Greater scrutiny on city employee health care claims?


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Coincidence or symptomatic of deeper problems at city hall? Two cases of fraudulent health claims filed by a former city employee and a current member of the St. Thomas Police Service in a matter of months.
Two weeks ago in a tribunal held at city hall, Const. Aaron Fraser pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct and deceit under the Police Services Act and was demoted to second-class constable for one year with a loss of $12,500 in salary.
The charges under the Police Act stem from six fraudulent health claims for massage therapy filed electronically with Manulife, totaling $353, but never rendered.
And on Friday, a release from city police advising Amanda Graham, a former bylaw enforcement officer at the animal shelter, has been arrested and charged with one count of fraud over $5,000 and seven counts of uttering a forged document.
These charges haven’t yet been proven in court and she will make her first appearance later this month. Continue reading

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My acclamation? Sorry, no comment on that


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He’s the hottest and sexiest political commodity in the country right now and surely any number of eager, imaginative up-and-comers would love to be a player on the Justin Trudeau team as it readies for the 2015 federal election.

And yet we are expected to believe not one single motivated individual stepped forward to challenge Lori Baldwin-Sands for the Liberal nomination in Elgin-Middlesex-London?

The former St. Thomas alderman will be acclaimed on Nov. 20 at a nomination meeting to be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

That’s right, it was no contest.
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Question of compensation dogs former Ascent chairman


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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?
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There’s life – and pressing concerns – beyond the GTA


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Two examples this week to illustrate Premier Dalton McGuinty’s complete disdain for life beyond the confines of the Greater Toronto Area.
From the don’t-bother-me-with-the-details file, McGuinty made it clear this week he’s not interested in observing first-hand the incendiary conditions at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.
Not only will the Premier not accept a challenge from Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, to visit the beleaguered facility, he won’t comment any further beyond his observation two weeks ago on a visit to London.
“Obviously, there is more work to be done and I know this is a very important file on the minister’s desk.”
Where, for too long, the file has sat.
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An ambitious plan to elevate the status of St. Thomas


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At Monday’s city council meeting, Matt Janes, representing On Track St. Thomas, will officially unveil plans to purchase and develop the Michigan Central Railway bridge over Kettle Creek at Sunset Drive. The bridge was constructed in 1929 and at one time carried over 140 trains every day.
In his deputation to council, Janes will announce a vision to honour one of the most iconic structures in southwestern Ontario through the creation of Canada’s first elevated park.
According to Janes, the St. Thomas Elevated Park Project is the single most ambitious undertaking of On Track St. Thomas, the community development organization that assured the preservation of the CASO station and brought the rail-themed murals to downtown.

Easterly view of the Michigan Central Railway bridge, which spans Kettle Creek, Fingal Line and Sunset Drive, clearly shows the massive concrete piers that support the bridge, built in 1929 and last used 2005. Tracks and ties were removed this year.


Janes points in his report that, along with the Elgin County Railway Museum and the restored CASO station, the MCR Kettle Creek bridge is a prominent reminder of the city’s status as the Railway Capital of Canada.
“It is a signature attraction for rail aficionados nationally and internationally,” Janes advises. “As a public place it will be a high profile addition to the CASO-Trans Canada Trail and offer stunning views of the Kettle Creek valley in all directions.
Janes continues, “The On Track vision for the MCR bridge goes much farther however. Through an international design competition, it will become Canada’s first elevated park, joining similar structures such as the High Line in Manhattan and the Boulevard Plantée in Paris.
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