Is the City Clerk right absolving Susan Watson of repaying her election complaint costs to the city?

Posted September 4, 2015

This case concerns a complaint made by Susan Watson, friend and supporter of former mayor Karen Farbridge, that GrassRoots Guelph illegally donated $400 to Glen Tolhurst, a candidate in the ward six 2014 election. Mr. Tolhurst lost his bid for council.

The people of Guelph have already passed judgment on this case. The vast majority believes that the complaint did not warrant spending public money to satisfy the whim of a disgruntled individual.

The more interesting part of this costly charade is the role of the senior city staff. From the CAO, Ann Pappert, to the three members of the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) to city clerk, Stephen O’Brien, were all appointed by the Farbridge administration.

Collectively, it is now crystal clear of their involvement expediting the audit and that now the city clerk says Susan Watson won’t have to pay the public funds spent for her vexatious and frivolous complaint. William Molson CA, who conducted the audit, thoroughly dispelled the attempt to discredit Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph.

It was city clerk O’Brien who stated in Wednesday’s Mercury, that Susan Watson having to repay the city for its costs “was not going to happen.”

It now appears that the CAC on September 10, can recommend that Susan Watson doesn’t have to repay the citizen’s money for her ill-founded excursion to seek revenge over her friend’s defeat.

With respect, such a decision would be at its own peril.

O’Brien has painted himself and the Watson faction into a corner that even has the left members of council very nervous.

Follow the money

Here’s why. The following councillors all received campaign donations from Susan Watson: Leanne Piper ($500), Cathy Downer ($500), James Gordon ($250), June Hofland ($500), and Mike Salisbury ($250). Curious question: Why did the women candidates receive twice as much from Ms. Watson as the men?

But here’s the problem. All of those councillors must recuse themselves from voting if the Watson repayment matter comes to council. It would be a breach of conflict of interest regulations, because they have a pecuniary interest due to receiving money from Susan Watson.

Guelphspeaks urges citizens to attend the CAC meeting September 10 starting at 5:30 p.m. This dreadful example of the misuse of power still exists today, ten months after the people voted to end such practices. Make your presence felt to let them know this kind of chicanery of using other people’s money to achieve vengeance, must stop. GB

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The GRG submission delivered in person to city clerk Stephen O’Brien September 3, 2015

TO:  The members of the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC), Lyndsay Monk, Glen Greer and George Gorringe

FROM: Gerry Barker on behalf of GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association Inc. (GRG)

SUBJECT: Written submission concerning the application of an audit of Glen Tolhurst, a former council candidate in 2014.

The following points* represent the views of GRG. These are in regard to the complaint of Susan Watson about a $400 donation made by GRG to former city council candidate, Glen TolhurstTO: The members of the Guelph Compliance Audit Committee (CAC), Lyndsay Monk, Glen Greer and George Gorring

* GRG fully supports the findings in the nine-page report by the CAC appointed auditor, William Molson, CA, CPA. We would further thank him for his open and thorough analysis.

* Although named in the Watson application for an audit, GRG was never given the opportunity to state its case before the CAC meetings April 23, 2015 or May 6, 2015.

* The CAC appointed auditor has stated that the committee has no authority or mandate to change the rules embodied in the Ontario Municipal Elections Act or the Corporations Act.

* Citizens have the right to organize on the municipal level and collectively express their points of view by working to create change in the city’s administration.

* The following is an excerpt from an article written by Dennis Galon a spokesperson for Susan Watson.

On September 23, 2014, Dennis Galon wrote in the Mercury newspaper: “Judge in Urbacon case asserted who should be blamed.

“At trial, McCrae provided sworn testimony that contradicted his earlier testimony in discovery, causing (Justice) MacKenzie to dismiss McCrae’s testimony and accept Urbacon’s evidence. In other words, McCrae gave the judge no choice but to effectively disregard Guelph’s version of the facts.

“In short, McKenzie has clearly answered the blame question.

“Despite a detailed legal decision to the contrary, Mayor Karen Farbridge’s political opponents are inviting us to ignore the finger MacKenzie has pointed at McCrae and lust instead for blood higher up the scale.

“We all know that Guelph is wiser than that. Let’s prove it by re-electing our equally wise mayor on Oct. 27. (For the purpose of disclosure, I’m among those who have made a donation to support the mayor’s re-election campaign.)

“Whatever, since none of it (of the blame) is to be borne by Ms Farbridge, then why not show the books?”

* This excerpt of Galon’s published comments clearly illustrates the partisan attempt by supporters of the defeated mayor Karen Farbridge, to discredit and trample the rights of all citizens. Public funds have been used to intimidate citizens not to assemble and organize in municipal elections for fear of retaliation and litigation. This includes the right to reject an administration that recklessly mismanaged public funds.

* In our opinion, Mr. Molson has accurately reported the facts. He recognized that this was an attempt to have a municipally appointed lay committee determine the alleged illegality of third party involvement at the municipal level.

* In our opinion, Ms. Watson should bear the costs of this audit in its entirety including the expenses incurred by Mr. Tolhurst who was victimized by Watson’s complaint to the CAC.

* The outcome of this is clear. The electors in October 2014 voted to change the administration of the city by defeating the incumbent mayor and four of her council supporters who were either defeated or quit politics.

* In our opinion, the city clerk, Stephen O’Brien overstepped his authority in a published article in the Guelph Mercury, September 2, stating that Ms. Watson would not be held accountable for the costs of the audit. We believe the September 10th CAC meeting has been unduly influenced by the statements of Mr. O’Brien.

* We now learn that Susan Watson has sought advice from Toronto lawyer, Eric Gillespie. He has stated in the press that despite the findings of Mr. Molson, there is a ”loophole” in the Ontario Municipal Elections Act that will cause this case to be conducted in the courts. He predicted the process would take a long time.

* GRG and a majority of Guelph citizens would expect the CAC to disregard any attempt to stall responsibility for which Ms. Watson should be held accountable for the inappropriate use of public funds.

Thank you allowing GRG to participate in this important meeting.

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1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

One response to “Is the City Clerk right absolving Susan Watson of repaying her election complaint costs to the city?

  1. andy

    If she is not made to reimburse the cost this will open the door for more of this legal crap. If you do not like a candidate slam him on court and the city will pay

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