Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Three Card Monte - Windsor Style


The three-card Monte game itself is very simple. To play, a dealer places three cards face down on a table. (The table is often nothing more than a cardboard box, providing the ability to set up and disappear quickly.) The dealer shows that one of the cards is the target card, for example, the Queen of Spades, and then rearranges the cards quickly to confuse the player about which card is which. The player is then given an opportunity to select one of the three cards. If the player correctly identifies the Queen of Spades, he wins an amount equal to the stake he bets; otherwise, he loses his stake.
Windsor's version of the three card Monte game revolves around a report coming before Council on the 22nd of October - Accountability, Transparency & Good Government - Implementing the Bellamy Report Recommendations and Bill 130, The Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 . This report deals with the establishment (or not) of the offices of Auditor General, Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar. In addition, the report recommends hiring Local Authority Services Ltd as the Meeting Investigator as stipulated by the Municipal Act changes.

For the most part, I disagree with just about everything recommended in this report. The report wasn't all that much of a surprise. I first blogged about this back in February of this year. One of the commenters on that post even predicted then a possible outcome -

Anonymous said...

- An integrity commissioner to enforce ethical matters, including a code of conduct for council.

Could this be used against Councillors that "blog" - I'm envisioning a "Garth Turner" moment for Alan if this is the case.

Alan himself blogged about this in June of this year - Censorship Commissioner? and Here's to you Jackie Robinson

The Meetings Investigator is basically mandated by the Province. This is someone to investigate complaints about issues discussed In-Camera by Council that someone believes may be contravening the Act. If a Municipality doesn't hire their own investigator the duties default to the Ontario Ombudsman. As I noted above, the Windsor report recommends hiring Local Authority Services Ltd to perform this function. From what I understand, this is an initiative of the AMO. Given the choice between Ontario's Ombudsman on their doorstep and hiring their own investigator the hire your own choice seems like an easy pick for Council.

The two positions with the most potential value to Windsor Taxpayers - the Auditor General and the Ombudsman - are given short shrift in the report.

For the Auditor General the report recommends referring the issue to the City's Audit Committe for review and further study. To complicate matters, the direction to the audit committee is to also study internal auditing and consulting functions of other municipalities. If you factor in City of Windsor Time, this should all be completed sometime in the next 18 to 20 months. At that point it will come before Council and be deferred pending the next budget. If it manages to make it through the budget process, a six to ten month hiring process will then begin culminating in the hiring of Windsor's first Auditor General in September of 2010 - right before the next Muncipal Election.

The Ombudsman doesn't even get the benefit of further study. The direction is for administration to "monitor the need" for an Ombudsman, watch what's going on in other Municipalities and report back no later than December 31st, 2008.

The Lobbyist Registrar - no need for that pesky position either. We'll begin with a voluntary registry for one year and then - you guessed it - study it and evaluate it some more. For the first year, Windsor will do what Toronto did in it's first year. Councillors will carry around a registry and if they think someone's lobbying them, they'll ask them to sign the registry. This "registry" will be handed in monthly for public review.

The Integrity Commissioner, Code of Conduct, Complaint procedures and other related details take up the lion's share of the report. The sole purpose of the Integrity Commissioner is to rule on the Mayor and Councillors adherence to the Code of Conduct. The Mayor, Councillors, staff or citizens can file complaints if they believe the Mayor or a Councillor is violating the Code of Conduct.

If this report is adopted as written, Windsor will hire a glorified babysitter, paid for by the taxpayer, to spend all of their time worrying about whether Council is behaving itself.

Meanwhile, we will continue to study ad infinitum, whether or not there is any value to Windsorites in the positions of Auditor General or Ombudsman - the two appointments with real teeth and investigative powers.

Alice in Wonderland had it easy. She never visited Windsor.

PS. please don't mistake anything in this post, or any subsequent posts as being a criticism of administration in their creation of this report. The administration has created exactly the report that the Mayor and Council wanted - make no mistake about that.