Councillor Mike Edwards has jumped into the Judicial Inquiry discussion.
Edwards was not present at the February 26th regular meeting of Collingwood Town Council when Council voted to proceed with a Judicial Inquiry. He said while he supports any decision of his colleagues around the table he wouldn’t have voted in favour of the motion. Edwards expressed concern over the expense anticipated for the inquiry and stated that he felt other less expensive options could have been taken to investigate the 2012 sale to produce the same result.
Here is what Councillor Edwards said to council at the opening of the Monday, March 12th meeting:
“As I was unable to attend the council meeting of February 26th where the vote was taken by council to initiate a judicial inquiry into the 2012 sale of Collus shares to PowerStream I would in the spirit of openness and transparency like to explain my position and thoughts on a decision made of this magnitude, especially in light of this being an election year and the effects both moral and financially it will have on our community.
I will begin by saying that I did express my thoughts to council and staff for the reasons mentioned but I feel they should be presented in a public forum.
Up until a session of council held February 12th to my knowledge I was not aware that our former CAO had hired a litigation lawyer to provide an opinion on the documentation and information given to him by our former CAO and was investigating the 2012 fifty percent share sale of Collus.
I believe the cost for this at this time is around $30,000.
So my concern also is that our new CAO was not advised by the former CAO prior to his appointment this process was taking place.
In regard to the decision to request a Judicial Inquiry, I must state that I am disappointed in that decision and would not have supported it at the time.
My reasons may sound somewhat simplistic but I believe they are in the best interest of our taxpayers.
This council with the expertise of staff has I believe made great strides in reducing debt and managing the cost of growth with minimal impact to our taxpayers. In the event of a judicial enquiry I believe these efforts will have been for nothing.
We have been advised that the cost of a judicial enquiry will at a minimum start at one million dollars and could go upwards of three million dollars. I believe one million dollars is around a three percent tax increase.
Where this money will come from for sure will be from the taxpayer eventually, whether it comes from reserves or whatever. I’m sure there will have to be provision for this in our 2018 and future budgets.
The bigger question I feel is what will we get out of it?
It has been suggested that the results, and we’re not sure what they will be at this time, will be an investment for bettering our town’s processes and policies. And possibly so, but in my experience in any in depth review of process and past actions etc., it will result in finding where improvements can be made. I agree with that.
But do we need a Judicial Inquiry at this time to determine that?
I agree there are still some questions to be answered as there always are situations such as this but would suggest if the majority of council still finds an in depth inquiry is needed a much cheaper and equally beneficial way to do this would be either order an OPP inquiry if it is felt more appropriate or authorize the present CAO to hire an independent lawyer, auditor or whoever has that expertise to complete an in depth un-bias review of all aspects of the 2012 sale and present their findings and recommendations to council.
I would maintain that any Judicial Inquiry will have a tremendous impact on the morale of staff, staff time and resources and a financial drain on our town’s finances and taxpayers that will far out-weigh the benefits obtained through a judicial process.”
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