The employment of Sarnia’s Chief Administrative Officer Margaret Misek – Evans will be among initial discussions by City Council. And sources tell First Monday it will come to a head at an in-camera meeting prior to the December 17 budget discussion.
Councillor Bill Dennis says, “it has to happen, and it has to happen sooner rather than later. We can’t wait six months to deal with a matter of this significance”.
Dennis believes October’s municipal election was a referendum on the Mayor and the administration and the results were clear. “Mike Bradley is a popular Mayor and the administration needs to hit the brakes on spending”.
But Dennis says the real issue is the lack of communication between a very popular Mayor and an administrator who doesn’t communicate with him. “I can’t imagine the president of a company not having communication with a Chief Executive Officer. Anyone with common sense knows that can’t continue”.
Bradley says Misek – Evans hasn’t spoken to him in three years since she accused him of harassment, called in Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze, had a wall constructed, security cameras installed and had his City Hall access restricted to business hours.
Dennis says City Council can’t go forward with the present arrangement. “We have a Mayor who is a workaholic and he should have full access to the building. He shouldn’t have to wait out front for the administration to show up and let him in”.
He summarized the situation with a quote from the late Steve Jobs. “If you want to make everyone happy don’t be a leader, sell ice cream”.
Speaking about finance director Lisa Armstrong’s proposed $145.2 million budget, Dennis described it as “ridiculous”. During the last four years spending at City Hall has increased by $24.2 million.
Dennis, who is in real estate says, “household debt is soaring and people are being pushed to the brink. They are dealing with more expenses and it is unacceptable. A lot of people in government have 9 to 5 jobs and get annual raises”.
While door to door campaigning, the message to him as a candidate was clear. “People want fiscal restraint at City Hall and they aren’t seeing it”.
Armstrong says the two main drivers in the proposed budget are a $1 million increase in garbage and recycling contracts and a $700,000.00 increase in wages and benefits for the City’s 646 employees.
Armstrong is projecting a $555,000.00 surplus in the current year. However, $380,000.00 is merely a delay in payment to GFive Inc., the company demolishing Sarnia General Hospital. Demolition has been delayed by three months so the final payment will happen in 2019.
“I don’t have any disrespect, but I have a job and I eat what I hunt. It’s easy for politicians to spend the money of other people. The previous Council rubber- stamped everything that came before them. Now the time has come to put on the brakes”.
Bradley believes the new Council will be a refreshing change. “Civil servants have been running the City and now is the time for politicians to take it back”. He suggests the new Council needs to send a message to the administration that this is the Council of change.
“The budget will be a test,” says Bradley. “The administration’s view that taxpayers should give their money and the city will spend it has to end”.
Bradley says he envisions a change in direction. “I want the sanctions against me lifted, the Code of Conduct altered to permit free speech and a financial attrition plan in place to stop indiscriminate hiring of people”.
He also went after finance director Lisa Armstrong’s proposed 10% sewer and water rate increase. “I’d like to fix every sewer and every waterline but it just isn’t practical”.
“The last Council never questioned anything. I suspect this Council will question everything”.