Tag Archives: Susan Watson

Your cost of Susan Watson’s baseless complaint is $11,400

The Guelph File

By Gerry Barker

Posted October 2, 2015

The abortive attempt by Susan Watson to agree with her premise that Glen Tolhurst was guilty of accepting $400 from GrassRoots Guelph for his campaign has left the public holding the bag for $11,400.

The Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) threw its principles out the window when it said it would not recommend making Susan Watson pay for her frivolous ascertions that led to the public expense.

It’s reasoning was that Tolhurst did contravene the Municipal Elections Act (MEA) by failing to report an expense of $5.60 for a city map, accepting a cheque of $198 from an individual that was intended to be for himself and his wife and making a mathematical error of $1.

All that was worth $11,400?

The auditor hired to investigate Mr. Tolhurst’s official returns, stated the Tolhurst incidental contraventions did not mean he contravened the MEA because they were of a minor nature and did not affect his decision or the outcome of the election.

The three CAC members, Lyndsay Monk, George Gorringe and Glen Greer, made a gutless and irresponsible decision in the face of the auditor’s complete exoneration of both Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph (GRG). But they’re not concerned because they received $1,700 for their service.

The CAC members lacked morality, a clear understanding of justice and accepted advice, in private, by Farbridge appointed city staffers, including the City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien. A week before the CAC decision, Mr. O’Brien told the media that Susan Watson would not be responsible for the costs of the audit. On the day of decision, in the closed-door meeting, the CAC was instructed by a city lawyer to not order Susan Watson to pay the costs of this trial.

In a nutshell, that’s what this was all about. The CAC members, all appointed by former Mayor Karen Farbridge, abused Mr. Tolhurst’s honesty in reporting the GRG donation and attempting to neuter GRG, the citizen’s organization that played an effective role in the defeat of Karen Farbridge, Susan Watson’s friend and supporter.

Citizens should be aware that this was a planned and concerted attempt to discredit GRG and seven months after the 2014 civic election, citizens will end up paying for it.

Here is the breakdown of the Watson complaint costs

Auditor William Molson -$8,249

Aird and Berlis (consultant Jody Johnson) – $1,440

CAC members – $1,700

The city clerk stated the costs are approximate because the staff time used in relation to the audit was not tracked or costed. There were no charges included for facilities used in relation to the audit such as meeting rooms or the council chambers.

Hmm. Do you think that this exercise in abuse of the public purse and staff is worth what the outcome has cost?

It is now crystal clear that Susan Watson has many friends in key positions on city staff. How else could she have pulled this off without overt support from key staff members?

No more proof is needed to understand why this complaint ever got started. There was ongoing complicit support by the staff and the appointed members of the CAC to discredit citizens and their opposition to the previous administration.

The auditor figured it out. But why was Susan Watson so protected by certain members of the city staff? Why was the city council silent when it became apparent what was occurring right under their noses?

The capper came when the Guelph Mercury headline over the story about the CAC decision, said Tolhurst would not be charged. With what?

Really! Was that headline accurate in describing what happened the night of September 10? The Mercury jumped the gun as the CAC never considered charging Tolhurst but accepted the auditor’s report that he did not contravene the MEA. Nor did GRG.

This remains a black mark against the city senior staff leadership all of whom were appointed by the previous administration.

Using the people’s money to attack citizens is right out of the fascist playbook.

It will not be forgotten.

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Your GuelphSpeaks Weekender

Posted September 20, 2015

About ducks and defeat – Anger and the blogger – Welcome to Canada – That scary NPD elitist manifesto

 

What’s the difference between Donald Duck and Humpty Dumpty?

One quacks non-stop and the other had a great big fall

With Brian Holstein, the play’s the thing. A dedicated Farbridge supporter, retired teacher and amateur thespian, Holstein paints himself as a self-righteous commentator for the people.

His problem is that he and the former mayor’s supporters just experienced the second defeat of their political ideals and beliefs. First their leader, Karen Farbridge, was thumped at the polls. Then, in April, her pal Susan Watson, complained that former candidate Glen Tolhurst’s election expense statement should be audited.

In August, the Compliance Audit Committee’s own auditor, found Mr. Tolhurst did not contravene the Municipal Elections Act (MEA) as claimed by Watson. He also stated that GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) did not contravene the Act by donating $400 to Mr. Tolhurst’s campaign.

Wow! Two strikes and you’re out Mr. Holstein. People can understand your pain but not your clumsy rhetoric attacking a letter writer for daring to state the truth about the Watson crusade to crucify.

This kind of misguided language and purpose is the main reason that the people voted the Farbridge Party out and the damage done to the city during her eight years in office. You can’t white wash the $23 million new city hall fiasco known as the Urbacon Affair.

Your backbiting column ignores the uncomfortable premise that Susan Watson and her husband donated $4,250 to seven Farbridge candidates. Three others received $550 from two unions.

By any definition that’s a hypocritical premise if there ever was one.

And Susan Watson may have pulled it off by getting the taxpayers to pay some $10,000 for her fruitless attempt to discredit a candidate and a citizens activist group that opposed her friend.

In Holstein’s world that’s what taxes are for.

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The rigours of blogging

There is this guy who accused me of always being angry. He also claimed that GrassRoots Guelph was a secretive conservative organization. Just want viewers to understand where this individual is coming from.

I don’t deny that I am occasionally angry and disappointed in the manner in which our city is being managed.

It’s the stuff that drives citizens crazy such as the increasing tax load on property owners. Our taxes in 12 years have doubled. And what do we get for that? The city refuses to pick up our waste, plow our street or maintain our infrastructure. But we still have to pay taxes for those services that we do not receive.

Instead, as property owners living in a land condominium, we must hire private contractors and pay for such services through condo fees.

So, what’s the catch? For a number of years, the city has allowed these kinds of developments. The number of folks owning property under these conditions is unknown. It is estimated there are more than 6,000 housing units affected in the city denied basic services.

Why do I get angry? Because of this rip-off by the city. It is undemocratic, arbitrary and arrogant. The situation has worsened since the previous administration introduced the bin waste collection system. It allowed a number of high and low-rise developments with no area to store the bins or the electronic-arm truck was unable to maneuver. It was just another excuse not to serve all residents and businesses in the City

So instead of trying to be fair, the administration makes a mockery of it. They ignore a large segment of the population telling it to put up, shut up and pay your taxes.

Again when I see our taxes being wasted on lawsuits and projects that people did not ask for or want, I get angry.

The sad part is I see little change in the way our city is being managed from the top down. Our property taxes this year are among the highest in Ontario with a 3.96 per cent increase. We have a bloated civil service that grows exponentially every year. It is costing 85 per cent of the tax levy and that is unsustainable.

Another increase next year like this one and property values will start to decline and it could be the beginning of an exodus from Guelph, because it costs too much to live here.

Only some common sense can change it. Even that doesn’t count for much these days.

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To Niqab or not to Niqab?

This week the court allowed an immigrant woman from Pakistan to wear the niqab, a covering of the face, during her citizenship swearing in ceremony.

We are a country of immigrants. And the flow of new people to Canada has, over the years, strengthened out role in the world. They bring new ideas, money and energy to their new land and we all benefit.

But when they step onto our land, they become Canadians. Citizenship can be achieved within two years. Their religious, culture and lifestyle contribute to the Canadian mosaic.

The one thing all immigrants must do to assimilate into our society and culture, is not to bring their past loyalties and be part-time Canadians. We speak two official languages here. Immigrants should learn at least one. We have laws that all citizens must obey, including those who are permanent residents but not sworn in and those who are truly Canadian and accept our way of life.

We want new Canadians joining our society but without a lingering loyalty to their homeland or to take advantage of our generous social programs.

Wearing a face covering to the individual’s official citizenship ceremony may be a charter issue as being argured by her lawyer. It remains a simple display of bad manners toward the country she has chosen and is about to officially welcome her.

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Try not to get nervous when the NDP uses the word “manifesto”

Recently a group of 100 NDP elites presented a manifesto to guide the party to the extreme left in the political spectrum. The usual suspects contributed to this document. Here is one sample of its declarations for Canada’s future:

“In the process, the manifesto envisions a transformation of the entire capitalist system into a Utopia in which the economy is in balance with the earth’s limits, jobs are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality, agriculture is far more localized and ecologically based, and low carbon sectors of the economy, like care giving, teaching, social work, the arts and public interest media flourish.”

Aside from the dreadful grammar and punctuation in the original statement, it has the eerie similarities of the collectivization reign of Josef Stalin and his forced labour schemes and five-year plans. More than six million were killed during his purges of the country’s administrators, artists, non-believors and military.

In October, this document has the potential of destroying the NDP’s chances of becoming Stephen Harper’s successor in Parliament.

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

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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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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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Did City Clerk Stephen O’Brien get a call from Karen about her friend Susan Watson?

Posted September 2, 2015

It is a stunning pre-determination outcome of the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) meeting September 10. City clerk Stephen O’Brien has said he doesn’t believe that Susan Watson has to reimburse the city for the cost of her election complaint.

O’Brien did not reveal the total audit costs except that he said the auditor William Molson’s fee was fixed at $7,500. The fee that Mr. Molson contracted for was $7,500.plus $500 for each meeting. In addition the clerk did not include the fee paid to the “subject matter expert” Toronto lawyer, Jody Johnson, hired to advise the CAC members of their duties and responsibilities. Nor does he mention the staff costs spent on the CAC audit.

A rough estimate is the city so far has spent more than $10,000 on the Watson complaint brought on Glen Tolhurst for receiving a donation for $400 from GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association Inc (GRG). As a candidate in the 2014 civic election, Mr. Tolhurst spent less than $2,900 on his ward six campaign in which he was not elected.

The Watson complaint was based on three elements:

* Tolhurst did not claim the value of GRG advertising in the Guelph Tribune of which he was one of 12 candidates suggested for consideration by voters.

Mr. Molson disagreed saying that the GRG advertising campaign was not and should not be considered a contribution to Tolhurst’s campaign.

* Susan Watson stated that GRG erroneously called itself a business when in fact it was a citizen’s group.

Mr. Molson disagreed. GRG is a non-profit incorporated organization under the Ontario Corporations Act and therefore entitled to make donations in municipal elections.

Tolhurst’s greatest sin: Clerical errors valued less than $10

The auditor noted that Tolhurst contravened the Ontario Municipal Elections Act (MEA) by failing to note in his official expenses report the cost of a city map ($5.50), checked off the wrong box on the form and under-reported an expense by $1.

It is ludicrous for O’Brien to suggest that Tolhurst contravened the MEA on that basis so therefore Watson does not have to repay the city. The auditor, in his report, said the reporting errors were not enough to be considered a contravention of the MEA

Why, before the committee has had a chance to consider the Molson report, is the city clerk claiming that Ms. Watson, the person who made the false allegations that caused the audit, is not responsible?

His comments, as a senior city official, are unworthy, unprofessional and slanted. The people have already determined that this complaint was vindictive and frivolous. And conducted at the public expense.

The clerk says the CAC could “commence legal action against Tolhurst if the auditor found that Tolhurst contravened the Act”.

Does the city of Guelph really want to go to court over election expense errors under $10? The CAC’s own auditor stated the errors were not significant to warrant such an action.

The committee “will probably weigh the perceived and severity of the contraventions,” the clerk added.

Clerk says we have to follow proper procedures

While the CAC is independent of Council, the clerk stated, “it is their job to ensure that the proper process is followed.”

Mr. O’Brien, are you suggesting that the proper process was not followed? Are you basing your statement that repayment of public funds by Susan Watson “is not going to happen?”

Let’s get this straight. The CAC May 6 ordered an audit of Glen Tolhurs’s election expenses. May 20, the CAC selected William Molson to perform the audit over the objections of one CAC member, who said an auditor with more experience in such cases should be selected. Molson’s bid was the lowest of three.

This appears to be following procedures.

Mr. Molson commenced the audit process in June. Nowhere during the audit investigation were there failures of procedures.

When Molson released the report, he found that the accusations made by Susan Watson failed to meet the test under which she claimed Tolhurst contravened the Act.

The CAC has little choice in this matter. It’s own auditor has basically said the complaint is unfounded. His judgment was based on law, the MEA and the Corporations Act. He said changing those laws was beyond the scope of the CAC.

The most egregious part of this is O’Brien’s blatant interference in the process is that Watson would not have to repay the public funds used to support her claims

Hello, Karen?

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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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The escalating cost of Susan Watson’s election complaint, creates growing doubt about its validity

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Galon, fool some of the people some of the time but not all the time

Posted May 20, 2015

The Mercury published a long refutation of the truth about the Susan Watson complaint that Glen Tolhurst accepted an illegal contribution to his 2014 civic election campaign.

Dennis Galon, the author of the piece, describes Watson’s attempt to clarify the position of non-profit corporations to be allowed to contribute to election advertising campaigns. He alleges she contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing regarding the so-called “third party” support of issues and candidates in a municipal election.

He stated that the Ministry, “didn’t know and Watson was referred to Guelph’s city clerk”. But he does not identify this Ministry official or whether she received a decision in writing or, as Galon puts it, she “was told effectively” by a nameless person in the MMAH.

Following this anonymous advice, Watson contacted city Clerk Stephen O’Brien and was told he had no authority to investigate or prosecute offenses under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act. He suggested she should pursue her concerns with a formal complaint to the city’s Compliance Audit Committee (CAC).

The trouble with this argument is that the CAC has no authority to, as Galon puts it, to adjudicate her “noble tradition of ‘test case’ public interest litigation”.

Dr. Galon does have a way with words.

There is nothing noble about this sham of spending the public’s money to chase a specious theory that GrassRoots Guelph (GRG) did not have the authority to invite readers to consider candidates. It collectively believed that its participation would bring about change in Guelph.

This noblesse oblige on the part of Watson is a bare-faced attempt to assuage the pain of seeing her friend, Karen Farbridge, lose her bid for a fourth term as mayor.

Watson’s pious comment that she had no quarrel with Mr. Tolhurst but she merely sought to clarify the role of third parties in municipal elections.

So, do two official turndowns or passing the buck qualify as a noble test case? Further, what is the price of this noble cause? It’s you and me who pay the bills plus thousands of Guelph citizens.

Given their experience in legal cases, does the CAC three-member panel have the power to adjudicate this allegation hiding behind the mask of noble tradition, as Galon describes it? This is the first case the CAC has tried since its formation in July 2014.

Galon argues that GrassRoots Guelph is not a corporation that carries on business. Well, that’s a red herring. GrassRoots Guelph is an incorporated Ontario non-profit, non-partisan organization. Its purpose was to encourage greater voter participation (mission accomplished), organize and inform citizens of the operations of their city. Now that was a citizen-driven noble exercise.

Does he really believe that GrassRoots Guelph is different from the hundreds of non-profit incorporated organizations that exist across the province?

The Farbridge supporters were stunned and angry over the election outcome. That’s the real explanation why this campaign to discredit a legitimate citizen’s activist business that played a major role in the election upset.

Let’s switch gears and look at the how other organizations were involved in the 2014 election. In the most recent campaign an organizations called “We are Guelph” actively recommended candidates in every ward as well as former mayor Farbridge. Those chosen candidates were promoted through the “We Are Guelph” website which is, by definition, a form of publishing.

It was sponsored by the Guelph and District Labour Council who paid for the fancy website and supported its slate of candidates who were all labour members or supporters of the former administration.

Some labour sponsored candidates received donations from a number of unions, located outside the City of Guelph. These included Phil Allt, Laurie Garbutt and others.

So, Galon, we presume, you believe that third party union-sponsored involvement with elections in Guelph legal. Also, it meets your version of what is the true intent of the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.

Hold on Buster.

Did the union-sponsored “We Are Guelph” crowd name all the donors to their cause, as you are demanding GrassRoots Guelph should do? Who paid for their website? Who paid for their contributions to support their candidates?

To suggest that Mr. Tolhurst financially benefitted from advertising placed in the Tribune doesn’t quite square away with the Farbridge ad trying to link convicted robo-call operative Michael Sona with Candidate Cam Guthrie. How do you estimate the cost of that debacle? Was the cost attributed to the Farbridge financial election statement? Did the Mayor benefit? What an interesting parallel.

Galon, you repeatedly refer to GrassRoots Guelph as right wing or conservative. You have no evidence this is the case and have no access to the members of the organization. The steering committee represented a cross section of partisan supporters of all parties.

If only the Guelph and District Labour Council would submit its list of members and donations. The problem the labour council faced is that a number of their members voted to defeat the mayor and others because they lived in Guelph and could see first hand the Farbridge bollix she made of city governance and finances.

Her legacy of millions wasted on her decision to fire Urbacon and the legal fall-out; plus the neglect of infrastructure in which vehicle congestion has dramatically increased on some major roads. It was because lanes were reduced to accommodate bike lanes. Galon, do you ever drive around town to experience the long line-ups of cars on the major arterial roads in the morning and afternoons?

Sorry, maybe you are an “active transportation” enthusiast and ride your bicycle around town.

We now have a waste management system that doesn’t serve 13 per cent of households in the city and is costing millions to operate, not including the capital costs spent to create it.

Galon, did you ever stop to think about what you and Susan Watson are trying to do? Do you believe that Glen Tolhurst turned the tide against Farbridge? Do you believe that Madame Farbridge was a great mayor but was misunderstood last October when the people voted her out?

Why should citizens believe you now when the wreckage of the Farbridge administration is still smoldering?

The city is being managed without a Chief Financial Officer. It has a Chief Administrative Officer who misled the people by stating that the Urbacon settlement will not impact property taxes. And it has a deputy CAO who blithely proceeds to hire more staff, settle generous staff contracts and believes it’s business as usual.

Sorry Dr. Galon, supporting the Watson crusade to prevent citizens from forming independent political action groups is something right out of authoritarian control of elections and people.

Anyone got some countries in mind where this works?

 

 

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Is Farbridge friend, Susan Watson, a bully or just a sore loser?

Posted May 19, 2015

The cost to the public treasure of the Susan Watson charade that attacked an innocent candidate because he accepted money from GrassRoots Guelph is mounting daily.

Ms. Watson denies her target is defeated candidate Glen Tolhurst but is to achieve “clarity” of the role of third parties in civic elections. So she chooses to use public money to assert that belief, using Glen Tolhurst as the conduit. Her complaint was supported by the following players:

* A council appointed Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) consisting of three citizens, two of whom are not lawyers or accountants. The newly elected chair, Lyndsay Monk, is a Chartered Accountant but did not participate in the May 6 meeting when her colleagues voted to order an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s election financial report.

* On April 23, City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien retained Toronto lawyer Jody Johnson to inform the CAC of its responsibilities. She is described as a “subject matter expert”. Indeed, she may be having delivered a presentation in November 2014 to the fall meeting of the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. Was Mr. O’Brien at that meeting?

Her subject was “Dealing with frivolous and vexatious complaints.”

The next question is, what did she advise the CAC on April 23? There is no record in the minutes of that meeting to reveal what this expert said or advised. It is important to note that Watson supporter, Dennis Galon, was at that meeting and was described by O’Brien as a member of the public. So he heard what Ms. Johnson told the CAC.

* Galon was the only “member of the public” at this meeting ostensibly held to elect a chairman of CAC. Lyndsay Monk was elected but didn’t turn up for the May 6 meeting when the audit was ordered. Did the other two members of the CAC know April 23, that the chairman would not attend the May 6 meeting?

Already Watson’s complaint is resonating with citizens who are wondering about her real motives. Meanwhile the bill for this complaint is being run up and the citizens are paying for it.

On May 6, the CAC heard presentations from Watson’s lawyer, Ian Flett, Dennis Galon and a former candidate supporter of defeated mayor Karen Farbridge. Why did one registered delegate, a defeated council candidate, receive a donation from the ETFO union and failed to appear? Representing Mr. Tolhurst was Guelph lawyer, David Starr.

Glen Greer, George Gorringe of the CAC presided over the meeting and it took them just ten minutes  after the arguments to order an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s financial elections report. It was significantly unusual to have one CAC member move a motion to order an audit and the other seconding the motion.

All in favour? Carried.

It was initially reported that the audit could cost between $25,000 and $30,000. That changed May 18 when the city retained William Molson, a chartered accountant from Toronto, to conduct the audit. This is to be ratified at the May 20 meeting of the CAC.

Why Mr. Molson, you may ask. His was the lowest bid of four for the audit that ranged in price from Molson’s bid of $7,500 plus $500 per meeting, to Deloitte LLP bidding $19,750 plus $2,000 a meeting. What were the specifications of that tender? Did mr. O’Brien know Mr. Molson before the the tendering process?

It appears that with lightning speed the city followed the tendering process in less than two weeks. It has to be a world record considering the history of opaque tendering for city work by the previous administration.

Mr. Molson, according to research, has conducted one election campaign audit. It involved the Town of Pickering and was conducted in 2011.

Here we have a rush to judgment, orchestrated by the city clerk. It is based on much hearsay evidence, administered and considered by non-elected officials and experts.

It is a travesty that according to the rules any citizen can complain about election finances to satisfy a personal vendetta toward any group of activist citizens who are opposed to what the target stands for.

Watson’s actions will have the effect, win or lose, of deterring citizens to participate in elections and, more important, discouraging good people to run for office. The fear of reprisal for the most specious of reasons can turn this great city into a municipal conspiratorial quagmire. That is, if it hasn’t already.

This case will be turned over to an accountant who is not empowered to solve Watson’s Don Quixote quest to “clarify” the so-called third party issue as it pertains to the Ontario Municipal Elections Act.

By the time the audit result is announced, this is going to be a very expensive personal vanity exercise and the costs should be borne by the complainant. Only council can order Watson to pay the costs if it is found there is no merit to her complaint. It will be interesting to see how her council friends will vote if that decision must be made.

Perhaps Mr. Tolhurst should consider legal action for intentional infliction of suffering by Watson. There is no doubt he is the victim here. He acted with honesty and regardless, he was defeated.

So the Watson solution is to use public money, estimated to eventually cost more than $10,000, to pay for an audit of Mr. Tolhurst’s election finances of less than $4,000.

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