Does vacant seat process ‘enhance’ council integrity?

As referenced last week in this corner John Maddox, the city’s closed meeting investigator, has found no wrong-doing in the process undertaken to bring back Cliff Barwick to fill the seat vacated by Sam Yusuf at the end of April.
In his report to council, precipitated by a complaint from Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands, Maddox concludes, “I have not been able to find any substantive evidence that there in fact was a ‘private’ gathering of any sort that would suggest a closed meeting took place.”
The complaint from Baldwin-Sands suggests the faction on council known as the “Barwick 4” – Mayor Heather Jackson and aldermen Gord Campbell, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden – convened an illegal closed meeting of council.
She could not identify any specific meeting that may have taken place, but felt the process employed by the Barwick 4 on May 6 to fill the vacant seat raised suspicions that some “collaboration may have taken place between a group of council members that could be deemed to have been a meeting and in fact closed to some members of council.”
Of note, Maddox indicates he has received “numerous telephone calls regarding this matter and the process that was followed by council – all of the callers had some degree of objection to the process and outcome.”

In his summary, Maddox writes “It is important to insure that all council business is undertaken in such a way that enhances the ‘integrity of local government’.”
A difficult undertaking in the remaining 16 months of this term, given the almost total lack of cooperative spirit and willingness to compromise exhibited so far between the two camps on council.

Bill Leverton of St. Thomas takes umbrage with our claim the Barwick 4 are guilty in the court of public opinion.
He writes, “Not necessarily so – there is a silent majority supporting his (Barwick’s) selection. You cannot ignore a person of his qualifications and having been a reputable candidate in the recent mayoralty race becoming available to stabilize a fractious council. There was nothing underhanded about the selection.”
Well Bill, this majority is certainly silent on the matter.
Barwick may very well prove to be a valuable addition to council – and for more than his vote on a new police station – however the process undertaken to fill the seat vacated by Yusuf was completely mismanaged by his supporters.
A low point in the track record of a very under-performing council.

It’s five resignations and counting in the office of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Well, St. Thomas may soon put the Big Smoke to shame.
At last count, two city employees are on stress leave and we’re attempting to tally up the departures.
Let’s see, at least two very recent exits from environmental services and possibly two have flown the coop down the treasury department corridor in city hall.
An embarrassing exodus of top-notch staff on the watch of what is proving to be a council as dysfunctional as the 2003 edition that prompted a review by the law firm of McCarthy Tetrault.
That damning report warned of St. Thomas council’s inability to operate in an atmosphere of sniping and internal power struggles.
The troubles, the report noted, are “rooted in the mix of personalities. The resulting lack of respect for others seriously undermined the effectiveness of council.”
Not a lot has changed in 10 years.
And we’re the losers for that.

A warm send-off Friday at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre for retiring police chief Bill Lynch, who will enjoy life in Port Stanley secure in the knowledge his replacement, deputy chief Darryl Pinnell, will uphold the high standards he established in his 15-year tenure at the helm.
All of which prompted this observation from political analyst Bob McCaig.
“I will attend upon the Chief of Police this afternoon to salute his retirement. At this time, I want to point out the excellent way in which the council for the City of St Thomas and the Police Services Board has conducted itself in selection of the leadership for our police department.
“Outgoing Chief Lynch announced several months ago that he would be retiring. An orderly evaluation and selection process ensued. What a refreshing way to do business.”
Is Bob implying business around city hall normally is not undertaken in such efficient fashion?

“We may even feel we’re in the movie Groundhog Day, with the nightmare repeating itself, however, come election day the voters will have the final say, and I am hopeful these deal-making amigos will be handed a resounding thumbs down.”
Reader “opinion8ted” posting on the T-J website with their take on Cliff Barwick returning to the council chamber at city hall.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to

2 thoughts on “Does vacant seat process ‘enhance’ council integrity?

    John Maddox summarizes “It is important to insure that all council business is undertaken in such a way that enhances the ‘integrity of local government’.”
    The word integrity and “Barwick 4” are mutually exclusive?

    Bill Leverton states “there is a silent majority supporting his (Barwick) selection”. Really?
    The silent majority of 64% in the 2010 election stayed home and didn’t bother to vote. Of those who did vote, 68% voted against Barwick.
    What silent majority is Leverton talking about?
    Hope springs eternal as Ian McCallum ponders “Barwick may very well prove to be a valuable addition to council”. History proves otherwise.


  2. I do thank Police Chief Lynch for his service and congratulate him on his retirement. I was wondering if perhaps our new Police Chief Darryl Pinnell was going to make himself available for our city council meetings. All other department heads are in attendance, including our Fire Chief, but never our Police Chief. Many is the time that the head of the police services committee has said that they would make sure that concerns would be brought to the attention of the police department, whereas if the chief were in attendance he would have gotten the information first hand. It would make not just the chief, but the police department as a whole seem more approachable.


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