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.