Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mayor John Gray inflames the MBA Rage…again!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
March 22, 2010

Mayor John Gray’s refusal at the March 8, 2010, City Council Meeting to allow further discussion on the MBA funding issue by calling a motion “out of order” to have city politicians reimburse city coffers $46,000 for their collective failure to stop Gray’s irresponsible and irrational MBA funding for Councillor April Cullen and his executive assistant, James Anderson, has once again ignited rage across the city and has been the subject of discussion in media coverage across the country.

John Gray obviously believes in the city motto, “Prepare to be amazed” and his “amazing” actions have made him and our city council the subject of national ridicule.

Canadians right across the country are certainly becoming amazed at the irresponsibility and the sense of entitlement of Gray and his self-serving council. He must feel so secure in his position that he doesn’t give a damn what he does to the public---even in the face of an upcoming election!

Council Members must feel equally secure in their positions to let this kind of bulls—t slide through with nary a whisper knowing that past history with the self-serving General Vote that they swung on the people lets them hide in the weeds of “name recognition” and shields them from electoral defeat.

Never before with Oshawa’s General Vote history prior to 1985 had any politician lost their seat through the general vote. But never before have we had such a politically incompetent mayor and council.

This ridicule focused on city council will certainly extend to city voters if they do not remove this Mayor and his band of incompetents, shysters, tricksters and free-loaders from control of our Civic public purse. We have had too much of their snorting at the pig trough at our expense!

The Toronto Star and Toronto Sun Oshawa MBA stories have been picked up by the national news agencies and published across the country.

Such widespread publication of this story documents the public interest in the extreme feelings of entitlement of this city council in using our tax monies for their own benefit rather than the benefit of the city.

There is such extreme national and international interest in this MBA story that a Google search using the words “Oshawa,” “Mayor,” and “MBA” will turn up 106,000 references as of the date of writing this column.

I was surprised to see an item in the “Leader Daily”, a free paper distributed at sky train locations for commuters into Vancouver where I am working as an Olympics/Paralympics Volunteer. Hundreds of thousands of Vancouver commuters all saw the same item that caught my eye—“Paid MBA not a free ride: political staffer,” which documented Mayor John Gray’s and his political sidekick, John Anderson’s, assertions that Anderson forfeited $36,000 of city pension contributions in exchange for his $23,000 MBA funding---a deal negotiated by Gray who thus took credit for saving the city $13,000.

Gray advanced this justification for funding the MBA tuitions at the Feb. 22, 2010 City Council Meeting

Gray’s gloating, however, proved to be an outright lie used in attempting to defuse the situation, a theory supported by Gray’s (and the city’s) refusal to make Anderson’s MBA funding agreement public in response to citizen “Freedom of Information” requests that have been lodged.

This refusal to release the document even questions the existence of any contract or agreement.

Gray’s statements were investigated by private citizens who discovered such agreements were an impossibility as Anderson didn’t qualify for any pension without giant time buybacks which did not require matching paybacks from the city.

When this information was publicized, Gray then said that his earlier statements were in “error.” I say Gray knew his words were an outright lie designed to mislead the public.

The outright “lie theory” is also supported by Gray’s use of the “lie strategy” in the past.

He claimed for public consumption on the televised council meeting in his preamble before final voting to adopt the general vote that city hall had no responsibility to communicate details of the plebiscite question to voters.

As I had just made a presentation pleading to council not to adopt the general vote, he said the communication responsibility was not the city’s but was the responsibility of citizens like me.

This was an outright lie as he would have known that “Third Party” citizen campaigns were against Ontario Elections Law which gives municipality’s unfettered ability and thus responsibility to fund such plebiscite information campaigns. You can view John Gray making this statement at http://www.motionbox.com/videos/4c9fdcb41510e6c3.

The other strategy used is secrecy and stonewalling, despite him gloating earlier on a transparency and accountability bylaw passed and signed by all councillors.

Gray not only refused to divulge the Anderson MBA contract, he says he negotiated, but also refused to disclose the $40,000 expenditure he personally approved for his personal birthday party dubbed the “Stephen Colbert Day.”

This information was not even available to our elected councillors until a $100 Freedom of Information Request was filed.

So much for the transparency and accountability policy the mayor personally wheeled out with great fanfare. It’s just pretty “Political Words” tarnished beyond recognition by his and council’s actions.

This whole issue leads to many unanswered questions about the agreement and about the integrity of Mayor John Gray and James Anderson.

Was this a verbal or a written agreement? If verbal only, what business acumen does this show about the Mayor? After all, this is a contract according to the Mayor that saved the city from paying $33,000 from Anderson’s pension. If the contract was written, dated, and witnessed, it must be made public. Failure to disclose the contract to the public will only lead to continued public speculation and anger.

Voters will rightly begin to speculate on the honesty of the mayor and whether the story about the pension payment savings to the city was a blatant lie “crafted” by Gray and Anderson to resolve the issue to public satisfaction.

Freedom of Information requests to disclose the Gray/Anderson MBA contract have so far been refused leading to speculation that:
a) There is no contract suggesting the tuition was an unconditional gift of taxpayer money.
b) The issue of foregoing pension plan paybacks for Anderson was never discussed and has only surfaced recently to appease public inquiries.
c) Was a city form used and the funding ceilings identified on the form superseded on the form or did the mayor draft up his own contract for the funding?
d) If there was a contract, was it properly drafted by the city legal department?
e) Where and how is the money identified in the city financial records?
f) At what point and in what way were the details of the MBA funding communicated to council?
g) Is there any record on council discussion on this matter after they learned the Mayor had personally gifted the funds?
h) What was the timeline in the approvals of both Anderson’s and Cullen’s tuitions?
i) What were the conditions of tuition payback when Anderson left his position if the Mayor was not re-elected?
You can undoubtedly devise many additional sensitive questions upon close examination.

The most important question though is, “Why did no politician SCREAM about this issue before it was made public by private citizens?”

But let us speculate that the whole idea of the pension payback was a lie perpetrated by Mayor John Gray and his executive assistant.

It would not be the first serious misinformation campaign perpetrated on the people by John Gray. His whole rationale for council’s failure to communicate the ward system plebiscite details to the public was a response to my criticism that the people had not been properly informed. What did Gray do in light of this criticism? He floated the giant lie, “The city had no responsibility---that was up to citizen’s themselves!”

This kind of statement demonstrates that Gray believes that the council need not communicate to the public. Nor should it be self policing---all is a public responsibility….Amazing!

As citizen Alan Slater wrote in a letter to the editor published in a local paper last week, “The MBA issue will not be over until Election Day. If Mayor John Gray has any supporters left, will one of them inform him that the affair is definitely not closed. It will not be closed until the coming election when voters are reminded of his arrogance and lack of business judgement, which has helped Oshawa to become one of the highest taxed municipalities in the country.

Anyone who votes for him or any of his colleagues can expect more of the same abuse of power and disconnection from the realities of life in these hard times.”

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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