Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Panama, Shanama- the COLLUS Papers

We're going to need a bigger bus, what with so very many people being 'thrown under the bus' in the Collus Papers scandal. Full disclosure: no one but me is calling it that, but a girl can hope...

To catch you up, Collingwood's town council hired a lawyer to put together a map of how decisions were made regarding the sale of 50 percent of the town's utility, COLLUS. The final vote to sell was in January, 2012; half the utility is now owned by Powerstream, which owns and operates the electricity systems in Newmarket and Barrie and a few other places.

The report was delivered last week at a 2pm town council meeting that was standing room only. I got there early to secure a seat. In addition to interested citizens, a former mayor was there, along with at least three former town councillors. So was the rabble-rouser who got released a chain of emails between Ed Houghton and John Brown through a Freedom of Information request. Brown is currently the acting CAO for the Town of Collingwood. Houghton was the President of Collus when the town decided to sell off half the utility. Houghton was the town's acting CAO for about a year starting about three months after the decision about the sell-off was made. He remained the head of COLLUS during his tenure at town hall and is still the President and CAO of the half of the utility the town owns.

The lawyer's report basically says he couldn't actually offer up a 'decision tree' or a map of what happened, because either there are no records, or no one will give them to him. The report says there is no paper trail of decisions about the sale, no way to know how the decision was made of offer up 50% of the utility, and also that no one ever does a 50/50 sale of a utility, and he's been involved in dozens of these types of transactions. The report expressed consternation that a town would sell an asset for 8-14 million dollars (depending on how you do the math) with no real records of how the decision was made, in spite of repeated attempts to get those records.

During the 'questions' part of the meeting, one town councillor laid the blame for 'information gaps' at the feet of the former head of Collus, Dean Muncaster, who died two months after the deal was made. Another member of town council tried to blame Ed Houghton, although Houghton's name was spoken aloud only one time that I could count in the meeting, which I found very, very odd since he's front and centre at both the utility the town owned and town shortly thereafter. I was left wondering, is he Voldemort or something?

Emails leaked in that FOI request appear to cast blame for a lack of records from meetings on the Mayor at the time, who is still the mayor, saying that at the end of the day, final decisions were hers.

Now, a blogger in town whose LinkedIn page lists him as working for the Ontario Municipal Water Association, where Ed Houghton is now the Executive Director, appears to blame the town or the town clerk for bad record-keeping regarding the sale. Ian Chadwick the blogger was also a town councillor during the time of the sale, and his post also blames the current acting CAO because...rudeness. He suggests the lack of records could be blamed on spelling errors and a lack of politeness in John Brown's email correspondence requesting information about the sale.

So, that's four. So far. Yup. Definitely gonna need a bigger bus. Or at least, bigger tires.

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