2014 Budget Approved, Police Services Board & More

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Monday night’s Council meeting got underway with one item brought forward into the open meeting from a session that began behind closed doors. Regrettably, this item shows that our Town Council still experiences pettiness and ill will that slows progress and sacrifices our best interests.

The specific item involved legal costs incurred by Deputy Mayor Kramp in connection with a complaint lodged with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission by Midland’s Police Chief. It appears Midland’s former CAO, Ted Walker, and the Mayor authorized Mr. Kramp to incur these costs. It also appears a group of councillors objected to paying them and insisted Midland retain another lawyer at additional cost to advise whether the Town’s bylaws authorized the payment.

Monday’s meeting began with the lawyer expressing his opinion that the current bylaw has a narrow scope and would not authorize payment for costs incurred before “…an official action or other proceeding” is launched, unless Council authorizes it. In the course of dealing with this item, it also became apparent that on one occasion at least, Councillor Jeffery received legal advice funded by the Town when no action or other proceeding had been started. When all the dust settled, Council voted 5 to 4 to cover these costs and do what we consider the fair and right thing in the circumstances. Four councillors, Councillors Jeffery, Pendlebury, Atwood and Charlebois did not see it the same way.

What emerges is a rare insight into ill will and inconsistent behaviour by some of our elected representatives. What also emerges is a continued lack of transparency at the Police Services Board. Only by bringing this item from a closed meeting into the open did we ever learn about some of these costly and disruptive proceedings.

We still know nothing about the actual complaint made by the Police Chief almost a full year ago. It is revealing that the lawyer hired by the Town to clarify the matter wrote in his concluding paragraph: “As a final comment there continues to be a fair amount of secrecy with respect to the Commission’s investigation and the complaints made. This opinion therefore can only be based upon the information that has been provided to me.”

Are citizens not entitled to know the nature of the Police Chief’s complaint? Is the complaint substantial or petty? Is it worth thousands of dollars piling up on the backs of taxpayers? Is it still unresolved? Is there also a complaint launched by the Police Services Board and how much more is it costing taxpayers? Why all the secrecy? Tell us, so we can judge whether it is all trumped-up foolishness or a serious problem that warrants spending our money.

George Dixon recently made a deputation to the Police Services Board in which he expressed his view that the Board is holding meetings behind closed doors in violation of the Police Services Act. On Monday, Councillor Charlebois asked to know the total costs of the OCPC proceedings against the Deputy Mayor and indicated he will bring that motion to the February Council meeting. We support any effort to shed more light on this entire issue. One of our members has also filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for additional information that we believe should be available to the public.

On a slightly brighter note, Council approved the 2014 budget representing a 1.71% increase in the town tax levy over 2013. The budget represents a solid effort by senior staff and some councillors to keep spending increases closer to the rate of inflation despite the challenge of virtually no assessment growth.

The major stumbling block Monday night was the 3.7% estimated budget from the Police Services Board on top of last year’s 5.6% increase. The PSB almost dismissed out-of-hand Council’s request for 0% and 2% budget scenarios. All other departments complied and many delivered an actual 0% increase for 2014. Knowing that for 3 years Council has been requesting budget restraint, how can the PSB suggest that if they only had more time they might have complied with Council’s request? Midland deserves better of its Police Services Board and we maintain our view there is overall dysfunction at the Board that needs to be corrected!

Fortunately, in good times and tough times, there are still staff and councillors who step up and do the right thing.

As always, we welcome your thoughts on our website or on our Facebook page.

Roy Ellis and Stewart Strathearn on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca.

9 Comments on "2014 Budget Approved, Police Services Board & More"

  1. Three words: Ontario Provincial Police

    • Like the OPP are the solution to all that is wrong with this place? Really? Do you read the news? They are plagued with the same issues and worse and on a larger scale and with even less oversight and control. As far as our bickering and dysfunctional council… it happens everywhere else, including Provincially and Federally. Scandals, deceit, rhetoric and spin. It’s not going away with a new fire service, police service or council. You just vote in the next batch. I’d like to know what Kramp said that he was not supposed to say. I bet he forgot that what happens in his position in one capacity is privileged and cannot be divulged in his other capacity. He can talk about it but won’t. It would be good to hear it from him and then compare that to what eventually comes out to analyze his integrity and honesty. As far as voting on the motion that he stands to benefit from, what crackpot lawyer gave him that advice. Common sense says that is an obvious conflict. Kramp must have missed all the lessons to learn from Ford. Oh well, elections are coming for both of them.

      • Well, one benefit of being a much smaller regional cog in a much larger OPP machine, apart from economies of scale mentioned by Ron below, is the rotation of officers, supervisors, staff sergeants etc. through Midland (which I suspect would be a desirable place to work, provincially). This means intractable personality conflicts (leading to these types of costly complaints/undertakings) tend not to survive long term due to scheduled rotation/promotion etc of all officers at all levels. And you get better cross pollination – experiences in other communities, trends, best ideas are more readily shared and implemented.

        So, nothing wrong with kicking the tires by soliciting an OPP bid. There are costs/benefits on both sides – worthy of an informed debate.

        • Bill, I agree with much of your response to me. If we can actually get an informed debate, then we can compare the value of what we have and what we could have under the new costing model. Media reports from other communities seem to indicate that the new model is not going to net a unilateral discount like the one that Penetang seems to think is coming.

          I am very interested in an accurate and detailed comparison of what we can get from the OPP in comparison with what we have now leaving out the nonsense that I’ve heard in the past about ‘we get a dog, helicopter, dive team, boats, snowmobiles, bomb squad, swat team etc’ rhetoric that seems to be common when comparing the two models.

          I was curious about these claims back in the days when Penetang was proposing an amalgamation with Midland for municipal services and found them to be false (not to mention the fiasco with the bid when Penetang altered the bid to shore up the gap between the new proposed plan and the OPP whom they seem to really want all along). — got that story from the news and then confirmed it on the Midland Police website. Strange goings on for sure… and mighty strange ethics.

          Anyway, about these ‘big department extras’… We get that now and always have, without surcharge, since these are already paid up front in our Provincial taxes. To bill us would be double dipping… a tax on a tax… So we are not doing without now, we just don’t have to pay to maintain them at a local level and can call upon them when needed and get the same service as those communities who happen to have a contract for their local policing.

          So when the time comes, and I think we would be fools not to explore the option, we should make it our business to know exactly what we get now and compare that against whatever options we can get from the OPP, then compare where any savings lie and what services we are prepared to sacrifice, if faced with that option due to our lack of money.

  2. Thanks for your comments. First, we believe population and business growth is the key to solving most of our problems. With growth and new development comes a heightened tax base. This new money can attempt to satisfy somewhat automatic and customary annual spending increases the town incurs to include a sizeable payroll. You mention OPP and Midland Police. Again with virtually no growth and Police historical annual spending increases in the 5-6% range, the rising costs continue to fall squarely on the backs of the taxpayers; Simply stated, in our view Midland Police needs to expand it’s customer base and be part of a bigger solution. In this sense, economies of scale becomes a friend as by serving a bigger entity/population they indeed can begin to absorb inflationary, payroll and other related infrastructure costs. To this end we do support an OPP bid as there’s no downside in knowing the possibilities or confirming we have the right model. To your point, there are indeed many Councils that simply don’t get along (“bickering and dysfunctional” to quote you below) and we get it. We believe the issue here is that you have to manage noise and not condone the bad behaviour as in effect it detracts the whole from getting at what’s important; such as putting Midland and it’s people back to work. At a minimum, Council as a group must support a common vision (growth) and be respectful- there has been several examples of bad/costly/calculated behaviour on the part of the same few who we’ve called out before (e-mails, inappropriate communication, block voting, etc). As for Deputy Mayor Kramp and his role with the Police services Board, it is somewhat difficult to comment on “right versus wrong” as the public has very few facts. He would be unwise to comment on the OCPC situation while it remains in front of an investigatory Board and a host of lawyers that don’t care about the taxpayers of Midland. No one at the table acts for the people of Midland and the matter is likely more about people being thin skinned and/or about exploiting ill-defined workplace/governance law. From our vantage point the whole matter will cost the taxpayers of Midland tens of thousands of $ and in the meantime we’ve simply spent a year “in the weeds”. At the end of the day, we’ll all likely shake our heads and realize this was more about personalities, misspent loyalties, lack of ability to manage/govern in changing times and less about what really matters.

    Cheers
    Roy – MidlandCommunity.ca

  3. Please name the 5 councillors who don’t seem to think for themselves and always vote as a block. Is this a “follow the leader” group or are they connected to Midlandcommunity.ca? Seeing the names of the other 4 councillors printed in all media, I can contact them with any questions/concerns I have about Midland Issues. They all have my vote. Thank you.
    PS. Attwood is spelled with 2 “t”s.

    • Mr. McAlpine, thanks for weighing in.

      To be clear, no member of Council is connected directly to midlandcommunity.ca. I’d like to think that some however appreciate what we do; simply stated, our mandate is to help get Midland back to work and improve the overall quality of life for all residents. Said differently, “help the future arrive on schedule”.
      The four who most often vote as a “block” and are consistently on the wrong side of an assortment of issues are well known by their unified stance on many important matters. Whether it’s re-purposing Unimin lands, their approach to the indemnification by-law, an ill-conceived bill 168 complaint costing tax payers $10,000-, their role in e-mail gate, getting their arms around budget and spending restraint, Police governance and accountability, and the list goes on.
      I think those of us that truly follow local politics and put friendships aside, know that we need to put an end to the gamesmanship and get focused on the job at hand. As for contacting your friends about some of these issues, please do.
      Cheers and thanks for helping clarify the opportunity.
      Roy

      • No member of council is connected “directly” to midlandcommunty.ca, but that certainly leaves it wide open for indirect connection with midlandcommunity.ca. Guest speakers at private closed functions hosted by the group (CAO of the Town as guest speaker). Hmmmm…. I wonder?? No direct connection is not a resounding “No” is it.

        Lets look at the investigation of Mr. Kramp by OCPC: “As a final comment there continues to be a fair amount of secrecy with respect to the Commission’s investigation and the complaints made. This opinion therefore can only be based upon the information that has been provided to me”

        It sounds to me like the control of information in this investigation is a decision of the Commission, not the police services board who takes direction from the Commission. Lets not spin a conspiracy theory where none exists.

        It is obvious to me that there is a clear attempt to cast dispersions upon the four councilors who made the Bill 168 complaint, or for having an opinion that is contrary to the other five councilors. Interesting that efforts to cast these dispersions are ramping up in this election year; I hope people see this for what it is.

        I respect what Midland Community says they want to accomplish, I do not respect the means by which they are trying to accomplish it. The opinions being presented are being filtered/fronted through a select few members of your community group and those opinions are being used to influence the masses. Are they influencing the masses? I give the honest, hardworking people who are the backbone of this community more credit than that.

        Just to prove the point of control and influence, below on this website there is a poll: Do you think politicians who abuse the system with meritless claims should be made to:….” The issue could not have been left with the lawyers report on the issue; lets beat that dead horse until it lives again. Who is this group to say this complaint is meritless? If your corporation were defrauded for millions of dollars, you knew who did it but couldn’t prove it, does that make it meritless? Do speculation and conjecture without knowing all the facts make Midland Community.ca’s claims/assertions meritless??

        I respect the backgrounds and experience that the leaders of this community group have, but are their skills relevant to all aspects of town business? You don’t consult with a chiropractor about a tooth ache.

        Those four councilors (Pendlebury, Charlebois, Attwood and Jeffries), will have my vote as well. I believe they have the best interest of this town at heart and that of the average working person.

        It will be interesting to see the level of response to this. It will likely prove my point.

        • MidlandCommunity.ca | February 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Reply

          Richard,

          Thank you for your comment. The reason we do what we do is to get the facts out and have an honest debate. We communicate freely, openly and honestly with all members of Council.

          Our meetings are open to everyone who takes an interest in helping Midland realize its full potential. If you wish to attend a future meeting, you too would be most welcome. The fact that we invited the new Town CAO, Carolyn Tripp to our “meet and greet” makes absolute sense to us; not only did she have the opportunity to meet a fairly substantive citizen’s group in a “one stop shop” event, she was able to shake hands with the former Mayor and several other past and present members of Council who chose to attend. Getting her views on economic development and sharing some of her past experiences were of interest to all in attendance.

          Please know we have honest, hard working people from all walks of life, to include retired-town employees representative of our membership base and I’m confident we have the collective skill set to assess and report on most matters, to include behaviour.

          Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to clarify Midland Community’s position. Our purpose is to provide transparency and sunlight to the dealings of our elected town Council, and to provide good information to the citizens of Midland so they can make informed choices regarding their leadership, especially in an election year.

          Our group welcomes the chance to discuss the points you bring up below, and encourage anyone with comments or opinions to come to our next meeting.

          Meet and Greet dates are posted on our website, our Facebook page and are sent out via our e-newsletter.
          Cheers

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