Oh! What a tangled web they weave

By Gerry Barker

Posted March 18, 2016

Among progressives, James Gordon is their Pope and Cardinal Richelieu rolled into one.His soft-spoken piety devoted to the NDP and progressive policies, has worked over the years to maintain control of the city.But when accused of a possible conflict of interest as a member of city council, he trots out Susan Watson to lecture the guelphspeaks. ca editor to fact check his assertions.

You all remember Susan Watson. A close friend and financial supporter of former mayor Karen Farbridge, she launched a complaint to have an audit of former candidate Glen Tolhurst’s election financial report.

To bolster her claim before the Compliance Audit Committee, all members appointed by the Farbridge administration, she hired a Toronto lawyer to present her case.

The audit committee agreed with the premise that Mr. Tolhurst took an illegal contribution from the citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). The city clerk, Stephen O’Brien, a Farbridge hire just before the 2014 election, assigned Toronto-based auditor, William Molson, to conduct the audit.

His conclusion was that GRG had the right to donate the money and that Mr. Tolhurst was guilty of a minor oversight, he forgot to list the purchase of a $6 city map in his official financial return.

In the end, council took no action and the taxpayers were stuck with an $11,400 bill, the cost of this frivolous charge.

So who should pay that bill, Sue?

In 2014, Watson and her husband donated thousands not only to the Farbridge campaign but also to other progressive candidates. This included a donation to June Hofland who received $500 from Watson and her husband and won by just five votes. James Gordon was also a recipient of the Watson et al generosity.

The city clerk refused to allow examination of the ballots on the required recount but just ran them through the vote counting machine. That’s not a recount, that’s an exercise. Also two weeks before Mr. Molson’s report, Clerk O’Brien said that Watson would not have to pay the costs of the audit.

Council, including James Gordon, never discussed the matter in open council. Are you beginning to see the thread connecting the key people in this scenario?

Another city deal that went south

Moving on, when the former Civic Museum on Dublin Street was put up for sale by the city, there were two bids. One of them was from a husband and wife partnership that proposed converting the building into a set of offices and studios for budding artists and computer developers.

During the public meeting to hear the application, up pops citizen James Gordon who whole-heartedly supported the bid. There was no mention of the second bid, who made it and for how much?

So, this entrepreneurial couple bought the former museum for an estimated $550,000. Then a couple of things happened. The city’s manager of real estate who handled the deal resigned amid rumours that the undisclosed bid was considerably higher. One estimate of the market value was $900,000.

And the end of this story is that there are no budding artists or computer developers in the building. Instead, it is occupied by an up-scale art  gallery, a situation far from the original promised use of the building.

The Akers project, a win-win for James Gordon, a loss for taxpayers

Again, now a city councillor, James Gordon is hot to trot on supporting another progressive scheme to convert the former Akers Furniture store on Carden Street, into a cultural downtown hub for organizations, most of whom are part of the progressive’s network.

Requesting support from the city for this project is 10 Carden Street Space Inc. It is the stepchild of the Guelph Civic League that was founded by James Gordon. This is the same James Gordon whose friend, Susan Watson, claiming he had no connection with the Guelph Civic League or the Hillside Festival for the past 20 years. It is now evident that Coun. Gordon is an influential contributor to the Karen Farbridge cause to change our city regardless of how much it costs.

For the record, after getting elected to council, Mr. Gordon supported two property tax increases last year totaling 6.96 per cent. He also supported increases in the water bills and the transfer a portion of 2016 operating costs to debt.

He voted to spend $14 million to widen Speedvale Avenue to accommodate bicycle lanes, despite widespread protest against the plan by residents in the ward he represents. His support failed because the staff did not recommend it.

He participated in the January 25 walkout, by five members of the Bloc of Seven councillors.

The point is that Gordon doesn’t care about you or me. He is a doctrinaire member of the NDP whose mantra is to force their policies, particularly in municipalities, to gain control of the administration. In Guelph, the progressives have held power for nine years. This group is directly responsible for depleting the reserves, jacking up taxes and user fees to pay the bills, increased the debt and subsidize Guelph Transit by some $15 million a year.

The operating and capital costs numbers don’t lie but the James Gordon Bloc of Seven refuses to accept them or the obvious conclusion. The numbers are taken from the official Financial Information Reports submitted by all municipalities in the province annually.

The core numbers are the comparison of operating and capital costs for 2014 between Guelph and Kitchener and Cambridge. The number for the latter two, show their figures are 50 per cent less that Guelph’s. The figures for 2015 are about to be released. And, that’s a straight-up, apples to apples comparison.

Coun. James Gordon and his six fellow travelers are consumed by a socialist manifesto that most people in the city rejected in 2014. His resourcefulness in getting elected speaks to his determination to continue the Farbridge agenda no matter what the silent majority thinks or feels.

For years he has operated outside the public view working to maintain the progressive’s grip on Guelph.

He is never going to change his outlook or political views. He is an altruistic financial amateur when it comes to managing corporate finances and sticks to his simplistic approach that the taxpayers will provide.





Filed under Between the Lines

29 responses to “Oh! What a tangled web they weave

  1. Glenn Greer

    As a member of the current Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee, I would like to set the record straight about our role and the Tolhurst Audit.
    I was appointed at the very end of the Farbridge regime and bear no loyalty to her or her supporters. I was, and am, an independent citizen with no political affiliations, federally, provincially, or in the municipality of Guelph. As such, I have been a Deputy Returning Officer in both Federal and Provincial elections.

    The decision to request a compliance audit on Mr. Tolhurst’s election expenses was made not because we agreed with the allegations, but because the questions raised by Ms. Watson appeared on the surface to merit further investigation. As we expected, the Molson audit cleared the air with its findings. Even if the application for the audit was frivolous, a technical wording fault in the Municipal Elections Act prevented the MEAC from recommending action be taken to get re-imbursement from Ms Watson.

    Hopefully the long -delayed proposed amendments to the MEA will be forthcoming soon.

    • Glenn Greer: Thanks for the information surrounding the Watson complaint of Glen Tolhurst’s official election expenses report. Your explanation of how you were selected to serve on the CAC strikes me as odd. You say you had no association with the Farbridge administration nor any political party, provincial and federal. The question I have is as an appointed returning officer, in both provincial and federal elections, and knowing that those appointments are usually given to a loyal member and supporter of the ruling party, care to clarify this?

  2. N. Rinaldi

    Thank you for your explanation, Mr. Greer. I’m sure you acted in the only way you could under the circumstances, but here’s how I understand it now: that Ms. Watson’s application for the audit was “frivolous”, and that a “technical wording fault” in the MEA, for which a “long delayed proposed amendment….is hopefully forthcoming soon” is the only reason she won’t be paying this herself, but forcing Guelph citizen taxpayers to pay her audit cost of $11,400.00. Wow… I’m glad the audit cleared the air for us.
    Now I know how Mr.Tollhurst feels, having to pay his own legal fees against this “frivolous” charge.

    • Glenn Greer

      The Compliance Audit Committee did NOT determine that Ms Watson’s application was frivolous. It never got that far. My statement was that, “even IF it was frivolous, the committee was precluded from asking for re-imbursement because of the flawed technical wording of the Act”. That is, ANY MINUSCULE contravention of the Act reported by the auditor, even $1, precluded asking for reimbursement. We are waiting for an amendment, sometime. I greatly sympathize with the embarrassment and costs endured by Mr. Tolhurst.

    • Glen Greer: Thanks for that explanation. Frivolity not with standing, the committee did have a choice as to proceeding with the audit or not. I realize that the committee can only proceed based on the evidence presented. This was a a tawdry affair in which nobody won. I am curious though if there have been any audits done in other municipalities where the complainant was ordered to pay. Thanks again for your comments.

    • N.Rinaldi

      To your reply of 7:46 pm: Ok, I accept that I understood that part differently from how you intended, and your sympathy for Mr. Tolhurst sounds sincere. You are not under fire from me. What I should have said is, that it sounds that only a technicality saved Susan Watson from being ordered to pay costs, which would have spared Mr. Tolhurst much embarrassment and money, and a tax increase for us. What has rankled me is how she behaved after it was resolved. An honest, moral, ethical choice would have been to apologize and pay the debt she caused. This just reveals her character. I won’t be forgetting her name any time soon and I hope other voters feel the same. Nothing personal towards you.

    • N.Rinaldi: Thanks for that comment. Take a look at Glen Greer’s comments about the Tolhurst case in which he sets out the responsibility of the Compliance Audit Committee. My response asks whether there has been reimbursement in other municipalities.

    • Glenn Greer

      Under the MEA (Ontario), any reimbursement from a frivolous application for a compliance audit enforced by the committee and council is limited to the cost of the audit to the municipality, and unfortunately does not give any reimbursement to the accused. However, I suppose that the accused can sue the frivolous applicant in civil court.

      My comments about my political neutrality in serving as a deputy returning officer are supported by three facts;
      1) I simply applied through the Elections Canada and Elections Ontario websites like any citizen can do, and no references or party affiliations are required to be disclosed. Besides, I have none.
      2) While a DRO, one is generally admonished not to campaign for a candidate, not even with a sign on one’s lawn. I did not do either of these then or since.
      3) DRO’s take a sworn oath to do their job in an impartial manner.

      You may be confusing the manner of appointment of scrutineers or other party officials with appointments of DRO’s.?

  3. joseph paul phelan

    In response to Oh What a Tangled Web we Weave

    James Gordon Farbridge sits in the pocket of many…or should I say slides into the pocket of many. Maybe it’s because he appears to be a little smart ass socialist with a narrow focus on socialist and personal agendae.

  4. Sue

    Gerry, if the ‘Sue’ you are referring to in this article is me (the Sue who previously posted comments about James Gordon’s involvement – or not – with the Hillside Festival), I can assure you in complete honesty that I am definitely not Susan Watson – I don’t know the woman, I have heard of her but never met her – and believe me, no one ‘trotted me out’ to submit those comments. That statement is offensive.

    You could confirm that I am a different person by the email address submitted when I post. Susan/Sue is a pretty common first name for a certain born-in-the-50’s demographic!

    • Sue: As you pointed out, Sue/Susan is a common name. It’s also a short form for Susan Watson. Perhaps if you had used your last name there would not have been confusion, as you described it. Methinks you are really stretching a point to tell the viewers that you are offended. You presented your comment as Sue (Fill in the blank). I hope not all those “Sue’s” out there share your embarrassment. Thanks for saying you are not Susan Watson, but how do we know?

  5. Sue

    I should probably clarify that I’m not Susan Ratcliffe, either.

  6. geo

    ” a technical wording fault in the Municipal Elections Act” is Bureaucrateese for got your back Susan. Just on principal she should pay back that money then apologize to both Mr. Tolhurst and the taxpayers of Guelph!

  7. Sue

    I guess you’ll have to take me at my word. (Or check the email address I have to submit when I comment.) Also, I do believe there might be other women who object to being patronizingly described as being ‘trotted out’ …. but now I’m the one guilty of making assumptions!

  8. Sue

    How things work at Guelph Speaks: Attempt, politely, to correct a factual error about someone in one of GB’s posts and get a negative response from Mr. Barker. Post a series of spiteful, mean-spirited personal comments about that person, and Mr. B. will join in. Classy.

  9. N. Rinaldi

    The childish and coarse nature of all your replies, Mr. Phelan, really damage what this blog could be: a watchdog for our community and council, a place to learn and set things straight in a respectful way, a place to learn how to make our voices heard. I don’t agree with everything I read here, but when I do, I’d like it to be a place where I can respectfully share my thoughts or disagreements without grade school taunting and bullying, from anyone.

    • N.Rinaldi: I agree. However the blog is an open forum for all the people. However crudity and profanity is not acceptable. There is a great deal of unrest in the city over the management of the municipality.

      We have a dysfunctional council, obstructionism, cronyism and distrust is slowly strangling progress and reform that electors voted for in 2014. Too much of the city’s business is being conducted behind closed doors. Councillors are bound by a rule that any discussion behind closed doors cannot be revealed to the media or public. Whenever there is a leak of these secret sessions, the witch hunt starts with threats of discipline to any member of council found to have revealed information from behind those closed doors. What is this? A communist state? Until council conducts its business in open, there will be unfettered dictatorial action by council that is already breeding disrespect and distrust among the citizens, the ones who pay the bills.

      The sad part is that I do not see any change until the 2018 election when the people finally get to judge the performance of its elected officials and the senior staff.

  10. geo

    This entire issue, the financial audit of Mr. Tolhurst is an attempt by Susan Watson and co. to bully. When Considering the massive amounts of public money wasted by this group combined with their nauseating hypocrisy the comments on this blog are remarkably restrained.

  11. RLA

    Geo, I totally agree with you. Now it is time to get on and make our elected officials accountable for their actions.

  12. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Let’s not lose perspective of what is going on with the obstructionist tactics of the bloc of 7 in council. They are trying to do to Cam what their previous incarnation did to Kate Quarrie. Whenever the likes of Gordon, Salisbury, or Laidlaw & their ilk get their diatribe published or reported, those who don’t swallow that type of crap have to stand up and write letters to the editor to publicly refute the garbage put forth by the bloc of 7 and their verbal and financial supporters. Make no mistake, the attack on me by Suzy Q was an attempt to run over me to silence Grass Roots Guelph for it’s role in helping to dump Farbridge. Suzy Q ( who someone apparently labelled a Gucci Marxist) & her ilk care not who they besmirch or the cost of their actions. That is all too typical of that brand of social activists who like spending other people’s money. They must be called out & exposed for what they are.

  13. Are you sure that James Gordon participated in the January 25 walkout? The minutes show that he moved adjournment of the Council meeting at 7:45, so he must have been there.
    Adjournment (7:45 p.m.)
    6. Moved by Councillor Gordon
    Seconded by Councillor MacKinnon
    That the meeting be adjourned.
    Minutes to be confirmed on February 22, 2016

    • REna

      Yes Bob, he left along with the other cowards. My understanding was he was asked to come back into council chambers in order to adjourn the meeting.i

    • joseph paul phelan

      Just like Elvis…James left the building…only problem is Elvis won’t be returning but unfortunately James will be.

  14. wendy

    The minutes of the Jan 25/16 council meeting are available on the bottom of this page: http://guelph.ca/event/guelph-city-council-152/
    On page four, is the list of councillors who left the closed session whose topic was Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc’s Governance and Operations Performance. After that, is a list of councillors who did not rejoin the subsequent open meeting. All I have read from those who participated in the walkout was something about ‘protecting democracy’. I think these representatives owe a greater explanation to the public for their deliberate disruption of city business. Such a mass action should have a good reason, and be publicly justified.
    Interestingly, Susan Watson also framed her actions against Glen Tolhurst and use of many taxpayer dollars as an admirable advancement of democracy. As Glen Greer has explained in his comments above, she was not held responsible for the 11,000+ cost of the audit, or Mr Tolhurst’s legal costs to defend himself against allegations found to be untrue, or all the other taxpayer funded activities, like paying the committee, and time by staff–because of a “technicality” in the Municipal Elections Act. As Gerry wrote, a six dollar city map purchased by Mr Tolhurst’s campaign was not properly accounted for, thus Ms Watson is absolved of actions holding her to account for this clearly frivolous case and all its costs. Ms Watson could have chosen to pay Mr Tolhurst’s costs when, in effect, he was absolved but instead, lauded herself as a champion of democracy.
    So we have quite a number of people with political power or who donate large sums of money to the campaigns of people who have political power, disrupting city meetings and operations at cost to taxpayers but giving no explanations suitable to what they have chosen to do except that it is about democracy. All citizens have a right to know why public representatives desert their roles in protest. I would call that democracy.

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