Sandra Cooper under investigation again.

For the second time in her tenure as Mayor of Collingwood, Sandra Cooper is under investigation for conflict of interest. The first time was the ongoing and incomplete OPP investigation. This time she is being investigated by integrity commissioner Robert Swayze for her failure to recuse herself from discussion and the vote to disband the Collingwood Public Utilities Service Board. A board that she was sitting on and receiving remuneration.
The following day after that vote last week, I decided to call around a few of the usual suspects, to find out if any one was going to make that complaint to the integrity commissioner. If no one else was I was going to do it myself. The first call I made was to Steve Berman and he confirmed that he was indeed filing a complaint so I didn’t need to bother. Actually the next two people I called also said they would do it if no one else intended to.
For an in depth assessment ‎of the merits of this claim, please read an opinion piece by former mayor Chris Carrier and a few well thought out comments in my previous post.

This one has legs so stay tuned.

The following is a draft of Steve’s letter to Robert Swayze:

Mr Swayze,

I would like to file a complaint regarding Mayor Sandra Cooper. At a special meeting of Council on June 22nd, Mayor Cooper did not declare a conflict of interest on two matters that are of concern.

Here is the agenda (http://www.collingwood.ca/node/12403)

Council voted on two issues, one regarding the Collingwood Public Utilities Service Board (CPUSB), and another regarding Collus PowerStream.

Mayor Cooper is a paid member on the Board of Directors of the CPUSB. Councillor Tim Fryer is also a paid member of the board, and he declared a conflict and left the meeting.

Mayor Cooper gave an explanation to the press,

“He (Fryer) may have had whatever reasons of his own that I’m not aware of. He did just let me know right before the council meeting that he would be stepping away, and I was in a different opinion and I spoke to someone that would (have) some good advice and thinking it through,” she said, adding it is comparable to serving on the Police Services Board. “I was appointed by the striking committee to represent council at the board (CPUSB),” she added.

You can read it here http://www.theenterprisebulletin.com/2015/06/23/water-changes-are-refreshing

You can view it, and the entire proceedings here http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=72&gid=235286

Mayor Cooper is also on the Board of Director for Collus PowerStream (http://www.colluspowerstream.ca/electricity/collus-powerstream-board-directors)

While her earnings on that board are not public, research shows “Directors receive $14,000 annually, as well as $650 for each meeting they attend”.

(From http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2015/04/29/barrie-mayor-may-be-paid-for-his-powerstream-position)

I have not been able to find whether Mayor Cooper sits on the boards of Collus Power Corp, Collus Solutions Corp, or Collus Energy Corp, which are related as shown in this

http://www.powerstream.ca/ContentMgr/attachments/COLLUS_APPL_MAAD%20Application1_20120309.pdf

Mayor Cooper and council voted on recommendations made in a report that was presented to them at the same meeting. The report even states,

Note: The Mayor, Councillor Fryer and the CAO are members of the Collingwood Public Utilities Services Board. The Mayor is also a member of the Collus PowerStream Solutions Inc. Board

You can view the entire report in the agenda, linked at the top of this page.

Collingwood Council will likely have a number of motions over the next several months, stemming from the decisions made on Monday night. I hope you will be able to clarify this potential issue, so that it does not come into question each time a subsequent vote is cast.

Thanks you in advance

Steve Berman

Was Sandra Cooper in conflict?

An opinion by former Mayor Chris Carrier:

There has been a lot of talk about last Monday’s council meeting, especially around the issue of conflict of interest. Councillor Tim Fryer declared a conflict and recused himself from the discussion and the decision. The stated purpose he gave was that he receives compensations (a per diem of $300) for every meeting he attends as a representative of that board. Mayor Sandra Cooper stated that it was her belief she did not have a conflict of interest. I have taken a little time to speak to a number of people and most seem to believe that Councilor Tim Fryer was correct in that it was indeed a conflict, but I’ll get back to that. It should be noted that Tim had participated in discussions about the shared services agreement prior to Monday’s meeting and had never declared a conflict prior to Monday evening. I wonder when he changed his view that it was a conflict and what new information he received to make him recuse himself from Monday’s discussion and decision? Perhaps our paid media folks could get the answers to those questions?

Mayor Cooper sits on both the COLLUS-Powerstream Board and the Collingwood Public Utilities Services Board (CPUSB) a municipal services board. The shared services agreement discussed is between COLLUS and Powerstream a private company (Ontario Business Corporation not a municipal department) and the Town of Collingwood. As a Director, Sandra was paid $2,700.00 in per diems to attend those meetings last year (2014). I do not know if she was paid other expenses as she chooses to try and hide that information from we the public. She also received $3,000.00 in per diems from attending CPUSB meetings in 2014.

So is there a conflict and if so why is there a conflict? What has changed in the last few years?

COLLUS before COLLUS-Powerstream was also an Ontario Business Corporation but was wholly owned by the Town of Collingwood and Collingwood Council was the sole shareholder. The only agenda at the board room table were agendas that were Collingwood focussed. When the Town of Collingwood’s previous council sold 50 percent of COLLUS, the focus was on an expanding company involving several owners whose interests may not have been in our best interest (well not a Collingwood focus anyway). So yes there is a pecuniary interest, a conflict, as you cannot wear 2 hats when making a decision at the council table. Note: Sandra is the only member of Collingwood Council to sit on this Board.

In 2012 the previous council decided to rewrite the by-law (By-law 2012-96) that established a Utility Services Board. Essentially the rules were written in such a way that the Board (CPUSB) was not answerable to Council, nor were the staff working for the water and waste water divisions, they were answerable to the COO (former position held by Marcus Firman now vacant) and that position was answerable to the Board. Agendas were not posted in 2014 (see their web site) only minutes of the meetings. So how could the public attend meetings? The answer to that is simple, they couldn’t. What is also interesting is the Board is able to establish its own rules without oversight by Council. They are exempt from the Council created Procedural By-law but have created their own rules. How many meetings, including sub-committee meetings and whether or not sub-committee meetings attendees receive financial compensation? According to the 2014 per diem sheet, they did and still do. So to summarize, you write your own rules and essentially your own cheques! So is there a conflict of interest? Hell yes!

My challenge goes out to the remaining members of Council, the CAO and the Clerk. YOU ask the Integrity Commissioner to investigate and rule on this and not leave this up to a member of the public to do it. Let us know definitively whether there was a conflict or not. I am not interested in attacking Mayor Cooper on this, even though I believe she was wrong on both counts (2 conflicts) and she should NOT have voted on this matter. I am more interested in making this a teachable moment about what many of us believe; that the previous council changed the rules on how the utility was governed when they sold off 50% of this community owned asset. Those decisions had consequences, including putting council members who are paid board members in an outright conflict of interest.

The castle walls are starting to crumble………….

I never ever thought I would say this but Bob Madigan is VFAN’s hero of the week. Many of you have no idea how hard that must have been for him to vote against the old guard of this town last night, on something that is part of the fabric of the status quo. The mayor loved being on the Collingwood Public Utilities Service Board with all the perks and remuneration that position brought to her. Bob is best friends with Shawn Cooper the Mayors son. You can’t open a newspaper or go on social media without seeing a photo op with Bob and the mayor. There is an old saying “you gotta dance with the girl that brung you”. In a metaphoric sense Bob just dumped his date and went and did the cha cha with the prettiest girl in the room. The consequences to him on a personal level will be far reaching. Never mind though Bob I can now start to frequent your coffee shop and come and shoot the shit with you again (not sure if that is a positive for you though).
I have never said Bob is stupid, in fact I think he is a very smart guy. That is why I believe Bob has seen the writing on the wall with the people he has been associating with and decided that writing says “Get out while you getting is good”. If Bob would have gone along with the status quo the kid gloves would have been off with me and I would have chased Bob relentlessly until the next election. I have always said that I like Bob, I would have hated that scenario and I am glad Bob has finally proved that he is his own man and now a formidable local politician.
There are other signs that the castle walls are starting to crumble. As I said last night there has to be a complaint to the integrity commissioner about our Mayor not removing herself from last night’s vote because of the conflict of being on the board that she was voting to keep in place. That complaint is indeed coming later this week. If no one had stepped up I was going to do it myself. I am 99% sure that the Mayor will be publicly shamed and sanctioned over that, it’s a slam dunk. This time around they have over played their hand somewhat.

I can’t talk specifics here, but there are other positive moves afoot by some serious players to wrestle back our town and get it moving in a positive forward looking direction. All will be revealed in due course. In the meantime ladies and gentleman bask in the glow of the first real victory against the forces of evil in our town, I have a feeling this won’t be the last.

Council votes to get rid of Collingwood Public Utilities Service Board………..

Tonight in a special council meeting Bob Madigan proved to all of us naysayers that there might be some substance behind this boy yet.
In a shocking 5 – 3 vote (Tim Fryer declared conflict) Cooper, Edwards, Lloyd voted for the status quo. They also voted to negotiate a new shared services agreement.
What this means in laymen’s terms folks is the party is finally over at Collus and the way your electricity and water services are delivered to you is about to drastically change.
For various reasons Cooper should have declared a conflict not least of which is she is on the Board of Directors of Collus PowerStream. She did not, so expect another complaint to the integrity commissioner. This one is pretty much a slam dunk so I hope someone dishes back to this group a little of their own medicine.

A few more of VFAN’s top peeves and annoyances:

1. The following people, not necessarily in any order: Ian Chadwick, Steve Assaff, Rick Lloyd, Kevin Lloyd (Angry Man), Sandra Cooper, Fast Eddie Houghton, Paul Bonwick (The Godfather). Anyone that voted for our feckless mayor.

2. On a hike yesterday I put my styling brand new (bought on 12th June) Maui Jim sunglasses on my hat temporarily, while I was in the Grotto. Then I forgot all about them for half an hour, until I realized they ‎had gone from my hat, never to be seen again. (This one really frosted my grandmothers preserves).

3. The owners of “Elsie” the Australian Shepard cross, who did not have this naughty dog on a leash on the Georgian Trail. So while out on my run the other day, as I passed them with a nod and got around 10 meters ahead of them, “Elsie” jumped out of the bushes and decided it would be a great lark to try and herd me, completely ignoring the shouts from her delinquent owners. She ran circles around me and was bumping me in the arse with her nose. I stopped a couple of times and in my sternist voice telling “Elsie” to f–k off. I was starting to get close to Osler Bluff Rd and as much as I was starting to detest this mutt, I didn’t want the incompetent owners, who were around 500 meters behind by now, to lose their dog for good. (Dog lovers might want to avert there eyes right now). So I gave “Elsie” a swift kick up the rear end and sent her scampering back to her feckless owners.

4. The lady (Camp Site Nazi). Camped in the site next to ours this weekend. My buddy and I took our two daughters and four of their friends camping over the weekend for my youngest’s birthday. We had only just arrived not even unloaded a tent peg, when Camp Site Nazi walked over to our camp site. Here’s how the conversation went:
Camp Site Nazi: You know you are only supposed to park one car on each of these sites.
Nobody: We paid for an extra spot here’s my parking pass.
Camp Site Nazi: Well you have one extra person on this site than what is allowed.
Nobody: Well it’s my daughters birthday……….
Camp Site Nazi: Well you better not make a bunch of noise we have had a lot of problems with noise in this site.
Nobody: You have a nice day now maam. (But the bubble above my head was thinking there is probably a perfect camp site for this lady just outside Tuktoyaktuk).

5. The workers on Hume St a week ago who failed to inform me that Raglan St South turn was closed from Hume so I stumbled in to the labyrinth that is now the Hume St reconstruction project. I tried to turn right on Raglan North – closed. Peel Street – blocked by one of Rick Lloyd’s gravel trucks. Ended up doing a right on Minnesota St and was 15 minutes late for a meeting at my office on Sandford Fleming Dr.

6. The cop with the shaved head hiding behind a tree at the Collingwood roundabout, shooting fish in a barrel as motorists approached the roundabout with that stupid speed limit that is in place there. I know that he is only doing his job but did he have to look like he was enjoying it that much? I’m not sure if he realizes this but he is merely a glorified tax collector.

7. In fact with the amount of cops trolling our streets these days, it’s starting to feel a bit like a police state in our quiet little burg. More tax collectors.

8. That little smirk on Steve Assaff’s face that says F–k You I’m going to do what I want when I want to.

9. The lady with the initials PS that made a complete ass of herself on the closing night of the Stuffed Pheasant, in the restaurant and along Hurontario St. Someone should teach her the virtues of moderation :)

The storm clouds are gathering against Steve Assaff’s “Vision”

I am starting to think that the days of Mr. Assaff running rough shod over us, with his thoughtless ugly developments might be coming to an end. People are finally starting to take notice. Everywhere I go people are talking about his “vision” for the waterfront and they seem to be none too pleased about it.

I was a little despondent earlier in the week, I thought I am banging my head against a wall, what’s the point. I almost considered quitting this adventure and going back to not being involved and ignoring the local political scene. Burying my head in the sand again, like ninety per cent of the local populace. But the break was good for me, it gave me a chance to rethink and reinvigorate this blog. So I am back, more focused on change than ever before.

The first thing I noticed was that even though I haven’t posted since last weekend, the views have stayed constant, yesterday for instance 197 people came here to the home page, which is almost unheard of for this blog 5 days after I have posted. What that tells me is many of you are engaged. I think we have finally found the defining issue of this councils term, being the box store type development of the last remaining parts of the waterfront and the land around it.

The second thing are the stories that have been repeated to me a few times on my return to town, about a meeting that was held at the library on Wednesday evening as part of the Community Based Strategic Plan (CBSP) a “Community Visioning Session”. The organizers had set up seating for 20 people which under normal circumstances would be twice the required seating for this type of event. Seventy people showed up and it was standing room only. In fact some people saw how crowded the room was and turned around and left. The recurring theme at this meeting was the waterfront and how it is being mismanaged. The following was met with loud cheers and applause: “Stop building box stores on our waterfront”.

A consultant from MMM asked everyone to close their eyes and envision something that they do not want to see in town in the next 10 years. The following were the top three answers:

1. No high-rises on our waterfront.

2. Council does not sell any waterfront land.

3. “STEVE ASSAFF”– Surprisingly this comment was made by one of the youngest members of the audience a young lady. If anyone knows who that girl was I would like to talk to her, she is our future and I would like her input on a few things. No names just some commentary. You are without a doubt VFAN’s hero of the week and you have given me a new start.

For those of you that want to get involved another “Community Visioning Session” will be held again on the 3rd floor of the library from 1pm to 3pm Wednesday June 24th, I suggest the organizers might want to pick a larger room this time around. Those of you that arrive late attend anyway this is the only way to get your say on this very important issue.

Another observation is Chadwicks blog seems to be getting more and more desperate in trying to promote his pals development and agenda. His latest attempt was to go down to Block 9 take a bunch of photos of the land as is, and say “Look what is there now surely my buddy’s parking lot would be better than the scrub land that now exists in that location”. I think the answer to that by many of you and by the town is a very clear “NO”.

My last point comes from Steve Assaff himself. He made a big song and dance earlier this week about underground parking in his upcoming monolithic box. He had the town council reiterate the fact that he can put in underground parking and he also said he is allowed to build six stories if he wants. This also reeks of desperation. Steve I know that you read this blog, or someone reads the important stuff to you. The following is something that you need to hear loud and clear: We all know what you want to build; a three story box with your anchor tenant on the main floor. You have no intention of putting in underground parking, it takes too much money and we all know how much you like that stuff. So stop with the games and bluster. There are a number of us in town that know your game plan now and we will oppose you at every step of the way. You might want to postpone writing up that new lease for a while.

Business as usual in Collingwood:

On the 28th October 2014 many people in our town woke up thinking that a new breath of fresh air had swept across our local political landscape. There was much evidence of this sentiment across most forms of social media. That view was not shared in this blog, I had some grave misgivings about the result of that election, which I now believe were well founded. In fact it’s pretty much business as usual, the good guys continually seem to be 3 steps behind the bad guys here are some observations:

1. Ex-Deputy Mayor Rick Lloyd’s trucking company is fully engaged in dump truck work on the Hume Street remediation project, indirectly working for the town. Obviously nothing illegal going on, but seeing his name plastered all over trucks on this high profile local project, you have to think that the optics are terrible.

2. Site remediation agreement for the eye sore on the corner of Hume and Hurontario has been put on hold because the site is being used as a staging and storing area for materials for the Hume Street remediation project. I can imagine the smirk on Mr. Assaff’s face when that deal was put together. With the contentiousness that has surrounded that site over the years, I wonder which person or persons at town hall agreed to that little bit of business? Why was this not brought before council prior any decision being made? Again the optics on this are awful, but certain people offer a stiff middle finger to optics in Collingwood.

3. We have a town council that seems to be either bogged down with red tape and paperwork, continuously worrying about process and yes that word I used above “optics”. (Doherty, Jeffery, Fryer, Ecclestone), or merely keeping their council seats warm and adding very little to the conversation (Madigan, Edwards).

4. The Mayor is being her usual pliant Loblaw’s check-out girl self. She has nothing new to say, has nothing visionary to add to the local conversation, leads from behind, and it is now blatantly obvious she is in the Mayors chair to merely continue pushing certain people’s agenda.

5. Ian Chadwick now uses his blog as a continuous critique of certain members of this council whom unceremoniously kicked him to the curb October last year. Most of the stuff he writes is petty back biting waffle. I hate to say this though one or two of his criticisms are getting a little too close to the mark. Never fear though, as one of my commenters mentioned a few weeks ago “I will continue to be Chadwick’s bark collar”. Even though I was told recently to “Get another date”.

6. Still no conclusion to the fabled OPP investigation. I keep hearing little snippets of information that come my way, that “arrests are imminent”. In the meantime the subjects of this long awaited purge are going about their business without a care in the world.

7. Another year another inappropriate development on the books by our friendly local developer. It seems like he and Larry Dunn are the only people able to develop land in our downtown core. Are there no other people in our province that want to take a stab in developing land in the centre of Collingwood? But I suppose if you knew the back story behind John DiPoce that question answers itself.

8. Brian Saunderson has now turned into the Keith Hull of this current council. Meaning he is becoming the only person with the intestinal fortitude to voice the opinions and agenda of the people that elected him.

9. Kevin Lloyd is still an inappropriate, out of touch, blowhard and continues to try and force the agenda behind his old voting bloc upon an unwilling populace.

10. With the current municipal code of conduct in place and the following members of council, doing their level best to play by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. I will pose the following scenarios for you: Steve Assaff gets one of his companies to take out a radio add with Corus Entertainment. Which then prevents Deb Doherty from voting on anything that he brings before council. Charis Developments advertises on a billboard with Kathy Jefffery’s employer, which then prevents her from voting on anything that Assaff brings before council. Assaff then goes and has a consultation with Christie/Cummings Barristers and Solicitors, on an obscure legal matter, which would remove Brian Saunderson out of any future votes on any land or development that Assaff brings before council.
Note about above: One councilor had to spend $1,700.00 in legal fees to defend his/herself against one of these frivolous Integrity Commisioner claims.