A pattern of secrecy has found its way inside Ottawa City Hall.
And that just can’t be good.
It appears some city councillors are privy to certain information, while others are being shut out.
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney isn’t willing to sit back and keep her residents in the dark.
So she’s doing something about it.
As McKenney points out, if she and others are being kept in the dark, so too are their residents.
So she’s going to write to the city’s Integrity Commissioner to discuss what she sees as a “pattern of secrecy” coming from the office of Mayor Jim Watson.
McKenney was part of a Group of Eight planning on moving a motion during last month’s budget process for a one-time .5% levy to help the city’s aging infrastructure.
She was surprised — but happy — that enough money had somehow been miraculously found to deal with the problem. It’s not often $10 million jumps out of nowhere but problem solved.
But McKenney says for reasons she’s still grappling with, some councillors were made aware of the budget surplus while others weren’t.
And that’s just not right.
McKenney points to a December interview with Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley on CFRA with host Rob Snow.
“Rob, I’m actually on the Budget Review Committee along with the Mayor, Councillor Cloutier and the city manager.
“So we had an indication that we were doing very well this year because we meet on a monthly basis and were tracking the pluses and the minuses so the actual number I don’t think anybody really knew for sure until Monday because the City Manager had asked staff to triple check that number.
“He did not want it coming out until we were solid on the number. But certainly a month ago we knew we were tracking into the plus and well into the plus,”
Hubley told Snow in December.
Now it’s just like Hubley to brag about something where he likely should have kept his mouth shut, but that of course is a different column.
After hearing the news of Hubley’s inside information, McKenney wrote to city clerk Rick O’Connor asking for the minutes of the budget review committee.
Well, interestingly enough, she got the minutes of the November meeting but was told they are confidential. Even more interesting, the minutes don’t include anything about the expected budget surplus. And if Hubley hadn’t spilled the beans, no one might ever have known.
So thank you Coun. Hubley for spilling the beans.
McKenney is absolutely right about all of this.
Secrecy has become a pattern at city hall.
It simply can’t continue.
“You can’t keep secrets from the public. If we know something we have to make sure we’re making decisions with their money based on the facts.
“I would suggest it does point to a pattern of secrecy,” McKenney told On the City, From the Burbs.
McKenney has been discussing how to move forward on this with Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans and College Coun. Rick Chiarelli.
“We will have to ask the Integrity Commissioner about two things, why the board meetings are confidential, but more importantly, what was discussed at the last meeting which isn’t reflected in the minutes of that meeting,” she said.
If the trio don’t get satisfaction at the city, they’ve also discussed going to the Ontario Ombudsman.
Taking on Mayor Jim Watson isn’t easy. But McKenney won’t let her residents kept the dark, pointing out the mayor is supposed to represent the entire city.
“Over the past (few weeks), people I’ve spoken to are concerned. They want be able to trust what they’re told. When it comes to a time you’re making these decisions for the public, that information has got to be on the table. And not knowing where that money is coming from makes (the process) a sham,” she said.
As part of the trio working on ensuring everyone around the council table is given the same information, College Coun. Rick Chiarelli is equally as concerned.
He points to the surprise announcement, after the budget, that the opening of the city’s LRT is being delayed. And that delay has ramifications on the city’s budget numbers, which some councillors knew and others didn’t.
There’s no love lost between Watson and Chiarelli of course.
This situation doesn’t help, that’s for sure.
He accuses Watson of creating a lot of needless drama, when he simply should have told all councillors all of the information.
“We need some questions answered,” Chiarelli concluded.