UPDATE: Another update on this ongoing problem within Municipalities across Ontario. Now Andre Marin may get his “MUSH” wish to investigate Municipalities, Universities, School Boards and Hospitals if Kathleen Wynne gets her way with new legislation (even though it’s probably just an election ploy that would get watered down IF she ever gets voted back in).
Here’s Marin’s feelings on why this legislation is necessary and Sudbury Council seems to be the focus of his concerns!
By Laura Stricker, Sudbury Star Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:41:15 EST PM
“Packing my bags for Sudbury,” Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin wrote on Twitter Thursday.
One year ago Greater Sudbury city council elected to hire a private closed-meeting investigator instead of continuing with Marin.
Premier Kathleen Wynne Thursday introduced legislation that could give the ombudsman’s office full oversight over municipalities – and not just for closed meetings, either.
“If passed (this) will ensure independent oversight of all aspects of the provincial public sector. Wherever provincial tax dollars go, independent oversight should follow,” Marin said during a teleconference with reporters.
“If passed, this bill will finally open up the MUSH (municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals) sector to scrutiny. My office will directly oversee municipalities, universities and school boards without restriction (MUS, as he called it). There also will be a new patient ombudsman … who will have the power to investigate Children’s Aid Societies.”
Marin has been pushing for oversight of the MUSH sector since he became ombudsman in 2005, same as his predecessors.
The proposed legislation would still allow Sudbury to work with Amberley Gavel, which it hired after ditching Marin in February 2013.
“People will have to use the existing mechanisms,” he said. “The ombudsman of Ontario will have the ability to investigate council members, mayors and the bureaucracy in local government across Ontario. This is a huge development.
“Over the last few months every time you look at the paper, you see a series of issues at the local level – fraud, nepotism, conflict of interest, questionable expense claims, misleading mayors, some facing criminal charges, others facing criminal investigations.
“I think it’s an area ripe for oversight. The province contributes $3.5 billion to municipalities … They should be getting their act together, and they haven’t. So we will make sure that municipalities are accountable.”
Even if the legislation passes, municipalities can still appoint their own ombudsman or hire a closed-meeting investigator.
“But they cannot opt out of the ombudsman regime,” explained Marin. “We’ll always be there, looking over the shoulder of their handpicked investigator to make sure the investigations are rigorous, fair and independent.”
Sudbury council moved on from Marin approximately six months after he called them “the least co-operative body we have ever investigated.”
This post is an update of an earlier one regarding CAO’s and how they may not be working in the best interests of your Municipality but for the interests of outside organizations that answers to the Provincial Government!
Most Councillors for Municipalities are elected by their friends, families and fellow neighbours as they are part of your community and live alongside you where you get to know their habits, personal information and backgrounds.
Not so Chief Administrative Officers (CAO’s)
Where do they come from and who hires them?
In many Townships across Ontario these days when a new CAO is announced and introduced to the public by way of a Press Release or township notification, they seem to always be from “somewhere outside” your Township.
All the more important is how much influence do these people have over decision-making inside Council Chambers and with your By-Laws that affect everything from fence heights to tax payments?
Typically Council Members always have the CAO hulking about in the background whenever anything formal is being discussed and specially during regular Council Meetings where many times the Council Members will ask the CAO for clarification in the discussions and ask if what they are doing is legal or Parliamentary.
At times it almost appears the CAO is driving the agenda. In a few instances the CAO actually addresses the public who attend Council meetings directly with advice or even admonishment on their behaviour.
For a paid employee who is paid much more than regular Council members and usually lasts a lot longer than a 4 year election span, these individuals have acquired a huge amount of influence over public matters even though they aren’t elected to behave so.
What could go wrong?…………………….PLENTY!
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is supposed to be an “advisory” organization that bridges the gap between the Municipal and Provincial levels of Government and “advises” Councils when required, to make decision-making more transparent FOR the citizens of a Municipality.
According to their mandate: ………….“The MOU provides the opportunity for municipal input and reaction to provincial policy ideas (pre-consultation) so that they are fully informed as part of any provincial policy making process.”
Along with the AMO comes this organization which is was established in 1992 by the AMO to provide services to Municipalities and basically is the “go-to” org for Councils who admit that the job they were elected to do, “manage the Municipality for the PEOPLE” can’t be done by them, then they contact this group: The LAS (Local Authority Services).
After all, why should we expect that elected officials be able to do the job they were elected to do just because they say they can during an election campaign?????………………….actually……………YES!
To be truthful, we must agree that most Councillors are not fully informed bureaucrats that have intimate knowledge of Parliamentary procedures and tend to ask many questions on “language and details” that have to be used when By-Laws and legal contracts are being discussed and written.
That goes without saying. Hire someone who is knowledgeable. That would be the CAO.
BUT, and this is the elephant in the room, but, when the CAO is “hijacked” by the AMO and in turn if the AMO is “hijacked” by the Provincial Government, then Municipal Councils are then being fed a one-sided opinion of the outcome on debatable subjects.
Taking this idea to the extreme one could label the situation as“CORRUPTED“!
So who does a Council “go to” for a new CAO???
The following research may raise a few eyebrows and prompt concerned citizens to question their Council’s hiring practices that may not be totally “independent” of political influence!
The first stop in the “hunt” for a new CAO could start here at the Ontario Municipal Administrator Association (OMAA) .
This association apparently finds CAO’s, trains them and provides a recruiting service when a Municipality needs a new one.
Nothing wrong with that.
Then along came this little story from Sudbury when the Ontario Ombudsmen Andre Marin was deeply involved in an investigation on closed door meetings and the following announcement was made………….“Marin was out as the city’s closed-meeting investigator, and a private company was in.”
The full story is as follows and apparently some Councillors weren’t too pleased with this announcement. The Private Company hired was Amberley Gavel Ltd where a man by the name of Nigel Bellchamber works with this firm and trains CAO’s along with various services involving the Ontario Municipal Act and consults with Councils across Ontario.
Nigel Bellchamber was also part-time General Manager of the Ontario Municipal Administrator Association (OMAA).
For an in-depth look at how Agenda 21 and how our Municipal Planning agenda has been hijacked by an unelected group of individuals who mean absolute harm and loss of Property Rights to all citizens go to this link and spend time watching Elizabeth Marshall open this “can of worms” which lays out the reasons WE Landowners are being attacked by our very own Municipalities!
Additional information on how badly “hijacked” our Municipalities have become by outside sources can be located below:
“Combined with swiftly-growing public exposure of the devious “strategic planning process” that enables “integrated” Local Agenda 21/Sustainable Development/Smart Growth impositions on unsuspecting “local” populations, as clearly outlined in Section 6 of the 46-page “Municipal Primer on UNCED” that was prepared for the unelected “Federation of Canadian Municipalities” (FCM) and the unelected “Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Inc.” (CCME) in 1994… copies of which I hear are now privately flooding the entire “left coast” of North America as well… in BOTH “official” languages, proving helpful also for speakers/readers of a south/central American spanish dialect anywhere south of the 49th …
Feb. 13, 2013
In less than 15 minutes, Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin — a man who has clashed with city councillors and is generally supported by the public — was out as the city’s closed-meeting investigator, and a private company was in.
Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume brought up a surprise-to-some motion toward the end of Tuesday night’s city council meeting to reconsider its 2011 decision to appoint Marin as its investigator.
“We are in midterm. We have done two years, we’ve got two years left,” said Berthiaume. “I thought it would be a good idea to review the issue of the closed meeting investigator.”
Berthiaume suggested appointing private firm Amberley Gavel to do any future investigations into closed meetings. The company is part of the Local Authority Services (LAS) closed meeting investigator program. LAS is a subsidiary of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).
“We have this opportunity to make changes and in lieu of the ombudsman use this group,” Berthiaume added. “I have a good feeling they do understand municipalities a lot better than the ombudsman’s office does.”
Amberley Gavel, a London, Ont.-based firm, was established by Fred Dean and Nigel Bellchamber. Dean was the City of Sudbury’s solicitor for 23 years and has also acted as legal counsel for Greater Sudbury.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk defended Marin, and said she was “not impressed” with the motion.
“At the last hour being presented with this and not even being informed about it, I do have the same concerns. I have no idea who this Amberley Gamel is.
“Quite frankly, I think the ombudsman is doing a good job. I may not like what he does, but that’s too bad … There’s a bit of transparency and there’s integrity with the process, using someone that other municipalities do. So I will not be supporting this.”
Ward 9 Coun. Doug Craig was the only other person to defend the ombudsman.
“I think if we’re going to have an ombudsman, we may as well have the current ombudsman that we have. We’ve had a pretty good time with him. He let us go a couple of times and took us to task here the last time, but if you’re going to have an ombudsman who does his job and gets things done, tells you what you’ve done wrong, that’s the kind of ombudsman I want.”
Last August Marin took council to task for being, as he called them, “the least co-operative body we have ever investigated.”
He came to Sudbury to investigate secret meetings held by city council in 2011 to discuss the performance of Auditor General Brian Bigger. Berthiaume and Craig, as well as Matichuk, were the only ones who agreed to participate in the investigation and interview process.
Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli, who has in the past pushed for council to no longer use Marin’s services, said the ombudsman was “unbelievably rude” when he came to speak to councillors in December.
“I think most of us would be very hard pressed to think of a reason why we wanted to continue that relationship. I think the ombudsman probably means well but I think he has very limited knowledge of municipalities.”
Despite defending Marin, Craig sided with his fellow councillors to support the motion to no longer use Marin as investigator. The motion passed 12-1, with only Matichuk voting against it.
“He’s someone who has done investigations for awhile, and I look upon him as someone who holds accountability and transparency,” she said after the meeting.
“I don’t know what this firm (Amberley Gavel) is. And to make a decision based on that, I like to base my decisions on facts, not (what) somebody said. So I would have liked to have seen a report, I would have liked to see more information and done my research.”
Following through on researching more information on Nigel Bellchamberwe attempt to find his website which is listed on Gavel’s website as: N. G. Bellchamber & Associates since 2001.
No website exists, not that it is wrong, but one would wonder why a Municipal Council would hire a consultant and pay them with tax payers dollars and not have any modern reference site where citizens would have access to that consulting firm.
If you do a “search” for N.G. Bellchamber & Associates you will come up with at least 155 results showing that this company has been very active within many many Councils in Ontario and makes one wonder when COA’s are “trained” by a private enterprise, can they graduate with a totally unbiased attitude when assuming a post that is definitely supposed to be non-political??
The real issue here is why would a Council dump our Ontario Ombudsman in favour of a Private Consulting firm that has documented “associations” with CAO’s across Ontario????
Further research shows that Nigel Bellchamber is deeply involved in“Sustainable Development” within Municipalities“ also being actively promoted by the AMO which of course is just a soft description of Agenda 21 which has now been OUTLAWED in many U.S. jurisdictions!
The statement ”transparent and open” is being used so often lately by Provincial and Municipal politicians that are being questioned by concerned citizens about their behaviour that one cannot dismiss irregularities like the above any more without digging deeper and demanding that Councils across Ontario open up their hiring practices for all Ontarians to see and scrutinize instead of being told that everything was done in a closed meeting and cannot be publicly exposed!
How public participation can be Halted!
Quinte West News
Brighton – Public question period is being reinstated at municipal council meetings.
At their regular meeting on Monday night, council unanimously approved bringing the agenda item back and amending the procedural bylaw to add, “no person speaking during public question period shall speak disrespectfully of any person, use offensive words or unparliamentary language or disobey the rules of order or a decision of the chairperson.”
Municipal council suspended public question period last November on the advice of the municipal integrity commissioner, who called it “a recipe for disaster.”
In December, local residents David Green and Roger McMurray appeared as a community delegation to discuss options to receive comments and questions from citizens. Council received the information and referred the issue to municipal staff for a report.
“It is the desire of all elected officials to seek and gain input and information from the public to be able to fulfill their obligations and adequately meet the needs of the community they serve,” said municipal CAO Gayle Frost in her report. “When managed effectively, opportunities for members of the public to interact, discuss and provide input to their elected can be very valuable.”
As well as the return of question period, time for “citizen comments” will be added to the agenda, after delegations, where “any member of the public may rise and submit comments or ideas to council or committee of the whole on any matter that is within the responsibility of the municipality without the provision of notice.”
Participants will be required to fill out a form within ten minutes prior to the start of the meeting and the chairperson will decide on the order and appropriateness of the comments. Speakers will have a maximum of three minutes to make their point.
“This allows the citizens to make comment or provide input to members of council on any item they like,” explained Frost. “It provides an opportunity for people in the community to provide input.”
EMC News -Madoc -Beginning last week, Centre Hastings Council won’t be opening the floor to questions at the end of its regular meetings, but has increased the number of possible delegations from three to four.
Council had invited public questions in the past but enacted a bylaw last week to end the practice. At a recent workshop for municipal councillors and department heads held at the Madoc Arts Centre, presenters Fred Dean and Nigel Bellchamber urged against deviating from an existing agenda by allowing unscheduled public input.
So with a pair of delegations and a list of regular business, the session continued according to the existing items remaining.
With provincial energy regulations being imposed on municipalities, Tyler Peters arrived in Madoc last week to remind officials of their obligations in the coming months.
Peters is president of Evergreen Energy Solutions, an engineering and energy management company based in Bancroft, who appeared as a delegation before council last week. Peters explained that there are two stages to the provincial regulations, in place since January 1, 2012, requiring municipalities, hospitals, school boards and others to conduct a review of facilities and provide a report on energy demand. By July 1, he says, an assessment of buildings must be conducted and the reports filed with the Ministry of Energy. The second component, he adds, involves the creation of a longer-range energy plan, due July 1, 2014, with reassessments every five years.
Asked by Clerk Pat Pilgrim how much such an assessment would cost, Peters replied that costs are based on a formula which takes into account the number of buildings and square footage, estimating a cost of $7,500 to conduct a review of five to eight buildings. Costs could vary significantly depending on variables such as the distance between buildings.