The retirement of Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Holdings Inc.) CEO Brian Hollywood at the end of June and the resignation of former board chairman, Ald. Tom Johnston, the same month has this corner puzzling over the timing of this double play.
Especially in the case of Johnston who tumbled from board chairman to out the door in a matter of weeks, prompting the question: How much pressure was exerted by the board of directors on Johnston?
Was it the fact Ascent lost $1 million in 2011, down from a profit of $584,501 in 2010.
Or, how about the possibility Johnston was continuing to receive compensation in some fashion as Ascent board chairman, in spite of a city bylaw enacted in 2009 that eliminated remuneration for members of city council sitting on outside boards?
We put the question to Johnston on Friday as to compensation or bonuses, either financially or in the form of other perks such as Detroit Red Wings season tickets, continuing over the past three years.
“I never received any wages,” Johnston insists.
How about the matter of hockey tickets?
“I have no idea on that,” Johnston retorts. “Those were personal tickets.”
When pressed on accepting compensation in any form in the intervening years, Johnston offered the following.
“I played in golf tournaments. I’m not saying that I didn’t receive compensation. I did play in golf tournaments. So you would have to put that down. So you would have to say I was compensated because I did play in golf tournaments.”
If, in fact, Johnston continued to receive compensation from Ascent as board chairman, he is flaunting a city bylaw and setting a poor example as an elected official.
If Johnston was remunerated in the form of hockey tickets – paid for with an Ascent credit card to avoid any detection – and those tickets were sold for profit, then is that not fraud?
And, if this is general knowledge at city hall, where is the accountability of the mayor and council?
WHITHER THE IRON HORSE?
The question of where the Iron Horse Festival should be held a year from now generated a flurry of Facebook responses this past week.
If you recall, both the city and the Downtown Development Board are on the record as stating the popular August event should not be back on Talbot St. next year.
From more than 50 comments on the T-J Facebook page, there is considerable support to leave the three-day festival exactly where it is.
“The original idea behind the iron horse was to bring business to the downtown area,” writes Deb Hardy. For the merchants who feel they suffer because of it, do something to embrace it. Bring your wares out into the street, offer special pricing. Don’t’ sit back and complain and not act.”
However there is backing for a move to Pinafore Park.
“Out at the park, we have a beautiful park why not use it,” wonders Audrey Knight-Fowler.
“And with the park there are tons of places to sit down in the shade. All you do is bake on the main street,” adds Jason Turner.
How about utilizing the vacant railway lands?, suggests Scott Taylor.
“I am a firm supporter of community festivals. I’ve even volunteered in the past for the IHF. However, after being on Talbot Street for many years, the festival is looking old and needs a major change. Putting it on vacant rail lands seems to be the perfect fit.”
Like the railways in St. Thomas, is the Iron Horse Festival destined to become a quaint relic of better days?
A FIRST FOR ST. THOMAS
It’s your chance to get a first glimpse at a Canadian first – plans for the creation of an elevated park utilizing the Michigan Central Railway bridge over Kettle Creek in St. Thomas.
An open house will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Canada Southern station to provide background on the proposal, outline similar projects including New York’s High Line (see photo at right) and detail the fundraising campaign which is in its initial stage.
The target is $250,000 to obtain the trestle and surrounding land, purchase insurance and pay for general stabilization and associated studies.
“We believe that this is going to end up being a community project and we’re asking the community itself to put the first phase of the money in place,” advises Serge Lavoie of On Track, the community development organization that is renovating the Canada Southern station.
We’ll follow this up next week in City Scope.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“This is about creating jobs and that’s exactly what the money will go for.”
Mayor Heather Jackson following passing of the Southwestern Ontario Economic Development Fund Wednesday at Queen’s Park.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope