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.”
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Filling vacant seat will be a true test of this council


When city council next gathers at city hall on May 6, the seat previously occupied by Sam Yusuf will officially be declared vacant. Council will then have 60 days, under the Ontario Municipal Act, to appoint a new alderman.
It’s an undertaking that has been dealt with several times in the past decade or so, however T-J reporter and People columnist Eric Bunnell reminds us of the fascinating parallel he wrote about in April, 2000.
Helen Cole had announced her resignation and council met behind closed doors to unanimously agree Jeff Kohler should fill the vacancy.
He was the third runner-up in the 1997 municipal vote, however the top vote-getter of the also-rans, Terry Shackelton, had already moved on to council and the next individual in line, former alderman Hugh Shields, declined the appointment.
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There’s no lack of sunshine this winter over at city hall

After a quiet year in 2011, membership in the city’s Sunshine Club fairly blossomed last year, as outlined in a report to be received Monday by St. Thomas council.
In his public sector salary disclosure report, human resources director Graham Dart reveals membership in the $100,000 club mushroomed from 39 city hall employees in 2011 to 58 in 2012.
Of that total, 17 are from the city’s police department (up from 11 in 2011); 28 are from the fire department (17 in 2011) and 13 from city administration (an increase of only 2 over 2011).
We’ll compile a complete city list for next week, however here are highlights to tide you over.
The top earner at city hall is CAO Wendell Graves at $166,315, up from $146,217 in 2011. He supplants police chief Bill Lynch, who topped the list in 2011 at $150,976. He clocked in last year at $161,984.
Many city administrators saw their salary increase by about $5,000 last year in what was supposed to be an austerity push.
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A bold step forward in tourism promotion for St. Thomas


The city has been relatively coy of late on whether it will continue its participation – and to what extent – in Elgin county’s tourism program.
In 2013, the city’s share of the tourism budget is almost $122,000 and more than once in the last couple of years there have been suggestions the city go it alone in the marketing and promotion of tourist-related opportunities.
Well the wraps are about to be thrown off the new tourism model at Monday’s council meeting.
CAO Wendell Graves suggests with an upcoming strategic review of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation, it would make sense to deal with many of the tourism-related ventures as economic development opportunities.
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Slim pickin’s in 2011 for city’s Sunshine Club


An initial scan of the public sector salary disclosure for city hall employees seems to indicate restraint was in order in 2011.

A total of 39 city employees are ensconced in the Sunshine Club — those earning in excess of $100,000 — unchanged from 2010.

Topping the list is police chief Bill Lynch at $150, 976, but that’s a decrease of almost $7,000 from his previous salary reporting.

A close second is the city’s new CAO/clerk, Wendell Graves, checking in at $146,217. As city clerk only in 2010, Graves earned $126,338.
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Will Drummond Report impact STEGH redevelopment?


A jam-packed City Scope agenda this week, so let’s get right to it.

If you’re not familiar with the name, the buzz next week will be the release of the Drummond Report on Wednesday.

To set the scene, the Dalton McGuinty government hired former TD Bank economist Don Drummond to review all government programs and services to allow for extensive paring of the province’s $16 billion deficit.

Expect some radical chopping, including a proposal to deep six all-day kindergarten.

The alarm is also being sounded for the well-being of the health care system in Ontario.

Is spending out of control or is the province manufacturing a crisis to justify cuts down the road?
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Chief Bill Lynch explains why his salary in 2010 tops the list at city hall

The highest-earning municipal employee in St. Thomas in 2010 was St. Thomas police Chief Bill Lynch, who earned $157,133, up from $135,424 the previous year.

In addition the number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service who earned in access of $100,000 in 2010 more than doubled to 13, from six in 2009.

City Scope talked to Lynch on Friday, the same day the figures were published in the Times-Journal, to ascertain what is behind the substantial increase in his salary and the swelling of the ranks in the so-called sunshine club with police officers.

“Probably the single biggest reason – last year’s salaries have a lot of retroactivity in them from 2009,” Lynch explained.

” A lot of that is what puts them over. Retroactive pay from 2009 because the contract did not get settled until around August of 2010.”

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