Lack of accountability frustrates concerned residents


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The revelations unveiled in City Scope last week ( read here) on the pension two-step performed by the CEO and board chairman at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital generated a significant amount of response in the form of phone calls and emails.

None of them complimentary in nature.

This outpouring prompted a call from this corner to communications and public relations specialist Cathy Fox with an invitation for CEO Paul Collins to personally respond to some of the concerns raised by T-J readers.

Collins resolutely declined.

“(Board chairman) Bruce Babcock is the official spokesperson for the hospital on this matter,” Fox stressed.

Well, if you recall last week’s column, a 25-watt light bulb casts more illumination than that provided by Babcock.

Here is a sampling of the feedback forwarded our way in what one individual calls, “another chapter in the saga of transparency and accountability.”

And, which proves city hall doesn’t corner the market on the lack of said attributes.

“To circumvent this type of shenanigans in the private sector, it is commonplace to find policies stipulating that any employee who retires cannot be rehired in any capacity for a defined period of time; usually 12 to 18 months,” writes Bill Sandison.

Which brings to mind another point, he continues.

“Where is the succession planning and why was Collins’ replacement not already identified?

“If it’s true that there is no policy to prevent double-dipping and there was/is no succession plan for the president and CEO, you have to seriously examine the role of the Human Resources Director and the board of directors.”

More than one reader is worried about the impact this back room legerdemain will have on the hospital foundation’s fundraising efforts.

Not to mention the reception received by deputations to city and county council for long-term funding assistance.

And, these are hospital supporters who are voicing concerns.

Another city resident wonders, “If Mr. Collins was planning his retirement and then in a matter of a couple of coffees/days could change his life-long plans so fast, I wonder if he has made other decisions regarding taxpayers’ money as quickly?”

Reader Scott advises, “I was totally outraged after hearing of the hospital’s decision to re-hire Mr Collins. In this day and age, most people and families are struggling just to make ends meet.

“Mr. Collins is collecting a full pension, while receiving a six-figure income from the hospital. Does this not seem totally unfair to you? It sure does to me.”

What do you say to residents who can’t fathom why, if Collins’ retirement/re-hiring is such a good deal, the process was fully conducted in-camera, with no documentation available and no gushing press release from any of the parties involved?

And finally, is the personal gain of the CEO worth more than the reputation and financial stability of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital?

Mr. Collins, the invitation remains on the table.

MOVING FORWARD

We’re in receipt of a note from Lois Jackson over at All-Breed Canine Rescue (ABCR) to advise city council has established an animal welfare advisory committee.

The first order of business is to determine how the city can better use tax dollars to provide animal services to St. Thomas and area residents.

Jackson notes from 2004 to 2009, there were 2,114 cats logged into the city animal shelter. Of that number, only 34 cats were claimed by owners and just 52 cats were adopted.

Those are truly dismal numbers.

She adds Animal Aide saved 1,724 of these pound cats, Pets Friends for Life saved 63 and her organization saved 16 cats.

A total of 2,193 dogs went through the pound.

Jackson stresses the city provides no vet care for sick or injured dogs. ABCR takes responsibility for all their vet care as well as rescuing any abandoned dogs whose time has run out.

The committee’s report to council will present suggestions on how to increase claim and adoption rates, increase revenue for the city, and provide more accessible services to the public.

It’s nice to see forward direction on an issue that has hounded council and city staff to the point of distraction and frustration.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There was no conflict of interest. It won’t show on any income statements there was any income gained. The only people who think I have a conflict are the Times-Journal.”

Ald. Mark Cosens stands firm on his assertion he had no reason to step down as committee chairman during debate Monday on community gardens in St. Thomas.

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

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