TEWIN: Council’s Credibility ‘Shredded’: BENN

 

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The city has a real crisis … the credibility of Ottawa City Council.

After the initial shock of the unexpected revelation of a funding agreement between a developer and the planning department, the focus needs to be on fact-finding. Decisions based on the facts can follow.

Councillors attending a joint meeting of the planning and environmental services committees were advised, in response to a question by Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard if the rumour he heard that members of the city’s planning department are working exclusively on the Tewin subdivision plan was true. The response from staff was yes. Taggart, is paying for three planners to work on Tewin.


In time for the next scheduled city council meeting, prudent councillors practicing their statutory obligation of oversight and of supervising might want to assemble a set of questions to get the facts. Just the facts.

Don’t let the official notice periods for agenda items get in your way. Publicly challenge any and all councillors who cite the need to follow protocol. Make them very uncomfortable about what they knew but chose not to share with the rest of council.

Council needs to set the tone immediately. Make it clear that any obfuscation will be dealt with promptly and severely. As in contempt of council, or the equivalent. Consequences that are career-threatening, career-ending.

The questions should be organized in an orderly manner. Remember, the objective is to get the facts about what, who, when. Why is not relevant in the first stage.

 

The Agreement

Is there a formal contract? Was it drafted or reviewed by legal counsel acting on behalf of the city? In house or external? Copy to be provided to each and every councillor, immediately.

Who are the parties to the agreement? Who signed on behalf of each of the parties? What is the commencement date and the term?

Which members of the senior management group are aware of the arrangement? Start with current, then past or no longer with the city.

Did any elected official authorize the execution of this agreement? If so, who? Question for every councillor, for the public record, with a reminder about the requirement to not lie, mislead or otherwise fail to properly answer the question: Were you aware of this arrangement? If so, when did you become aware? How and by whom were you advised? “I don’t recall the details” is not an acceptable answer.

Did the auditor general see the contract prior to it being executed? If not, did the AG see it prior to the existence of this arrangement became public?

Did the integrity commissioner see the contract prior to it being executed? If not, did the integrity commissioner see it prior to the existence of this arrangement became public?

What is the consideration or compensation paid and payable by Taggart? What are the specific terms, including the timing of each instalment? How was it determined? Does it cover payroll related taxes (CPP, EI, EHT), pension, group insurance plus an allocation of overhead and a ‘profit factor’? How does this compare to the rates charged by private businesses, such as FoTenn?

Does Taggart have any input or control over who is assigned to the project? Does Taggart have the contractual right to determine what gets handled, by whom, when?

What are the conditions under which the contract can be terminated?

 

Bigger Picture

Does the city have any other similar arrangements? If so, with whom, regarding what subdivisions or projects?

Has the city ever had similar arrangements in the past, but are now terminated? If so, with which developers, developments, projects?

Is this common practice for municipalities in Ontario? Other provinces? If so, cite them with specifically.

 

Conclusion

The standard practice of not holding council or committee meetings during the summer months needs to be set to the side. What little credibility that this council has with the public regarding its ability to properly exercise its obligation of oversight is being shredded by the minute.

Ron Benn, a finance executive, has been a member of the Centrepointe Community Association for the better part of three decades.


1 Response

  1. Valerie Swinton says:

    Now we know that Taggart has paid staff working as City staff on the Tewin development and that council as a whole was unaware of this. At the joint committee meeting yesterday, there was a passing reference by Councillor Gower about some kind of memo that Taggart sent on how to get the costs of the water infrastructure down. A Taggart Construction core business is providing such infrastructure.
    So then, for the infrastructure contracts, they are on the inside, they are being technically consulted from the outside, and then they are going to be eligible to bid on it? That is a massive conflict of interest and should be a subject of an investigation.

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