Is Farbridge friend, Susan Watson, a bully or just a sore loser?

Posted May 19, 2015

The cost to the public treasure of the Susan Watson charade that attacked an innocent candidate because he accepted money from GrassRoots Guelph is mounting daily.

Ms. Watson denies her target is defeated candidate Glen Tolhurst but is to achieve “clarity” of the role of third parties in civic elections. So she chooses to use public money to assert that belief, using Glen Tolhurst as the conduit. Her complaint was supported by the following players:

* A council appointed Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) consisting of three citizens, two of whom are not lawyers or accountants. The newly elected chair, Lyndsay Monk, is a Chartered Accountant but did not participate in the May 6 meeting when her colleagues voted to order an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s election financial report.

* On April 23, City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien retained Toronto lawyer Jody Johnson to inform the CAC of its responsibilities. She is described as a “subject matter expert”. Indeed, she may be having delivered a presentation in November 2014 to the fall meeting of the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. Was Mr. O’Brien at that meeting?

Her subject was “Dealing with frivolous and vexatious complaints.”

The next question is, what did she advise the CAC on April 23? There is no record in the minutes of that meeting to reveal what this expert said or advised. It is important to note that Watson supporter, Dennis Galon, was at that meeting and was described by O’Brien as a member of the public. So he heard what Ms. Johnson told the CAC.

* Galon was the only “member of the public” at this meeting ostensibly held to elect a chairman of CAC. Lyndsay Monk was elected but didn’t turn up for the May 6 meeting when the audit was ordered. Did the other two members of the CAC know April 23, that the chairman would not attend the May 6 meeting?

Already Watson’s complaint is resonating with citizens who are wondering about her real motives. Meanwhile the bill for this complaint is being run up and the citizens are paying for it.

On May 6, the CAC heard presentations from Watson’s lawyer, Ian Flett, Dennis Galon and a former candidate supporter of defeated mayor Karen Farbridge. Why did one registered delegate, a defeated council candidate, receive a donation from the ETFO union and failed to appear? Representing Mr. Tolhurst was Guelph lawyer, David Starr.

Glen Greer, George Gorringe of the CAC presided over the meeting and it took them just ten minutes  after the arguments to order an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s financial elections report. It was significantly unusual to have one CAC member move a motion to order an audit and the other seconding the motion.

All in favour? Carried.

It was initially reported that the audit could cost between $25,000 and $30,000. That changed May 18 when the city retained William Molson, a chartered accountant from Toronto, to conduct the audit. This is to be ratified at the May 20 meeting of the CAC.

Why Mr. Molson, you may ask. His was the lowest bid of four for the audit that ranged in price from Molson’s bid of $7,500 plus $500 per meeting, to Deloitte LLP bidding $19,750 plus $2,000 a meeting. What were the specifications of that tender? Did mr. O’Brien know Mr. Molson before the the tendering process?

It appears that with lightning speed the city followed the tendering process in less than two weeks. It has to be a world record considering the history of opaque tendering for city work by the previous administration.

Mr. Molson, according to research, has conducted one election campaign audit. It involved the Town of Pickering and was conducted in 2011.

Here we have a rush to judgment, orchestrated by the city clerk. It is based on much hearsay evidence, administered and considered by non-elected officials and experts.

It is a travesty that according to the rules any citizen can complain about election finances to satisfy a personal vendetta toward any group of activist citizens who are opposed to what the target stands for.

Watson’s actions will have the effect, win or lose, of deterring citizens to participate in elections and, more important, discouraging good people to run for office. The fear of reprisal for the most specious of reasons can turn this great city into a municipal conspiratorial quagmire. That is, if it hasn’t already.

This case will be turned over to an accountant who is not empowered to solve Watson’s Don Quixote quest to “clarify” the so-called third party issue as it pertains to the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.

By the time the audit result is announced, this is going to be a very expensive personal vanity exercise and the costs should be borne by the complainant. Only council can order Watson to pay the costs if it is found there is no merit to her complaint. It will be interesting to see how her council friends will vote if that decision must be made.

Perhaps Mr. Tolhurst should consider legal action for intentional infliction of suffering by Watson. There is no doubt he is the victim here. He acted with honesty and regardless, he was defeated.

So the Watson solution is to use public money, estimated to eventually cost more than $10,000, to pay for an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s election finances of less than $4,000.

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3 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

3 responses to “Is Farbridge friend, Susan Watson, a bully or just a sore loser?

  1. louis

    If they do deem it frivolous then she will be on the hook for it. Which I hope happens as that will teach her a lesson that she will never forget. Lawyers don’t for for cheap.

  2. Laurie

    Mr. Barker: I see that you seek an explanation for my late attendance at this meeting. As an executive member of UGETFO and my school steward, I was required to host a time-sensitive meeting for my members. I had to prioritize my responsibilities at a time when job action was about to begin. As you have mentioned my name a few times, perhaps you seek clarification as to my interest in this audit request: I was hoping to express to the committee the lack of transparency of your organization. As you may remember I asked several times for the names of members, or at the very least, GRG executive members. I also wanted to share my reasons for not attending your ‘meet the candidate’ barbecue. You may recall my concerns about paying to attend a voters’ event, and refusal to attend for that reason, as this would have been breaching municipal election laws. Your reason for charging candidates an entry fee was to cover the costs of the event. How odd, then, that your organization was able to spend thousands on media ads to promote your agenda and your ‘candidates for consideration’. I was prepared to attend your debates, even if others were not.

    As a member of ETFO, I complied with the election laws and accepted donations legitimately. Any other inference you wish to make is sheer fabrication and malicious. I was very supportive of the ‘We Are Guelph’ platform, as it expressed my ideology, and, in fact, my reason for entering municipal politics. I did not receive any financial contribution from the Guelph and District Labour Council. All candidates were welcomed to consider endorsing this platform. When I asked about the GRG platform and the reasons for selecting your ‘considered’ candidates, I received no response. Your group of candidates consisted of 12 men and 1 woman, so I was curious about your motives and gender bias. I’m still not clear on your choices, as you never stated that the candidates embraced your personal platform. The grandiose, secretive-until-published nature of the GRG ideology roll-out left me to assume that you were driven by personal motives, a vendetta against any progressive candidates, and a clear contempt for Ms. Farbridge. This theory was reinforced when two of your directors very publicly resigned.

    Mr. Barker, I invite you to sit and have a tea with me. You really don’t know me and this might prevent you from insinuating I had anything other than respectful motives and methods in this past election. I am proud of the result, as this was my first foray into politics. Third out of nine candidates is a worthy and successful outcome in my book. Certainly a political junkie like yourself can appreciate that we should be supportive of ALL candidates who are willing to step up to the plate, in the name of democracy, to improve our fine city. I will not be discouraged by those who try to bully their way through an election using an anonymous group as back-up.
    Let’s do tea.
    Sincerely,
    Laurie Garbutt

    • Laurie: We obviously do not share the same views about how the city should be managed and after eight years, by whom. The people made that decision last October. Your explanation alleging secrecy by GrassRoots Guelph in its very public exposure of its views in the last election, pales in comparison to the secrecy of the Farbridge administration’s practices of dumbing down the electorate. It indicates your party, and make no mistake the Farbridge party, was well established, well financed and with the support of the various labour unions both in the city and outside.

      The attempts by your party to label GRG as right wing and conservative was not only untrue but most people in the city agreed that changes had to be made and GRG was there only opposition to the Farbridge administration. Her leadership cost the city millions in losing lawsuits, poor planning and neglect of the crumbling city infrastructure. And because the previous administration had control with its majority of fellow travelers with Karen Farbridge, the public was shut out of the decision making process. The $35 million police headquarters renovation comes to mind, or the $53 million on the organic waste plant and bin collection system that leaves out 6,400 households and businesses.

      We were upfront and open and certainly not anonymous, as you put it. No more that of labour and its role in the election and the many blogs and websites supporting the Farbridge platform.

      Laurie there are always two sides to every story. The fact that you and your labour colleagues are choosing to discredit not only Glen Tolhurst but GrassRoots Guelph, only proves our original reason for banding together to inform the citizens. Also agree to take the necessary political action to defeat the people running the city and replace them with candidates with financial and pragmatic experience to return common sense to city operations.

      There was nothing illegal that we did and to go forward with this frivolous charade of Susan Watson’s is an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedom. A statute in which people are allowed to assemble and express their points of view without fear of reprisal or police state tactics to stop expression of those views.

      But why are we still talking about an event that occurred seven months ago and is now costing taxpayers a great deal of money just to settle an old score based on untrue and inaccurate allegations?

      Thanks for voicing your opinions and I would enjoy meeting you.

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