Naming names, pointing fingers, seven years later


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Almost seven years to the day, (Sept. 22, 2003 to be exact) municipal council unanimously approved a motion calling for an independent review of council and its working relationships at city hall.

The damning overview, known as the McCarthy Tetrault report, was delivered just prior to the municipal election. It held back little, naming names and pointing fingers.

The report concluded all those interviewed agreed “this past term of council has been extremely troubled.”

Flipping through the pages, you can’t help but dwell on those players still in the running, or hoping to make a comeback, and the brush they were painted with.

For example, former mayor Peter Ostojic, according to the report endorsed by council, “was lacking respect for almost all senior staff at one point or another during his term.”

Mayor Jeff Kohler was seen as a consensus builder willing to listen to other views and considered by most as trying to make principled decisions. But there were concerns expressed by some that he is “occasionally too quiet on issues that are not of direct interest.”

Ald. Tom Johnston was seen as someone who relied “too much on others in making decisions.”

As for Ald. Gord Campbell, he was characterized as hard-working, but also someone “who attempts to intimidate others and personalizes debate.”

A detailed summary of the McCarthy Tetrault report can be found here.

Food for thought as ballot day approaches.

YOU’RE INVITED TO APPEAR

Elgin county CAO Mark McDonald has requested the presence of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health CEO Cynthia St. John at an upcoming meeting of council. Well, requested may be a bit of an understatement.

Coun. John Wilson, who sits on the health unit board, has suggested an official request be made for St. John to appear before council to inform members on important decisions being made and the rationale behind those decisions.

That would refer to this month’s board meeting where a slim 4-3 vote appears to pave the way for a move to a new building. The trio of county reps had sought a delay on any action until after the municipal vote.

Coun. Tom Marks, also a board member, reminds the county pays $900,000 to the health unit every year and the savings accrued by staying put at 99 Edward St. could be plowed back into health programs.

All good points.

While you have the attention of St. John, may we suggest you ask about staff morale at their headquarters. How many front-line employees are battling the effects of job stress?

Ask about hiring requirements and staff promotions. Seek clarification on the dismissal of four members in the dental health area.

Would it be fair to categorize the workplace atmosphere as toxic?

Ask one further question.

Why should an organization, whose stated missions and values are supportive to the public, not apply those to its own staff?

MICRO-MANAGER MARIE

Still with the McCarthy Tetrault report, the document characterized council of the day as unable to operate due to an atmosphere of sniping and internal power struggles.

The troubles, the report stressed, are “rooted in the mix of personalities . . . the resulting lack of respect for others seriously undermined the effectiveness of council.”

As noted above, each member of council was critiqued, and one alderman, since departed, was painted in a most unflattering light.

Ald. Marie Turvey was identified as a “micro-manager . . . prone to re-visiting decisions,” or unable to “move on from decisions.”

Well, seven years have changed little.

How else do you explain the actions of the Central Elgin resident who seems determined to play a role in the upcoming municipal vote.

Turvey couldn’t win the confidence of city voters in 2006 (she finished 10th in the aldermanic race) and she’s not willing to let go.

She is now attempting to implicate Mayor Cliff Barwick in some sort of nefarious letter-writing campaign undertaken in 2006, but when this corner requested specific details, she declined.

Instead of murkying the waters here, don’t you have a campaign to run in Central Elgin?

TIME FOR INTROSPECTION

The man who topped all alderman in the 2006 election was the subject of an emotional tribute Monday. A minute of silence hardly seems sufficient when you reflect on his 10 years of municipal service.

“Terry served not only in this chamber with honesty and integrity, but certainly his actions in the community reflect those ideas,” praised Mayor Barwick.

Can all members of council, and those seeking a return to the political spotlight, look in the mirror and admit the same can be said of their actions in office?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“He never had any hidden agendas. What you saw was what you got.”

Mayor Cliff Barwick led city council Monday in a moving tribute to Ald. Terry Shackelton.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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