Tag Archives: Dr. Ian Digby

Why should Susan Watson escape paying the costs of her election expenses complaint?

Editor’s note: Today is Part One of an analysis of the Thursday night meeting conducted by the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC), regarding the complaint by Susan Watson. She claimed that council candidate Glen Tolhurst contravened the Municipal Elections Act (MEA) by accepting a donation from GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association Inc. (GRG).

 Part Two examines council’s role in ordering Ms. Watson to pay the costs of her complaint. Also a review of related, unreported details of Mayor Cam Guthrie’s 2014 campaign and his performance year to date. The devil is in the details and Thursday night’s CAC meeting revealed that little has changed since the mayor’s election. GB

Part One – Posted September 12, 2015

It was a meeting that became an embarrassment for all citizens of Guelph. It’s advertised purpose was to receive the report of Auditor William Molson absolving Mr. Tolhurst of contravening the MEA. His report also concluded that GRG also did not contravene the Act by donating $400 to Mr. Tolhurst’s campaign.

Let’s back up a bit and review how this complaint occurred and who was implicated ensuring that Mr. Tolhurst and GRG paid for whatever Susan Watson and her friends perceived was illegal.

The quarterback in this exercise was City Clerk Stephen O’Brien. He reports to deputy Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Mark Amorosi who reports to CAO, Ann Pappert. The three members of the CAC are Lyndsay Monk, Glen Greer and George Gorringe

The single connection these people share is that they were all appointed or hired by Karen Farbridge, the former mayor.

Susan Watson is a friend of the Mayor and financial supporter, along with her partner. Dr. Ian Digby. So there is no question of her loyalty to the former mayor.

Watson filed her application to the CAC in early April with the city clerk. On April 23, O’Brien called a meeting of the CAC and hired Toronto lawyer, Jody Johnson, to brief the CAC as to its responsibilities. The minutes of that meeting showed Johnson made no recommendations as to the outcome of the complaint.

There was an oddity however. Dennis Galon, a supporter of Watson, attended the meeting. When O’Brien was questioned why Mr.Tolhurst and his counsel were not present, he said it was a public meeting that was advertised on the city website. Galon was the only member of the public who attended the Johnson briefing.

The plot sickens

Thursday night Galon, who publically stated he supported the re-election of Farbridge in spirit and financially, said the only reason he attended the meeting was because he received a call from Watson in Vancouver asking him to attend on her behalf. What other reason would he be there? As an interested private citizen?

On May 6, the CAC conducted a hearing in which Watson’s lawyer presented her case claiming that GRG, acting as a third partly, illegally donated $400 to Mr. Tolhurst. David Starr representing Mr. Tolhurst argued the opposite stating that GRG as an incorporated body was permitted under the MEA to donate funds to candidates.

There were only two CAC members at this hearing and both voted to approve conducting the audit. It is now clear that the fix was in. Neither CAC member was a lawyer or elected to office. O’Brien is instructed to search for a qualified individual to conduct the audit.

There was no request for a proposal (RFP) issued but three firms were invited to submit proposals. O’Brien selected the lowest bidder, William Molson, CA CPA, of Toronto, on the grounds that he had experience conducting CAC audits.

In the course of his audit, Mr. Molson interviewed Mr. Tolhurst, Ms. Watson and Gerry and Barbara Barker, representing GRG.

In early August, he released his nine-page report. In it he clearly stated that Mr. Tolhurst and GRG did not contravene the MEA. It was a thorough and complete repudiation of the Watson complaint and also of the basis of her ill-defined reasons for requesting the audit.

The staff backs the wrong horse

It was a stunning defeat for not only Watson but the city staff, particularly clerk O’Brien, and the feckless CAC, who were not only complicit but hand-maidens in this frivolous charade. They were using their authority to discredit and victimize an innocent citizen, but also a legitimate citizen’s activist organization.

The giveaway occurred September 2 when O’Brien was quoted in the Mercury stating Watson paying the costs of the audit “was not going to happen.” He made that comment eight days before the CAC meeting to receive the Molson report.

One might consider that statement as interfering with the process.

On Thursday night, sitting beside the CAC chairperson Lyndsay Monk, is O’Brien as her advisor. It was confirmation that the fix was in to get Watson off the hook for her repudiated complaint, the cost of which, taxpayers now have to absorb.

Hypothetically, if the CAC had prosecuted Glen Tolhurst, any superior court judge would have laughed that out of court for Tolhurst failing to get a receipt for the $5.60 he paid for a city street map and a $1.00 posting error in his official election expenses statement.

Following an in-camera session with a city legal person, the CAC struggled with motions in a clumsy and confusing manner. The idea was to get the CAC out of its responsibility dilemma by recommending to council not to prosecute Mr. Tolhurst. They sidestepped the issue of liability to the taxpayers of the cost of Watson’s excursion into the improbable.

McCarthyism: How power is abused

This was a power play to use public money to discredit citizens and it failed.

It reminds us of the late U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, who, in the 1950’s, used his position as chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee, to accuse thousands of Americans of being Communists. He ruined many innocent people who were blacklisted by suspicious employers. His aggressive investigations illegal, using lies and slanted techniques, became known as McCarthyism.

The Watson complaint mirrors the McCarthy approach to claim illegalities that had no foundation in the facts.

The senior staff of our city, those already named, should be ashamed of participating in this attempt by a disgruntled and vengeful individual and her supporters.

And despite the outcome, Susan Watson never apologized to Glen Tolhurst or GRG.

The question is where was Mayor Guthrie when the city staff were breaking their code of conduct by participating in a blatant politic attack on innocent citizens and then it has to be funded by the taxpayers?

Monday, September 14 – Part Two: Will council debate the public-funded costs of the Watson complaint? The commentary will examine the role of the mayor and his performance after ten months in office.

 

 

 

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The guy who tried to kill Guelph’s Wal-Mart is now defending Susan Watson

Posted August 18, 2015

Public opinion is surging strongly to have Farbridge friend and supporter Susan Watson, pay the cost of her campaign complaint against Glen Tolhurst. Today, her Toronto lawyer, Eric Gillespie, said there was a loophole in interpreting the auditor’s report that cleared both Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph (GRG).

“By finding that the third party newspaper ads are not contributions in this case, it does leave open the possibility of future contributors might see this as an opportunity to ‘donate almost unlimited amounts’ ”, Gillespie told a local newspaper.

What he neglects to mention is that there are limitations to what individuals can donate. The Municipal Elections Act does not preclude corporations to donate funds to candidates. By the absence of any reference to ‘third party” in the Act, both GRG and Mr. Molson agreed it is perfectly legal for corporations to donate to candidates.

He went on: “If someone can buy an ad supporting a candidate, or their position, without that being a contribution, to many people. this seems to be a very large loophole in the legislation.”

But Mr. Gillespie, this was not “someone” it was a legally functioning Ontario Corporation that donated $400 to Mr. Tolhurst’s campaign. By your argument you may want to look at the $4,200 that your client and her husband Dr. Ian Digby donated to a number of candidates. Or take a look at the funds that were spent by the Guelph and District Labour Council to various candidates who were listed throughout the election campaign on its website, “We are Guelph.”

Most people would not remember Eric Gillespie. He represented the unions who objected to Wal-Mart setting up shop in Guelph. During the 11-year battle to prevent Wal-Mart to establish, he represented the opposition in addition to Ben Bennett, the paid representative of the unions that financed the attempt to stop Wal-Mart. The battle ended in 2006 when Guelph council approved the project and the rest is history.

Now Susan Watson, facing paying the cost of her effort to discredit Tolhurst and GRG, has employed Gillespie to defend her false accusations against the two parties. These accusations were nullified by the city appointed auditor, William Molson, CA.

His findings came after investigating the arguments put forth by Watson’s first lawyer and a fellow traveler, Denis Galon They remain as specious today as they were May 6 when the two-man Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) voted to order the audit.

Gillespie’s smokescreen is nothing but a nonsensical delaying tactic. According to the nine-page report by Mr. Molson, not one of Susan Watson’s claims of illegal contributions by a legally organized non-profit corporation was judged valid.

For Gillespie to now claim that resolution of this case will take a long time, he’s spitting in the wind. He says that his client can seek redress in the courts over the audit’s conclusions.

Does he seriously expect the City of Guelph to pay for continuing this exercise of a personal vendetta against Glen Tolhurst and GRG? The bill is now more than $10,000 and sorry, Mr. Gillespie, you have a strong tide of public opinion running against your case and your client.

Susan Watson was warned following the May 6 meeting in which she persuaded the CAC to conduct an audit, that she might be liable for the costs.

On September 10, the CAC will receive Mr. Molson’s report. It is understood that citizens can make representation in person or in writing, to express their opinions.

Susan Watson has already thoroughly embarrassed the city and citizens with these ill-founded claims of election irregularities.

If she is seeking redemption of her reputation, she should accept the auditor’s report and move on.

She has already alienated supporters by pursuing a manufactured protest that will not change the outcome of the 2014 election.

It does have the potential for serious personal lawsuits that could claim damages for unwarranted claims, causing personal anguish, pain and suffering.

 

 

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Let the whining begin, what makes Susan Watson run?

Posted August 4, 2015

In Monday’s Globe and Mail, Susan Watson, Guelph’s doyen of the left, complained about the high cost of the 11-week federal election campaign. Her argument was directed at the Harper Tories, the ones with the most number of seats. She says the Tories will benefit more than the other parties from the election duration.

Now, those of us who live in Guelph recognize the name Susan Watson and are familiar with her pathological political hatred of all things conservative, the political party, supporters, poutine, the color blue and lust for power.

In her Globe letter, she complained about the Tories changing the Canada Elections Act means that the Conservatives will spend up to $50 million during the 11-week campaign. She does not mention that under the Electoral Expenses Reimbursement program, it will also benefit the opposition parties including her own NDP. It is based on the number of seats held when the Governor General dissolves Parliament.

Susan Watson is concerned that the campaign is too long. Now you can see why her beloved NDP possibly may not have the horses to last until the finish line next October. Well, we’ll see. She doesn’t have to look further than Guelph to see what happens to a tired and mistake-laden administration that was rejected by the people. Keep smiling Susan, lightning may strike and we’ll wind up with a pizza parliament with no party winning a majority.

She doesn’t like political donation tax benefits

Her second complaint was the tax break all Canadians receive, those that file tax returns, for donating money to official parties. She says taxpayers are “paying the price” for voluntarily donating money to their chosen party and receiving a tax benefit.

Susan, Susan, this is a voluntary program that encourages public participation and each party benefits.

Oh! Here’s the solution. Why not file a complaint with Elections Canada? You already have led a group of people asking for a reopening of the robocall investigations regarding the 2011 federal election.

Susan, you are becoming a pesky idealist who has no trouble spending the people’s money to gag a group of citizens who did not support your idol, Karen Farbridge.

Last April, Susan Watson brought a complaint about a defeated candidate in ward six receiving a donation from the citizen’s activist group GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association, Inc. (GRG). Watson is a personal friend of defeated mayor Karen Farbridge. In fact, Susan and her partner, Dr. Ian Digby, each donated $750 to the Farbridge campaign. Now that’s friendship!

The $400 donation to Glen Tolhurst, she claimed, was illegal as it was from a third party. As it later turned out there is nothing in the Ontario Municipal Elections Act that disallows donations from third parties. This is similar to the thousands spent on more than 13 candidates in the October 27 civic election by the Guelph and District Labour Council. But, we’ll never know that cost or the sources of money, will we?

One has the cannon and the rest of us are the fodder

But Susan Watson pressed on. The city clerk, Stephen O’Brien, advised her to apply to the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC), to order an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s official election expenses report.

Why was Mr. Tolhurst singled out? Susan Watson is chair of the NDP front group’s Guelph Chapter of Fair Vote Canada. She had the group research the official October election reports for information. Voila! Up popped the Tolhurst filing in which he spent less than $4,000. Fair Vote Canada supports proportional voting sponsored by the NDP and has established a nation-wide network to achieve it.

On May 6, the CAC, with only two of three members presiding, heard evidence from Ian Flett, Watson’s lawyer and her friend Denis Galon. Evidence was also heard from David Starr representing Mr. Tolhurst. GrassRoots Guelph was not asked or participated in this hearing.

The result was a unanimous decision to order an audit.

Who is going to pay for this frivolous attempt to embarrass?

So far the cost of this exercise is a gross representation of the facts and estimated to be more than $12,000. Here’s the breakdown: Hiring Toronto lawyer, Judy Johnson, to instruct the CAC members on how it should operate; the per diem costs to the three CAC members, Lyndsay Monk, Glen Greer and George Gorringe; William Molson, CA, the city appointed auditor with a base contract of $7,500 plus $500 per meeting and disbursements, and finally the unknown cost of city staff to conduct and process the audit.

Your money is paying for this and is being used to press a vexatious and frivolous complaint that has no basis of fact.

Now the question is, who pays for all this?

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Farbridge supporter Susan Watson and her husband Dr. Ian Digby donated $4,250 to candidates

Posted April 17, 2015

There is an old story: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

But that’s exactly what Farbridge confidant, Susan Watson, is doing by requesting an audit of the campaign financial statement of ward six candidate, Glen Tolhurst, who listed a $400 donation from GrassRoots Guelph (GRG).

Tolhurst was unsuccessful in his bid to win in ward six. That didn’t deter Ms. Watson. She engaged a Toronto lawyer, Ian Flett, to represent her at a hearing of the election compliance committee, May 6.

Her lawyer says that all his client wants is “clarity” on third party spending specifically naming GRG. He further went on “If the audit finds that the donations by GrassRoots Guelph are appropriate, Guelph and the rest of Ontario needs to brace itself for essentially the municipal equivalent of a super PAC.” That’s a reference to U.S. super PACs that are not permitted in Canada.

That spooky, specious comment has no bearing on the legitimacy of GRG.

It’s a fishing trip by Watson and the remnants of the Farbridge administration to muzzle and discredit the organization. GRG is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation whose activist mission was to inform and educate electors in the October 27 election campaign. It now appears that GRG’s efforts were rewarded with a much greater participation by Guelph electors.

Why then, more than five months after the election, is Watson complaining about the right of a third party to participate in a civic election? Why does she gloss over the third parties involved in the last three elections, who specifically supported former mayor Karen Farbridge and her council team?

Let’s name a few: The Guelph Civic League, We Are Guelph, The Guelph Citizen, Politico, The Sausage party and Guelph Bugle. All these organizations flooded cyber space and the print media with pro-Farbridge messages. Some were often attacking GRG and the blog, guelphspeaks.ca.

Despite the effort, the mayor lost her fourth re-election bid.

So, Susan Watson is demanding clarity around third party spending, according to her lawyer. He’s the same guy who admits there is nothing explicit prohibiting such participation in the Ontario Municipal Act. His argument that third parties are not allowed to participate in provincial and federal elections. But this was a municipal election and has no credence in this demand for an audit of a defeated candidate in Guelph.

Lets take a look at the money donated by Susan Watson and her partner, Dr. Ian Digby. She spent $3,000 and Digby spent $1,250.

Karen Farbridge                              $750 by Susan Watson & $750 by Ian Digby – defeated

Maria Pezzano, ward one            $250 by Susan Watson – defeated

James Gordon, ward two            $250 by Susan Watson – elected

June Hofland, ward three            $500 by Susan Watson & $500 by Ian Digby – elected

Mike Salisbury, ward four            $250 by Susan Warson – elected

Leanne Piper, ward five                $500 by Susan Watson – elected

Cathy Downer, ward five              $500 by Susan Watson – elected

Note the pecking order of these donations, who received them and who didn’t receive the Watson largesse. It is obvious where the Watson/Digby loyalties lie, and their cheque books, at the ready.

More than a year ago there was a meeting held by the Guelph and District Labour Council at the University of Guelph. Councillors Maggie Laidlaw and June Hofland attended it. The meeting resolved to run pro-labour candidates in each ward.

Now if this isn’t a third party that funded and organized candidates, then why is Watson persisting in attempting to discredit GRG because it helped a candidate?

Let’s try to follow the money.

* Who is paying for Mr. Flett’s services?

* Did Watson and partner use their own money to donate to specific pro-Farbridge candidates?

* Is it possible that financial support from the civic unions for those candidates was channeled through individuals for distribution?

* Did Watson even know those people to whom she donated money?

* Is it not peculiar that a couple would focus their financial support on a specific group known to be part of the Farbridge team?

Obviously, the city compliance committee is not the venue to determine if third parties can participate in municipal elections. They don’t make the rules.

Watson and her lawyer should take their perceived affront to democracy to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for resolution.

Warning, be careful what you ask for because that door swings both ways.

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