Craig’s Commentary Volume 2 Number 20


Mayor Close Must Apologize For His Role In The Blog Lawsuit Fiasco, Or Resign

On March 20 TSBP council pulled CAO Cook’s funding for her groundless slander lawsuit against Shnurr, Lyttle, Lyttle, and Gammie. About March 26th the COA became “no longer employed” by the town. About March 26th Rhonda Cook’s lawyer offered to settle the lawsuit.

All of this is good news for most. But it is far from over. And it has many asking how it ever got as far as it did.

Some blame the rookie council. I think Mayor John D. Close is, after COA Cook, the prime suspect.

A February 2011 press release said “We fully intend to take this to its conclusion” . . . “Those who want to slander, that’s the end of it”, thereby signaling that he had determined that the bloggers were guilty of slander, and that he was coming after the bloggers. It was made to look like these were the words of all of council, but it is now clear that the words were those of John D. Close.

It was John D. Close, and not council, who in a May 2011 press release made the absolute lie that “bill 168 makes it a criminal offense to harass or use violent and abusive language in a place of work.”

It was John D. Close, and not council, who knew or should have known that there was nothing criminal about the blog, but still vowed in a May 2011 press release that “We shall take action against those individuals responsible for these criminal actions”.

It was John D. Close, and not council, who in a May 2011 press release called bloggers “plague”, “criminals”, and “bullies”, and implied that the bad bloggers were such criminals that if not stopped they would escalate to physical violence and other nefarious crimes.

(Before the May 2011 press release council had agreed to a “letter of support for staff”, but council had no idea of the malicious, slanderous content of the May 2011 press release until after it had been handed to the press.)

It was John D. Close who in an interview 2011 May 25 repeated that the bloggers were a “very bad blight on our community”, said the bloggers were “destroying the community”, and implied that the bloggers were criminals.

It was John D. Close who in an interview 2011 May 25 outright lied that the OPP were “investigating the case under Bill-168”, and said that he was “hoping the police investigation moves ahead quickly”, when in fact he knew or should have known that the police were not investigating and did not investigate at all.

So, were all of these lies and ridiculous announcements just the innocent mistakes of a rookie mayor, or were they the actions of a man desperate to silence any who threatened his ulterior agenda?

Democracy is participation by the governed in the development of the public policy that governs them. That participation includes criticizing the representatives when those representatives stray from a focus on the public interest. And that participation includes criticizing staff when staff stray from a focus on the public interest. The blog is a forum for that participation, and as such is an important part of our democracy.

From my point of view, the attack on the blog was no innocent rookie mistake. It appears to me that Mayor John D. Close and his little gang of supporters have an agenda, and that their agenda is contrary to the people’s agenda. John D. Close and gang have taken just about every action possible to deal with perceived threats to their agenda. The blog is one of those threats.

It is clear to me that in his zeal to deal with the blog threat, Mayor John D. Close forgot about his oath of office, and forgot about integrity, and forgot about honesty, and forgot about the citizens of the town of South Bruce Peninsula.

Mayor John D. Close must lay bare his nefarious agenda, confess his sins, apologize profusely to the people, disavow the backroom boys pulling his strings, and act like a real mayor for the next two and a half years.

Better still, he should resign.

Craig

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Craig’s Commentary Volume 2 Number 19


TSBP Staff Recklessly Destroy Sauble Piping Plover Habitat

The Piping Plover is listed in schedule 2 of the Species At Risk In Ontario List (regulation 230/08) as an endangered species. There are no geographical constraints applied, which means that the Endangered Species Act (the Act”) protects Piping Plovers and their habitat everywhere in Ontario.

Section 10 of the Act prohibits habitat damage:

10. (1) No person shall damage or destroy the habitat of,
(a) a species that is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as an endangered or threatened species; or
(b) a species that is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as an extirpated species, if the species is prescribed by the regulations for the purpose of this clause. 2007, c. 6, s. 10 (1).

A 2011 June 20 letter from Mark Shoreman, Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), to TSBP indicated:

“As provided in previous correspondence and communication to the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, the habitat Piping Plover requires and uses at Sauble Beach is protected under section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. This Ministry advises that beach raking and the removal of the woody debris north of sixth street to the north end of the beach (ending at the Sauble River) at this time would be detrimental to the species and would damage or destroy the habitat required for nest, feeding, and raising young.”

The June 21, 2011 TSBP Committee Of The Whole meeting minutes include:

Councillor Jackson explained that we passed a resolution to clean the beach. The entire beach wasn’t cleaned because it rained and the south end only was cleaned. She feels that the uncleaned beach is ugly and is hazardous to people. She does not want to destroy the Plover habitat. Mayor Close read a letter from the MNR indicating that the Town would be charged if we chose to clean the beach from Sixth Street North to the Sauble River. He indicated that we cannot direct staff to perform an illegal action. Councillor Jackson did not agree and felt that the letter said that the beach maintenance is the responsibility of the municipality. Mayor Close is ruling the recommendation from Councillor Jackson out of order and does not want it to go forward the way it reads. He indicated that Council can overrule the Mayor’s decision with 2/3 majority. Committee discussed the fact that we are not to disturb the habitat. They asked to have a representative from Wasaga Beach come to speak to Council as he grooms around the Plover nests each day.
Recommendation to Council: THAT the notice of motion by Councillor Jackson is ruled out of order until such time as Mark Shoreman from Wasaga Beach can attend as a delegation with regard to grooming around the Plover nests.

In a 2011 July 19 council meeting MNR’s Mark Shoreman and Suzanne Robinson repeatedly stated that between Sixth Street and the Sauble River the “woody debris” was “protected habitat”, and that removing the debris would be a violation of section 10 of the Act.

Yet in spite of all this clear and consistent direction from the MNR, in late March the plover habitat between Sixth Street and the river was completely destroyed, the beach raked absolutely clean, the “woody debris” removed.

This was and is an absolutely clear contravention of section 10 of the Act.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is investigating. I understand that as of Friday March 30th, the MNR has issued an order to rehabilitate the habitat.

In addition to the order to rehabilitate, the MNR may charge the town. The fine upon conviction could be as high as a million dollars. This would be an unacceptable burden on the taxpayers.

Council must initiate an investigation to find out who was responsible for the habitat destruction, and make that known to the public and to the MNR. And unless it is found that the person or persons responsible honestly and reasonably believed in the existence of facts that, if true, would render that person’s conduct innocent, then the responsible person or persons should be immediately dismissed and held accountable for all costs.

Craig

Craig’s Commentary Volume 2 Number 18


RE: April 3, 2012 Council Agenda

The pdf version of the full agenda package is available on the town website at:

https://southbrucepeninsula.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=48573

An Html version is at:

https://southbrucepeninsula.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=48571

Comments on a few interesting items in the Council Agenda Package

6.5 Wiarton BIA-March 13, 2012

Lynn McCurdy, Shane Sargant, and Tiffany Greig are listed as BIA Board members in the March 13 BIA Board meeting minutes. They are not BIA board members and should not be listed in the minutes and should not be at the Board table and should not be allowed to speak without a two-thirds agreement resolution. More on this as comment on item 8.11.

7.1 Susan Earle and Leah Andrews-Barrie, Bruce County – Update on Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy

The county wants the taxpayers of TSBP to donate land. The cause is noble, like so many others. But the citizens of the municipality should not be forced through taxation into giving to charitable causes. The County may have some authority to use county taxes to provide housing. If so that’s where the money must come from. And from Ontario programs. But not from the TSBP treasury.

The request must be denied.

7.2 Roberta Brignall and Cliff Bilyea, Community Foundation Grey Bruce –
Philathropic and Granting Programs

The presentation is refreshing in that it does not ask for taxpayers’ money.

8.1 SWSRAHC 2-2012 Waiving of Procedure for Attendance of Committee

Sauble sewers ad hoc committee member Garry Leveck will only attend meetings from mid-spring to mid-fall, and has missed many meetings, and according to protocol needs to be replaced. Councillor Bowman wants to waive the protocol and allow Mr. Leveck to continue as a committee member.

The report of the parallel committee (see my commentary V2 #10) shows very clearly that there is no problem that would warrant the 70 million dollar Sauble sewers project).

The sauble sewers ad hoc committee has been Shanghaied by the chair and friends and as a result is on a track to “find” a problem with Sauble septic systems that can be used to rationalize the $70 million dollar sewers system, even though no such problem exists.

As Mr. Leveck might help counter the chair’s biased, pro-sewers agenda, he should stay on the committee.

8.7 FS18-2012 Release of Holdback-Wiarton and District Chamber of Commerce

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) indicates that the Wiarton Chamber will submit a report, “no later than sixty (60) days following the event ” … “which shall clearly outline the details of the event.”

What constitutes “details” is undefined in the MOU, and the Chamber report of January 12, 2012 does give some details, so it appears to be compliant in that respect.

But the report was issued about 190 days after the Canada Day event, or 130 days past the required deadline. On this basis the holdback must be considered forfeited, and kept by the town.

8.8 FS19-2012 Release of Holdback-Sauble Beach Chamber of Commerce

As with the Wiarton Chamber reports, The Sauble chamber reports give some “detail”, but are many weeks late. On this basis the holdback must be considered forfeited, and kept by the town.

8.11 CLK29-2012 Wiarton BIA and Wiarton District Chamber of Commerce Request for Council Consideration of the Wiarton BIA Representative

The Wiarton Chamber of Commerce, fraudulently pretending to be the BIA board of management (the “Board”), has requested that Councillor Matt Standen be removed from the Board.

The Wiarton Chamber of Commerce also bullied Councillor Standen into absenting himself from the March 13 Board meeting where the motion was made to request that council remove Councillor Standen from the Board.

The Chamber also misrepresented themselves as the Board in their March 11 letter bullying Councillor Standen to resign his position as chair of the Wiarton Willie Committee (which he did – under duress).

The request to remove Councillor Standen from the BIA Board is of concern as: the Board motion was made fraudulently; the Board motion was out-of-order; the Board motion was made contrary to conflict of interest guidelines; the Board motion was inappropriately made by a group that included non-board members; the Board motion was made outside the scope of Board’s powers and duties; and the Board request is groundless.

The request is fraudulent because the group making the request and claiming to be the BIA board was in fact not the BIA board at all. The March 13 BIA board meeting included Shane Sargent, Lynn McCurdy, and Tiffany Greig, all of whom are clearly not council-appointed members of the BIA Board. What the Board chair has done is to allow people who are members and employees of the chamber but who are not council-appointed Board members to sit on the Board and participate in the March 13 discussions and decisions. This is outrageous. This corruption of the Board makes all that came out of the March 13 meeting completely illegitimate, and a complete farce.

The request to remove Councillor Standen is further out of order because in making the request, conflict of interest guidelines were clearly breached. Board members who are also Wiarton Chamber members must leave their Chamber interests at the door when they attend a BIA board meeting. At least a majority of the members present (Pam Davis, Catrina Dodge, Josie Myles, Todd Gibbons, and Mel Reinhart), and I believe all of them, failed to leave their chamber interests at the door and thus breached the conflict of interest rules. The request for Councillor Standen’s removal from the BIA Board was clearly not made to further the Board’s legitimate purpose, but was rather made solely and strictly for the monetary benefit of the Chamber, and thus for the monetary benefit of the chamber members. Not surprisingly, there was no call, by the chair, at the beginning of the March 13 so-called BIA board meeting, for declarations of pecuniary interest. The Wiarton Chamber member listed above were acting on March 13 as the chamber board and thus have misrepresented themselves as the BIA Board.

The request and the so-called BIA board motion that “approved” the request are also out of order because the BIA board has absolutely no mandate to appoint people to the board or to recommend removal of any member. The BIA board has by law no say in who gets to be on the BIA board.

The request is also out of order as it is way outside the legitimate Board scope. All members of the board are there to manage the BIA according to the law. They don’t “represent” anybody. They are accountable, or at least they are supposed to be accountable, not to the members of the BIA, but rather to council and to the by-law and to the Act.

The second motion from the March 13 meeting of the so-called Board is also of concern. The motion was:

“Motion: To have BIA funds pay for membership dues for the Wiarton & District Chamber
of Commerce for all BIA members.
o Made by Mel
o Second by Pam
o Carried”

This motion, which unlawfully collects from the BIA members to give to the Wiarton Chamber, is also out of order, as it asks for something that is unlawful, and that is way outside the scope of the BIA, and that reflects a very serious conflict of interest.

Action needed includes:

1) The request to remove councillor Standen must be denied, with a stern rebuke to the requesters.
2) Pam Davis, Catrina Dodge, Josie Myles, Todd Gibbons, and Mel Reinhart must be removed from the Board, before they do any further harm.
3) Council needs to appoint five new Board members who can be trusted to focus on their duties as Board members and to leave any conflicting interests at the door.
4) Council should reject the BIA budget.
5) Council should note that the TSBP Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is the Board treasurer, as required by by-law.
6) Council should require the new Board to submit a proper budget, through the proper treasurer.
7) Council should review all of the activities of the board to make sure that the Board is operating according to the Act and according to the b-law.

Clerk Cathrae should have never presented the request as “Wiarton BIA have forwarded a letter to the Town of South Bruce Peninsula requesting that Council reconsider the Council representative on the Wiarton BIA”. Because regardless of how it was signed, it was clearly not the Wiarton BIA Board that forwarded the letter. It was a bunch of Wiarton Chamber members, some of whom are not even on the BIA board, fraudulently trying to pass themselves off as “the BIA”.

8.12 CLK32-2012 Parking Lot Lease Agreement, M&M Rinehart Holdings Inc.

The town currently leases, at $1 per year, the back of 559 Berford Street, for use as a municipal parking lot.

According to the Clerk’s report 32-2012, “The property is about to be sold to M & M
Rinehart Holdings Inc. and as such, the Town will need to sign a lease agreement with the new property owner for the use of the land.”

There are some questions that need to be answered before this proceeds any further.

1. What is the nature of the recent $20,000 payment by the town to the current owner / lessor Mansil Nixon. (Mansil Nixon died in 2000.) CFO Neiffer has been asked about this payment and responded “The Town has parking lot agreements with property owners in Wiarton, as noted by bylaw. It was recently determined that the Town had not made payment for 2002-2011 as per the agreement. This payment was made in accordance with the agreement and bylaw.” But according to the lease document in the April 3 agenda package, the agreement is for rent payment of $1 per year. So for 2002 through 2011 that would be ten dollars. What was the $20,000 payment for?

2. What is the current use of the property? The 1995 lease suggests that the leased lands are a parking lot only. The proposed lease alludes to “apartment tenants of the leased lands”. Are there now apartment buildings on the leased lands?

3. Why is the use by “apartment tenants of the Leased Lands” even in the proposed lease. It is not in the original 1995 lease.

4. The leased property in the proposed lease appears to be much larger than the leased property in the 1995 lease. What is going on here?

This proposal does not feel right. A council committee should be assigned to investigate.

8.17 BOWMAN21-2012 Town of South Bruce Peninsula Organizational Chart

It’s OK to have by-laws officers reporting administratively (performance reviews, scheduling) through staff, but the operations aspect of any by-law enforcement officer’s duties, that is the actual enforcement of the by-laws, must clearly be at arms length from any staff member and from council and from any council member.

This needs to be reflected clearly in the organizational chart.

I very heartily endorse the removal of the CAO position.

8.20 JACKSON05-2012 Community Events Committee

Councillor Jackson is proposing a community events committee, with a budget to run truly community events (as opposed to commercial events). A community events committee is a great idea, as it would replace the unlawful $100,000 grant to the chambers with a lawful and ethical funding of non-commercial, true community events. I think the $45,000 upset-limit budget is too much, but it’s a lot better than the $100,000 grants to the chambers. Council should support Councillor Jackson’s recommendation and drop the unlawful chamber grants in favour of the community events committee.

8.21 TURNER02-2012 BASWRA and Waste Diversion

The report Turner 02 is supposedly submitted to inform council’s discussion of waste diversion and waste management. It fails to do this.

What is needed is a report that clearly shows the costs and benefits of increasing diversion rates through increased recycling. The analysis should account for reduced landfill costs and also increased payments from Stewardship Ontario.

10.5 By-Law 48-2012 A By-Law to Implement a Sewage System Re-Inspection Program

In March 2011 the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) issued a guide for septic systems maintenance inspections. The guide is sensible, useful, and not expensive to implement.

The CBO has proposed a much costlier, invasive, intrusive, and completely unnecessary program.

The draft by-law 48-2012 gives two grounds by which an inspector can supposedly come onto your property:

“WHEREAS the regulatory power to trespass on private property is given under Section 15.9 (1) “Inspection of an Unsafe Building” in the Ontario Building Code Act (OBCA);

AND WHEREAS Section 15.10.1 of the Building Code Act allows an inspector to enter upon land and into buildings at any reasonable time without a warrant for the purpose of conducting a maintenance inspection;”

These words imply that an inspector can, without a warrant, come onto a property to do a CBO-style “inspection”. This is wrong. An inspector can come onto your property without a warrant to do an inspection according to the MMAH guideline, but needs a warrant to a Wayne’s Rule inspection.

I am fully in support of a sensible septic inspection program. Use the MMAH guide, and you are welcome on my property. If you come brandishing Wayne’s rule – go and try to get a warrant.

10.6 By-Law 49-2012 Being a By-Law to Authorize the Mayor and Clerk to Sign a
Memorandum of Understanding with Gateway Haven (County of Bruce) for the Use of
Town Facilities as Interim Staging Sites

The proposal is that gateway haven gets to use the arena as an emergency “Interim Staging Site”, free of cost. This is noble, but contrary to the public interest. Gateway Haven residents pay for their care just like in a private facility. We would require private facilities to pay arena rental. So Gateway Haven needs to pay just as anyone else would. The residents of TSBP want to be charitable, but they deserve to have a choice, and they must have that choice.