Monthly Archives: October 2012

Where there’s smoke…

… there’s, uh, more smoke…

Jeez, it’s getting smoky in here…

So, I’m reading Steve Berman’s latest blog post on Five Questions Collingwood Should Ask About Ed Houghton, thinking eventually I’ll get to the question of what shade of Just For Men is in Ed’s medicine cabinet (here’s a hint: only his stylist knows).

Unfortunately, we don’t get to that question, but we do get five questions that are either ridiculously easy to answer, or ridiculously so politically-charged that there isn’t any answer that I expect would satisfy the writer. Plus, as an added bonus, and extra-special sixth question just for the Surprise-Bulletin that is so blatantly insulting that I don’t even know how to answer it. It was not an article, but an editorial, and people are welcome to dispute or agree with its content… but if defending Ed Houghton’s record is ‘belittling’ the votes from an Internet poll and evidence of how the press has failed the community… well, you might as well dispute whether you paid for a five-minute argument, or the full half-hour (“No, you didn’t,” “Yes, I did,” “You most certainly did not…”)

But let’s start with Question 1: Whom does Mr. Houghton work for. That one is actually quite simple, and has never been secret: Ed Houghton is an employee of Collus, and is paid by Collus; Collus has an agreement with the Town of Collingwood to provide certain administrative and technical services, including IT and engineering – as well as Mr. Houghton – as part of its dividend payment.

Pointing out that council ‘appointed’, not ‘hired’, Ed as acting-CAO is just part of that aforementioned smokescreen, attempting to make people think there’s fire. Guess what: council ‘appoints’ all its employees – which is also the language used in the Municipal Act. By the way, just for your info, the previous council also ‘appointed’, not ‘hired’, the previous CAO:

THAT By-law 2009-081, being a by-law to appoint a Chief Administrative Officer for The Corporation of the Town of Collingwood, be enacted and passed this 13th day of July, 2009.

Shock! I really hope that council was held accountable…

It would probably be more appropriate to note that Ed didn’t get a raise when he took on the added responsibilities of being a CAO (not that he ‘does not receive remuneration’, when it is quite clear he is paid). Instead of a snide reference to him ‘volunteering’, a more suitable point to make would be that employees of municipally-owned electrical distribution companies should be subject to the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act – which, just so you know, is a question I and the E-B have been raising for the last several years. You’re welcome…

Question 2: Well, I just answered that – Ed’s services to the town falls under the agreement the town has with Collus. See above…

As to the email from the deputy-mayor; well, that’s not the acting-CAO’s fault, but it’s also not exactly a ‘breach’ (assuming, of course, that the deputy-mayor does anything ‘knowingly’; having dealt with Rick Lloyd for the better part of 20 years, that gives him far more credit than he deserves). ‘Asking’ for a price is not quite the same as unilaterally directing staff to negotiate a contract for the supply of two Sprung buildings. I would suggest staff get ‘asked’ all kinds of crazy (well, not crazy) things, from the status of sidewalk repairs, to the whereabouts of missing stop signs. And, it’s no worse than, say, directing staff to spy on the email of other councillors…

Guess what – all council members send emails asking questions of staff, even the ones whom I suspect you support.

How about a relevant question: would it be considered best practice to have an individual who is president of a private corporation be the chief administrator of a public entity such as a municipality, especially when said public entity has control over said private corporation. That’s not a question I’m qualified to answer, and it’s not a question I would necessarily pose to councillors and expect an educated, off-the-cuff response; if it were worth pursing, given my extremely limited time and resources, it would be something put to public policy experts.

But no, we’d rather frame accusatory statements in the form of questions, couched in weasly phrases or bolding terms such as ‘code of ethical behaviour’ in order to make a point.

Ed is accountable, and he is held to that accountability under the Municipal Act  – as well as whatever policies are in place by the municipality (I suspect, because of the relationship, Collus maintains similar policies). Just because you say there’s nothing there to make Ed accountable does not necessarily make it so…

Is Ed responsible for undertaking due diligence? Ed – and all municipal staff – are responsible for providing councillors with the information they need to make a decision; the buck stops with them. If there was a concern about information, or lack thereof, then it was council’s responsibility – if there was an issue, council should have voted to defer… and as such, will ultimately live or die in 2014 by their choices.

As to the fourth question, as to when Collingwood will have a full-time CAO, of course the documentation of when the town will hire one is not there; if the town is currently looking, then yes, there would be a document that outlined educational requirements, etc., etc. A more relevant query would have been for the town to provide the advertisement posted when the position was previously vacant, and whether council members are satisfied that the acting-CAO’s credentials conform to the job description as previously published.

The deputy-mayor’s email about making Ed a permanent CAO? Well, again, see above…

And, to the final point, again, Ed’s recommendations aren’t to blame for protest marches, or the anger expressed at the Friends of Central Park meeting at the Legion. Again – those events are the consequence of council’s decision-making.

So… does the public have a right to know the answers to a series of accusatory, biased questions? Or is it more possible that the public has the right to a balanced discussion of public policy issues (as the ones I’ve suggested). And if it’s the latter that council refuses to entertain, then they deserve to be trounced at the next polls…

But filling up the Innernets with dubious postulations clearly based on discussions with people who have certain agendas? Not cool…