 for gasoline purchases incurred while on Town business.

Why would this be an issue? Councillors are not supposed to put gas on their Town-issued credit card. Instead, Orangeville pays mileage. That is, individuals receive remuneration based on a cents-per-kilometre calculation.

If the monies are given back to councillors in this fashion, Revenue Canada considers this to be expense reimbursement. Conversely, if the money is put on the Town credit card, the monies are considered a taxable benefit. As a taxable benefit, the money would be considered income to the Mayor and he should pay taxes on it.

Imagine yourself as a member of the finance team within Orangeville. The auditors ask you, “Are you are aware of any irregularities?” The finance individual simply must acknowledge in the affirmative; otherwise they too are now engaging in improper financial practices.

Lastly, we know that the Mayor charged $2,281.45 for office supplies and furniture. On the expense report he submitted these items are simply listed as “personal.”

A source close to the situation has confirmed that some of these items are indeed being used in the Mayor’s office. However, other items are not currently accounted for.

I do not know what these items are. No one at the Town or Peel Police will share this with me. Personally, I have had a company credit card for the majority of my career. I can tell you unequivocally that I would never charge personal items on the company credit card. In most organizations, this would be grounds for dismissal. In Orangeville, we put our heads in the sand and hope for better days. Frustrating.

My understanding is that the majority of these purchases were made in November and December 2015. Mayor Williams did not pay any of this money back until March 21, 2016. Why is this date significant? March 21 is the day Peel Police were called in to investigate.

Let’s process this together. If I were Jeremy Williams and was unequivocally convinced that I was innocent of any wrongdoing, there is absolutely no way that I would pay that money back. Paying the money back simply says to all that I did something wrong. I would make an announcement that I would fight these charges until the very day that I was vindicated. The fact that it was paid back on the same day of a police investigation can’t be a coincidence.

I don’t know whether the Mayor is guilty of an offence, but I do know one thing for certain: he is guilty of poor judgment. In my view, someone with poor judgment should not be representing our town. They should not be on the Police Services Board. They should not represent town interests on key boards such as Orangeville Hydro. Lastly, they should not be in a leadership position.

As for the remaining councillors? Candidly, I feel sorry for them. Dealing with this house of cards on a week-to-week basis must be tiring and frustrating. The very good work they are doing is being undermined by the “noise” put forth by Mayor Williams.

In my view, there is no collusion, just a group of citizens like you and me doing the best they can for the town in which they live and care for.

Written by Todd Taylor

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