Nina Bifolchi

Council Policy, Process and Legislation Out The Window

Council Policy, Process and Legislation out the window!
September 16, 2018

I have witnessed some distressing occurrences at the Council level during this current term of council but the most personally disappointing has been the absolute total lack of respect I have witnessed by the current leadership to Policy, Process and Legislation. Throughout these past four years there have been numerous questionable situations, many of which I can’t speak to publicly.

However, during this past week some things have occurred that I feel must be shared. Our Interim CAO sees nothing wrong with these situations, so I have no problem sharing the following.

As all of you are already aware I am a candidate for the Mayoralty position in our upcoming October 22nd election and, as such, I maintain my right as a candidate and as the current serving Deputy-Mayor to share with you any and all comments, concerns, thoughts and situations that any reasonable person in normal circumstances might well consider to be wrong.

The Town’s Interim CAO, Mr. Gerry Marshall has recently replaced our long-time CAO George Vadeboncoeur. I met last week with Gerry for about 1-1/2 hours during which time he shared with me a new policy that he had just delivered to staff. This Policy indicated that all staff members need to document their interactions with council members and email such reports to not just him but also to Mayor Smith. I reminded Gerry that he is the interim CAO, the “new guy” and that his suggestion was inappropriate to include the Mayor (especially this close to an election) as this would be seen by staff as a “big brother is watching” tactic. Trust is something that needs to be earned and this tactic surely did not gain him any with staff. It seems Gerry has since changed his mind for the time being and the documented conversations only need to be shared with him. I’m sure he won’t share them with the Mayor. I believe this proposed tactic is simply one more way to install more fear into an already beleaguered staff and to stifle conversations that some individuals don’t want occurring between staff and others.

Last week a presentation arranged by the Town was held at the Rec Plex. The supposed sole purpose of this meeting was to update the public on the changes FRAM had made to their Beachfront and Main Street proposal. I attended the afternoon “dry run” session and felt there really wasn’t anything spectacular added and in fact they cut the proposed development in half. I find it absolutely abhorrent that our municipal Treasury is paying our tax dollars to organize and support public meetings on behalf of a private commercial developer in order that the developer can receive feedback on what their buildings should look like. No other developers in the history of our Town has ever been afforded any such free generosity.

Mayor Smith, Staff member Andrew McNeill and Frank Giannone from FRAM spoke to the residents assembled in the RecPlex. When staff member Andrew McNeill made his presentation, he provided additional pictorial information that he hadn’t shared during the afternoon dry run. He had copied pictures from my copyrighted Election website wherein I had included a very detailed outline for my alternative Beachfront design and he used this meeting to openly criticize my ideas as to how I believe the development should occur. He copied pictures I included for the sole purpose to share ideas, and mocked them to say there were no people in the pictures. In my opinion, at our taxpayers’ expense he purposely and intentionally attempted to discredit a vision which is part of my election campaign. In my opinion, this was an example of a Town Staff Member electioneering on behalf of my political opponent. He did not reference anyone else’s visions from their websites, just mine. What was to be an update on the FRAM presentation turned into a political discrediting of an election candidate, paid for by the taxpayers and supported by the Mayor who sat just feet away from the staff member and said nothing. I am sharing this situation on my website because I have had residents ask why parts of my vision was included in the Town’s presentation. I hope you now understand how it got there.

Following the meeting I shared my concerns with the Interim CAO. I felt that some rules had been broken.

Use of Corporate Resources for Election Purposes Policy states:

-No candidate shall use the facilities, equipment, supplies, services, staff or other resources of the Town (including Councillor newsletters and Councillor budgets) for any election campaign or campaign related activities. (NOTE: the majority of council already voted to break these rules recently regarding the newsletter so the Mayor’s message could be sent to every household in Wasaga)

-No candidate shall undertake campaign-related activities on Public Property (as defined in the Election, Advertising and Placement of Election Signs By-law), except those properties currently under lease to a third party. (NOTE: by including my election vision for the beachfront into this presentation made it an election issue)

-No candidate shall use the services of persons during hours in which those persons receive any compensation from the Town.

The interim CAO refused to provide me a copy of the legal opinion he received however this was his response to me:
1) Nothing improper or inappropriate was done or said.
2) Council as a whole has made a decision on the FRAM matter and is in support of the venture and development.
3) Staffs attendance at the public meeting was not as a partisan political commentator; he was there to explain the municipality’s perspective on the matter.
4) Staff made no overt statements in support of or in opposition to any candidate running in the election.
5) While Staff did use some images/photographs that appear on your social media site, this does not equate to Staff attacking you or seeking to discredit you

I completely disagree with the interim CAOs take on the matter but I will let the public be the judge.

On a different matter it was brought to my attention that a real estate agent had the town owned property as well as a local accommodation property for sale on her website. I brought this to the attention of the interim CAO which he looked into.

He confirmed that while our Downtown Development Master Plan has been made available to the public, it remains proprietary to our Town and is subject to copyright. In other words this real estate agent had no business using the picture associated with the DDMP on her website let alone trying to flog the beachfront.

However, when I asked the interim CAO why a third party advertiser for the election could use the picture, I received a new answer. He said while the DDMP is proprietary, the copyright referenced is an image based on copyright which was put in place, and belonged to FORREC.

I currently wait for the interim CAO to answer my question as to who at FORREC gave permission to a third party to use an image that we the town paid for through the consultation process with them. I’m hoping for an answer soon.

In my previous terms of council there was never this much confusion about policy, process and legislation. I can’t wait to bring it back to Town Hall following the October 22, 2018 election!

I would also like to give a shout out to staff. In the past we have all had the freedom to speak freely. It appears that that has changed.

I will not put any of you in the line of fire by attempting to meet with you during the next 5 weeks that would put you in a position of answering to Big Brother and perhaps negatively impact your position with the town.

I ask that you continue to do the great job you do, hang in there, we will be back on track soon!

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