Posted May 25, 2015
The cracks are appearing in the Susan Watson complaint that former candidate Glen Tolhurst broke the campaign finance rules by accepting a donation from the citizen’s activist group, GrassRoots Guelph.
City Clerk Stephen O’Brien is reported to be dismayed over the turn of events, particularly the Compliance Audit Committee’s (CAC) order to conduct an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s election financial return.
On May 6, two members of CAC, Glen Greer and George Gorringe, both appointed by the Farbridge administration in July 2014, voted to order the audit after only ten minutes of deliberation. The third member of the committee, Lyndsay Monk who was elected chairman, April 23, did not appear.
On May 20, the CAC met to approve hiring the auditor. The city procurement department presented four bids and recommended accepting the lowest bid from William Molson, a Toronto Chartered Accountant. His bid of $7,500 plus $500 for each meeting was less than half of each of the three remaining bids.
CAC member Glen Greer objected to accepting the Molson bid on the grounds that he had acted on only one case involving an election complaint in the Town of Pickering in 2011. He said the third highest bid of $16,000 plus $1,000 per meeting would be more suitable as the company has represented municipalities on six different occasions. His argued that this bidder had more experience in handling election financial complaint cases. Mr. Greer apparently had done his homework.
When the vote was held to accept the Molson bid, Mr. Greer voted no.
During the same meeting, fellow member George Gorringe stated: “An electorate may apply for a compliance audit where they believe (and he emphasized believe) a candidate has contravened the provisions of the act relating to election campaign finances, in my mind had the onus been slightly greater, I’m not sure I would have supported the application.” Well, he did, regardless.
Back tracking, the CAC chair was not at the May 6 meeting when Gorringe and Greer voted to conduct an audit. That, in itself, is questionable procedure, Then it was revealed that chairman Monk at the May 20th meeting had advised her fellow CAC members at the May 6 meeting, to order the audit despite being absent.
While this is confusing, it appears that the two CAC members who ordered the audit may now have second thoughts, but are committed to the audit.
Plainly Watson supporter, Dennis Golon’s published statements are not aimed at Mr. Tolhurst but challenge the status of GrassRoots Guelph and its right to donate money to Mr. Tolhurst.
So, it is now crystal clear that Susan Watson and her NDP supporters are using taxpayer money to back door their determination to destroy GRG and its rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedom, guarantees the right of people to assemble and object to political actions.
The problem they have is that GRG did not run for office. Their charges, well documented by Galon, are in the wrong arena. To expect an unelected compliance committee to judge the merits of their arguments and pass it on to an auditor for confirmation is an egregious attempt to manipulate the Ontario Municipal Elections Act and the City of Guelph elections bylaw.
The construct of GRG was carefully crafted to allow people to express their beliefs through information and facts. It was formed under the Ontario Corporations Act and its letters patent laid out the purpose of the corporation. It was no secret of the purpose of GRG despite the attacks by the Watson NDP supporters that it operated in anonymity.
For Watson spokesman, Dennis Galon, to state GRG is not a business is silly. It is legally incorporated as a non-profit, non-partisan organization. During the election campaign, It had an address, volunteer staff, entered contracts with suppliers, a website with public access, and offered citizens a venue to support its stated values. If that’s not a business then I’m Warren Buffet.
Despite what the auditor’s report may state, it had better be detailed to the extent that it will hold up in a court of law. Because that will be the next step if the auditor rules GRG is not in compliance.
Citizens of Guelph should not have to be exposed to this attempt to make a legitimate citizens’ voice of the people be held accountable for something GRG acted upon, legally, in the 2014 municipal election.
The people’s assets should not be used for the redemption of a Mayor, who failed to financially manage the people’s treasure for eight years. She lost, get over it and move on.