Filling vacant council seat akin to musical chairs


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Monday’s vote to appoint former mayor Cliff Barwick to fill the seat vacated by Sam Yusuf has unleashed a groundswell of anger and accusations across the social media universe.
Not to mention some questionable logic and judgment from both factions of council.
To get the ball rolling, you have to ask, when council had 60 days to fill the vacancy – whether by appointment or by-election – why did the Barwick 4 feel compelled to call a snap vote just minutes after officially declaring the seat vacant?
That in itself brought out the red flags, prompting Ald. Mark Cosens to charge, “it’s obvious that had been orchestrated.”
Point taken.

In an interview with the T-J later in the week, Cosens pointed out “Four people knew all that was going to happen and three didn’t have a clue. I have a problem with that.”
Deja vu all over again.
More than once, four members of council in 2004 chorused that refrain when voting on where to locate the city’s new twin-pad arena.
A stalemate that prompted Ald. Jeff Kohler to complain at the time, “From what you can see in the council chambers tonight there is a faction out there that is constantly working against this project.”
An observation that still has legs today – and at times can be applied to both sides in the council chamber.
What has stoked the fire further are comments from Barwick in a T-J interview that appeared Wednesday.
He noted Mayor Heather Jackson had called him early in April – about a week after Yusuf announced he would step down – to ask if he would consider having his name put forward.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Barwick went on to elaborate further on his conversation with Jackson, “My major concern was I knew there would be opposition but do you have the majority of votes to do this. And she said, ‘Yes, there is a majority.'”
Hmmm, adds credence to Cosens’ orchestration theory.
However, there is skullduggery on both sides in this caper.
Cosens’ assertion he, Kohler and Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands were kept entirely out of the loop on this doesn’t exactly hold water.
When announcing he would step down, Ald. Yusuf did so as members were deliberating in-camera.
The topic then turned to possible options and names that might be put forward, including that of former school board trustee and community activist, Linda Stevenson, who polled eighth in the aldermanic race.
According to Jackson, that suggestion prompted Cosens to point his fingers at his head as if to shoot.
Obviously not his first choice to sit at the table for the remainder of term.
And therein lies the crux.
Four members of council could come to an agreement on Barwick. Three others couldn’t reach a consensus amongst themselves in the month to follow.
Baldwin-Sands was promoting Stevenson, Cosens gave no indication where his allegiance lay and Kohler was hinting at a letter of interest forwarded to Jackson from former alderman Bill Aarts.
As was the case in 2004, we have a deeply divided council with neither side capable of working with the other.
Filling a vacant seat on council?
Reminds us more of musical chairs . . . round and round until the music stops.

WORKPLACE SHORTCOMINGS
How unfortunate the Ministry of Labour can do little to initiate remedial action that would curtail complaints of harassment at city hall. More specifically in the treasury department.
A visit on March 20 to respond to “a concern regarding reprisal at the workplace” resulted in no orders being issued and the curt reminder “the Ministry of Labour does not render decisions regarding the reprisal. The Ontario Labour Relations Board are charged with that responsibility.”
Little in the way of solace for the long-term treasury department employee away from her desk as she is on stress leave.
However, a sigh of relief from the manager whose actions prompted the complaints of harassment and from human resources manager Graham Dart who can rest easy with the ministry assertion the city was in compliance with applicable sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
There is one bright note for the employee: we understand her WSIB claim dealing with confinement in her office has been allowed.
No doubt a surprise and irritant for Dart.
Apart from some tweaking of the city’s respect in the workplace policy, it appears the administration is doing little to rid city hall of the “poisonous” atmosphere that prevails down more than one corridor.

GOOD NEWS OR BAD?
A casual visit to the job postings page on the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital website reveals they are on the hunt for a full-time pharmacy manager and two full- and two part-time staff.
So, is this an expansion of pharmacy services at the hospital?
Or should employees in pharmacy be fearful for their jobs?
We’ve asked the hospital administration to shed a little light on the situation.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“One minute we declare the seat vacant and the next minute, four members of council know exactly who they are going to put in there.”
Ald. Mark Cosens complains Monday’s vote to have former mayor Cliff Barwick fill the seat vacated by Sam Yusuf was “orchestrated.”

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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