Third-party audit at St. Thomas Early Learning Centre overshadowed by disturbing allegations


city_scope_logo-cmykWhat began this spring as a third-party audit undertaken by the city has escalated into a series of shocking and disturbing allegations and counter-allegations involving the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre – which operates childcare facilities in four different locations – and its former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers.
The allegations include a claim by Riddell-Laemers she was sexually assaulted by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service who was on the centre’s board of directors.
As background, City Scope was contacted in March by a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas with information on the departure of Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed. Continue reading

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Entegrus merger presentation the equivalent of football’s two-minute, hurry-up offense


city_scope_logo-cmykAny concerns about having to endure a lengthy dissertation from Rob Kent of Entegrus on the utility merger with St. Thomas Energy were quickly put to rest Monday evening.
And, we do mean quickly.
His presentation on the 15-month process to complete the merger, which was executed on April 1 of this year, came in at four seconds shy of two minutes.
That’s right, two minutes, with little in the way of enlightenment or answers to the many questions surrounding what is more a fire sale than a merger.
The city gets a 20.57 per cent stake in Entegrus Inc., meaning we will have little say in the operation of the entity. Continue reading

The time has come to brag about St. Thomas, says Coun. Linda Stevenson


city_scope_logo-cmykLinda Stevenson’s trip to city hall this past Monday (July 16) ensured the sitting council would not be in a lame duck position to close out the term.
Stevenson filed her nomination papers, signalling her intention to seek a second term on council. The following day, Mayor Heather Jackson entered the now-crowded mayoral race, leaving only Coun. Mark Burgess as the lone question mark for the Oct. 22 municipal vote.
Following her official business at the clerk’s counter, we talked with Stevenson at length about her initial four years in the council chamber and her expectations for the future.
“I enjoyed the first term a lot,” advised Stevenson. “I think it was a good working council. We got a lot of work done. A lot of faith in staff bringing forward reports that were full and the information was good so we can make good planning decisions. Continue reading

CECI grad got in there and gave it a try . . . now she’s captain of the ship


city_scope_logo-cmykIt would be nothing short of a prodigious understatement to say Kathryn Whittaker has an office with a view. Likewise, her current stature is an epic voyage distant from a summer job hostessing aboard a tour boat in Toronto harbour.
On March 10 of 2018, the former St. Thomas resident was promoted to captain of the Sea Cloud II, a magnificent 94-passenger tall ship built in Spain in 2000 and operated by Sea Cloud Cruises of Germany.
The firm notes she is the first female Canadian captain of a passenger cruise ship and the first female captain for Sea Cloud.
Whittaker just completed a trip from the Caribbean back to Spain on April 18 and we caught up with her Friday (April 20) at her Ottawa home.
Recounting her career path from the foot of Bay Street in Toronto to life spent on open waters should commence with tales of her early years in a sea-faring family.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading

Third-party audit at ELC: Routine due diligence or complaint driven?


city_scope_logo-cmykYou know things have reached the boiling point when former and current staff contact you about the toxic work environment at their place of employment.
Such was the case this week when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert this corner about a festering situation at the centres.
As this individual patiently explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently have sunk so low, some members of staff have hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centre.
The vast majority of staff at the centres are females, very young and fearful of losing their jobs, according to the caller to City Scope. Continue reading

Much-maligned Dobbie Report basis for double-digit salary hikes at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykThe release last Monday (March 5) of the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 revealed some eye-popping pay raises to several senior managers.
In the case of Ross Tucker, director of parks and recreation, a salary hike in the 20 per cent range
And for clerk Maria Konefal, a 10 per cent pay raise.
One of the explanations given by city administration is some of the senior managers have increased job responsibilities.
Let’s be honest. How many residents out there have had more work piled on them over the past few years with nary a penny added to their pay cheque, let alone a double-digit wage increase? Continue reading

Bridging the gap: Province acknowledges local concerns with new 401 interchange


city_scope_logo-cmykThe province has listened and the stretch of Glanworth Drive known as the farmer’s freeway will remain intact with a new alignment of the overpass at Highway 401.
At a public information centre held Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Stoneridge Inn, London, the Ministry of Transportation unveiled its preferred alternative for interchange improvements at the 401 and Col. Talbot Drive.
The original plan would have seen the Glanworth Drive bridge demolished, forcing farmers to move their massive implements on to busier roads. The new interchange will see the Glanworth Bridge replaced and realigned further east with the roadway repositioned to meet Col. Talbot Drive north of its present junction at Littlewood Drive. Continue reading