In January of this year, the Central Elgin Ratepayers Association (CERA), filed a complaint with closed-session investigator John Maddox following a telephone conversation between Acting Mayor Tom Marks, and association secretary-treasurer Terry Campbell.
Maddox has been retained by Central Elgin, St. Thomas and Elgin county to probe complaints by anyone who believes council has sequestered itself for reasons beyond those legally prescribed under the Ontario Municipal Act.
Maddox released his summary this morning (Feb. 13) and you can read it Closed Door Meeting here
Here is the backgrounder from the Times-Journal that promted the investigation …
The issue started at the beginning of the month when CERA submitted a list of questions to Central Elgin — something Campbell said they do on a monthly basis.
“We thought it would be more efficient for us to question the municipalities on various issues through the organization,” he explained.
One question, for example is from “Mike” asking why the price of garbage bag stickers was reduced — a full name and address is not included.
In considering his response, Marks cited the Times-Journal letter policy — letters that don’t include an address and phone number are not printed.
“If I sent a nasty letter to the editor and signed it (someone else’s name), it wouldn’t be published. There’s a protocol,” Marks explained.
“If you go ahead and print that without knowing it’s actually me … Someone else could have written it.”
With that in mind, Marks decided the questions and letters would go unanswered. He contacted other members of Central Elgin council over the phone to get their take.
“(I) said, ‘this is what I’m doing.’ They said, ‘go for it,'” he said.
The subsequent conversation between Marks and Campbell didn’t go well.
“It was a short conversation. We agreed to disagree,” Marks said.
Campbell said he was told Central Elgin, “Would no longer accept, or answer, any questions we sent in on behalf of our membership. I made the case that there were some people in the community who didn’t want their names known because of potential issues like being employees or being the relatives of employees or people who don’t want to be seen as always coming to the fore and raising issues,” he explained.
“The municipality doesn’t have a good track record, even if they do answer questions to give a full answer.
“He then accused the people who were filing their questions through the association … of being cowards.”
Marks responded, “I think I made a statement similar to, ‘If you won’t put a signature to the letter, it’s kind of cowardly.'”
Shortly after, Campbell and CERA contacted Maddox with their request.
“Whether this meeting was held in person or over the phone, or by email, it’s still a council meeting, it was not a scheduled meeting, there’s no record of a meeting. And there’s no record of the vote. From that we’re waiting to see what Mr. Maddox does,” explained Campbell.
Marks noted, however, if anyone has a question or complaint, they should call, talk to him on the street or approach him at council. That way their specific issue can be addressed.