Posted August 14, 2015
The stunning repudiation of the complaint launched by Susan Watson last April came to a jarring end this week.
The auditor, William Molson CA, was hired by the city to audit the campaign finances of Glen Tolhurst. He wrote a nine-page report that absolved Mr. Tolhurst of contravention of his campaign finances under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act (MEA).
Further, he dismissed claims by Susan Watson that GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association Inc (GRG) was not eligible to give a $400 donation to Mr. Tolhurst’s campaign. In fact, the auditor went out of his way to support the GRG claim that as an Ontario corporation, it was entitled to donate money to candidates.
Throughout the report the auditor said that his mandate was to audit Mr. Tolhurst’s campaign report and that GRG was not part of his mandate. Because GRG was not a candidate as stated in the MEA, and therefore was not subject to audit.
Regardless, Mr. Molson summoned Barbara and Gerry Barker to testify August 5, at city hall. The Barkers are directors of the GRG Corporation and were questioned by Mr. Molson. They refused to reveal confidential corporate documents as requested by the auditor except to produce a copy of the cancelled check issued to Mr. Tolhurst. They agreed later to produce copies of the invoices of advertising spent in the Guelph Tribune.
The auditor made it clear that GRG was not on trial and acted legally in making a donation to Mr. Tolhurst.
This report clearly demonstrates that the City of Guelph allowed itself to indulge in a deliberate attempt to discredit Glen Tolhurst and GRG.
The chain of those responsible is littered with supporters of former mayor Karen Farbridge. Susan Watson and Denis Galon top the list as perpetrators of a vexatious and frivolous accusation of a citizen and a citizen’s activist group that opposed the former mayor in 2014.
They successfully persuaded the members of the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC), appointed by Farbridge in July 2014, to order an audit. On May 6, the two CAC members ordered the audit based on evidence by Watson’s lawyer, Ian Flett, and Denis Galon.
Prior to that meeting, on April 23, city clerk, Stephen O’Brien, appointed in 2014 by the Farbridge administration, hired a “subject matter expert” who was later identified as Toronto lawyer Jody Johnson. Her expertise was sought to clarify and inform the CAC of its responsibilities and parameters of conducting a compliance audit. It is unknown if Ms. Johnson made a recommendation to the CAC before the May 6 hearing. On May 20, the CAC selected William Molson CA to conduct the audit of Glen Tolhurst’s official municipal elections financial report.
The role of Mr. O’Brien as chief electoral officer of the city in this case is unclear. Was he ordered to orchestrate the huge liability now carried by the taxpayers estimated to exceed $10,000? Or was he just doing his job?
There are just too many ties to Farbridge loyalists in city government who participated in this futile exercise. It is one bolstered with false assumptions and lousy legal advice. The single exception was David Starr who represented Mr. Tolhurst. From the get go, his arguments closely paralleled the conclusions reached by Mr. Molson.
It is patently clear that the report’s conclusion places the responsibility for this complaint squarely on Susan Watson. As such, council has no choice but to demand repayment for the costs to the city by Watson.
But what about Mr. Tolhurst’s costs? Should he not be reimbursed for being forced to defend himself and his reputation by a specious attempt to sully his character?
For that matter, the Barkers were also put through the wringer by being summoned to appear before the auditor and bring all GRG corporate documents, or as the summons stated, they could face punishment for failing to do so.
This entire exercise can be described as state-inflicted terror on innocent citizens. Is that too strong a description for you? We live in a society where rule of law is practised and that includes the rights of citizens to be free of overt government oppression. Government is for the people and by the people. Somehow that principle was lost along the way in Guelph.
The good news is that it will be some time before someone tries to use the city resources to seek revenge against citizens engaged in legitimate participation in municipal politics.
In this case, the city staff was used by supporters of Karen Farbridge who attempted to avenge the defeat of their leader by the people last October 27.
Those supporters should be made to pay.
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.