Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Can You Say Witch Hunt?

This whole mess around the independent "legal" opinion recently released by the city has a number of interesting circumstances which the local media hasn't chosen to share in their reporting, which people might find enlightening.

Not to get into any of the actual details of the alleged independent report, I thought I would start by letting people know how I was informed of the situation.

Thursday, April 10th, Andrea and I headed to Calgary. She had a weekend in Vegas planned with three of her sisters - a fiftieth birthday celebration for one of them. Her sister Chris lives just outside Calgary, and since neither she nor Andrea had been to Vegas before, they wanted to fly in together. The other two were coming from Toronto. I planned to spend the weekend hanging out with my brother-in-law Bill and doing a bit of shopping in the big city.

Imagine my surprise when, after supper that evening, I get a call from a friend, saying that the local paper’s website had a story that the report from the independent legal consultant had been released, and was to be on the agenda for Monday’s council meeting. How coincidental - that it should be released on the first weekend that I've been out of the province since last fall.

A couple of things about this report – the author never bothered to get my version of the situation, so even without seeing it, I had my doubts about its balance. The other somewhat surprising thing is that it went public even before council had a chance to review it. Legal matters are one topic that can be kept confidential by council, but in this case, getting something out before I or the rest of council had a chance to even see it was deemed the right thing to do.

Friday morning I had a call from the local radio station, asking for my comments on the report. Kind of hard to do, since I hadn’t seen it. In the early afternoon, a reporter from the local paper finally found my cell phone number – of course, the paper had already printed the story, claiming that they couldn’t get hold of me for comment. Same reaction – how can I comment on something that I haven’t seen?

By this time I’d been in touch with my lawyer, who was already in action. However, when he asked the city solicitor for the information that was given to the legal consultant, he was told that it was confidential. Great, so now he can’t even see what information she was given (by the city solicitor and the outside lawyer who is representing the city in the court case) to draft the case against me.

I spent the rest of the weekend helping Bill with various home and vehicle maintenance chores. Andrea and Chris arrived back in Calgary at 6:30 Monday morning. We headed home, with Andrea sleeping until Kindersley, then she took over driving, and I slept the rest of the way. Got home, checked my phone messages (funnily enough, none from the local paper – I wonder how they were trying to contact me), checked my email (ahh, a single email from a reporter, at 2 p.m. Thursday – that would be even before council members had received their information package for Monday’s meeting), had a shower, and headed to council, where the report was tabled for two weeks to give me time to actually read it before responding (although one councillor didn’t even feel that I deserved that much consideration, and most members abstained, which legally they can do only if they feel that they have a conflict of interest).

I’ve now seen the report. I’ll be drafting a formal response.

This isn’t about a possible breach of my oath rendering me unfit for public service. That’s just the McGuffin behind which the real reason is being hidden. Think of it as a magician practising misdirection, so that you're not looking at what's really going on.

This is about stopping me from asking questions about how the city is run, and where tax payers’ dollars are going. This is about council being unable to hide things (like how the city is funding the soccer centre by redirecting the debt elimination levy for several years), because I’m raising it in public and on this blog. This is about control. I’m sorry that so many members of council have chosen to join this personal vendetta, simply because I refuse to roll over and play dead. It’s also a warning to other councillors- play along, toe the line, vote as you're told, or we’ll find a way, legal or otherwise, fair or otherwise, decent or otherwise, to make your life so miserable that you’ll quit.

I strongly feel that an effective council needs to have checks and balances. We need to ask questions, of each other, of city administration, and of the public, to be able to make the best possible decisions for the city. If every councillor thinks that they have to march in lockstep, why do we need a council? Why not just have one guy making all the decisions? If I resign, we get perilously close to exactly that.

This is not fun for me, or for my family. I appreciate the phone calls and emails of support, the handshakes and hugs, the many people insisting that I mustn’t quit. So far, no messages, no phone calls, no emails, nothing directly to me, telling me that I have destroyed people’s faith in council, and I should resign for the good of the city.

Stay tuned.

"Only dead fish swim with the stream." - Malcolm Muggeridge


Peter said...

You better give 'em hell, Lee!

Lorne said...

The problem here is in the total lack of leadership currently at city hall. Successful leaders will foster good working relationships with those team-members that are more experienced and capable than they are. They will appreciate and recognize the skills and knowledge of their fellows and give credit where credit is due.
Unfortunately, the man the people elected to sit in the "big chair"(bigger and more expensive than ever apparently)is incapable of recognizing, and therefor correcting, his own weaknesses. Whether this is due to his advanced age or simply a matter of envy, he will keep trying to make you look worse in the hope that he will look better.
Don't give up Lee. The more this kind of thing happens, the more you and Shawn are needed on council.
Now if we could only clone six copies of your backbone and implant them in the rest of your collegues.

Ensign said...