Wheeling And Dealing

February 25, 2015

Evidently, it didn’t pass the smell test.smelltest

Last Friday, Mayor John Tory raised more than a few eyebrows (and some hackles) when he announced two corporations were donating the $200,000 the city needed to keep some outdoor skating rinks open for a few more weeks. “Ummm, what?” I believe my response was upon hearing the city’s private contractor for waste collection, Green4Life, was one of those corporations. (Overcome with the case of the dizzys, I was, when news broke later that the Rogers co-owned MLSE was the other donor.)

I wrote about my concerns with this too, too cozy arrangement a couple days ago, wondering if it passed some ethical/conflict smell test. Yesterday we got the answer.

Green4Life announced that ‘After consulting with City staff about the rules around sponsorships’, they decided to ‘voluntarily withdraw’ their offer ‘so as not to affect current procurement processes.’ embarrassedIn other words, they’d really love to help keep the rinks open but they’ve got that corporate maw to feed.

Is it me or shouldn’t ‘consulting with City staff about the rules around sponsorships’ have sort of been the mayor’s job before rushing to go public with the details? Smell this. Does it smell funny to you? Maybe I shouldn’t go out wearing it in public, you think?

As Councillor Gord Perks pointed out in the wake of this, the city actually has a process in place to be followed for sponsorship deals. “Section 6.2,” the councillor tweeted. “To fit with Code of Conduct ONLY authorized City staff can solicit or negotiate a sponsorship agreement. Council members can’t.” Council members can’t. If Mayor Tory spearheaded these deals to keep the rinks open, did he contravene Code of Conduct rules in doing so? “Section 6.3 ,” the councillor continued. “Unsolicited offers are to be referred to the relevant City Staff.” More: “Section 6.9 All sponsorship agreements must be documented. If over $50K, legal services should be included in reviewing the agreement.” Still more: “6.11 In most circumstances, Council must approve the agreement.”lessons

Did the mayor’s office follow any of these rules in securing the sponsorship deals to keep the skating rinks open?

“Everyone gets a case of the hiccups”, Mayor Tory said in response to Green4Life’s about face. What are you going to do? A rookie mistake.

Maybe. Maybe. It’s just hard to fathom no one around the mayor red flagged this thing. Someone sensing there might be, at best, some bad optics with it and, at worst, actual breaking of the Code of Conduct rules. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, perhaps, who’s been around the block a time or two, more than 20 years of elected municipal service under his belt. His response? Great idea, boss! Let’s go skating!

You’d think that right at the top of Mayor Tory’s Not To Do list would be avoiding the appearance of any conflicts of interest, keeping talk of impropriety or backroom shenanigans to a minimum. What with the goings-on at City Hall during the last 4 years and the previous administration. Keep everyone’s noses clean, at least for the first little while.

You’d think.

No matter. Water under the bridge. And there’s always more fish in the sea especially for the man with a full-to-bursting rolodex.johntoryonice

Plan B (generously speaking) came at another skating rink with the mayor revealing that Tim Horton’s (Timmies, to their friends) would step into the donor void left by Green4Life, chipping in $100,000 to help keep the rinks open. Problem solved. Done, and done. The private sector gallantly to the rescue again. Everything above board, clean as a whistle and legit now.

Except that…

“If Tim Horton’s is the new outdoor rink sponsor,” Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler tweeted, “they’re active lobbyists (as recent as Feb. 10).” Jude MacDonald pointed out further information from the Tim Horton’s lobbyist registrar page, showing that some of the subject matter the company signed up to lobby on was “City Policies relating to Economic Growth, Regulatory Issues; Blue Box Program; Drive-Through policy.”

So, we have this restaurant chain of the ‘quick service’ variety, talking to city officials about city policy concerning issues directly affecting them. ‘Blue Box Program’? Where do I throw away this coffee cup anyway? Garbage? Recycling? The lid in one, the cup in the other? What? ‘Drive-Through policy’?! quagmireAll those nasty emissions from idling cars waiting in the drive-through line. Fine. But now they’re donating $100,000 to keep some city run skating rinks open?

I’m not alone in finding this deal more than a little unsettling, am I?

I tried to state my leeriness about it in a few 140 character outbursts yesterday. Let’s see if I can string the thoughts together here.

If a company wants to do business with or is already doing business with the city, or wants to have some say, influence even, in how the city conducts its business, it strikes me that company shouldn’t be in the business of donating money to help the city go about its business. How is that not somehow greasing something that ought not to be greased? There may be some out there who believe fully in the goodness of the corporate heart. keepyourdistanceI’m just a person who thinks corporations don’t really have hearts, only bottom lines.

Maybe we should work to keep things like the operation of skating rinks in house and stop being dependant on the continued goodwill of upstanding corporate citizens to help effectively run this city. Decrease the overlap of the public and private sectors. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot less ethically messy that way?

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr

On The Other Hand, Maybe Some Debaters Should Be Stifled

May 6, 2010

While trolling through our Twitter site, I came across this little gem from Jonathon Goldsbie about the conduct of a certain councillor now being touted as mayoral material. I highly urge anyone interested in the municipal campaign to take a moment to read through it. It is the city’s Integrity Commissioner Report on a code of conduct violation.

I won’t go into all the details but, in short, Councillor Ford twice blew off questions of confidentially, once during a radio broadcast and then again during a council meeting. He subsequently tried to bluster and bluff his way in order to avoid taking responsibility before finally being cornered into apologizing.

Allow me to just give a few snippets from the report as it makes its way toward recommending a reprimand be given to Councillor Ford for yet another breach of the official Code of Conduct.

A Council meeting was called for August 5 and 6, 2009. One of the agenda items was for Council to approve the purchase of a residential property in North York as part of the “Strategy for the Implementation of the North York Centre Plan Service Road-North York Centre.” A report and a confidential attachment concerning the real estate transaction were circulated to the Councillors because it was on the Council agenda. Councillor Ford did not read the report [bolding ours], but instead he focussed on the recommendation that Council approve the sale of a house, and the costs associated with the proposed deal. He objected to both because he said he didn’t think a recession was the right time for the City to “buy a house.”

Councillor Ford said that he knew he couldn’t defeat the motion, but that he wanted to bring the matter to the attention of his colleagues and he asked the matter be held for debate.

… Councillor Ford said that he decided to reveal the confidential information on the radio show on the morning of August 6, because he thought that Council had already dealt with the item on the 5th of August which would mean the figures could be made public. Councillor Ford admitted that he did not actually check to see if the item had been debated in his absence [bolding ours]. He also knew that he hadn’t spoken to it on the 5th of August, but he said that sometimes items are dealt with in his absence. Accordingly, he took the data from his purple sheet, made notes on his agenda for the radio program and made the confidential information public during the broadcast on the morning of August 6, 2009.

Councillor Ford acknowledged that he did not read the report to Council about the transaction [bolding ours]. If he had, he would have seen that Council was being asked to “authorize the release of the confidential information and recommendations in Attachment 1, once the transaction has closed.” In other words, Councillor Ford’s justification for releasing the information did not apply, even if Council had debated the item.

And so it goes. The man kicks up a fuss over an issue he has not taken the time to even read through thoroughly. And when he makes a mistake he only admits to it when he’s trapped into a corner of his own making with double-talk and obfuscation.

Can we please stop taking Rob Ford seriously as a contender for the office of mayor of Toronto. Regardless of how angry you may be at the state of the city and how it’s being run, Rob Ford is not the solution. In fact, he may be part of the problem.

astoundingly submitted by Urban Sophisticat