Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley is accusing City Hall administrators of instigating “propaganda sessions” as a means of controlling the outcome of the October municipal election. “I sit here every day and ask what else could these people do?” says Bradley who has been battered by loss of income from harassment complaints that cost the City $411,000.00.
Chief Administrative Officer Margaret Misek – Evans is staffing “candidate information sessions” through until early October inviting candidates to review City operations.
Bradley says “this is unheard of” and suggests the purpose is to defend the administration’s record over the last four years. A record that he says includes a $20 million budget increase, more debt and less service. “I have to question the motives here. Sometimes I think we are in some Georgia town.”
In recent weeks, the administration has added a list of what it describes as corporate excellence and leadership achievements to the City’s Facebook page. It includes such items as $15 million in senior government funding, an 81% increase in the capital projects budget and the second highest construction permit values in 30 years.
Several Facebook responses were critical of the administration’s approach including Chris Baille of Sarnia who asks “is the City of Sarnia page a campaign for incumbents, because that is what it smells like?”.
While Bradley is critical of the administration’s approach, incumbent Bev MacDougall is not. In an email to staff MacDougall praises the administration saying, “thanks to staff for providing these information sessions, particularly new candidates who will gain much from participating as they are out speaking to the electorate. Kudos to management. This is a new best practice that is an awesome improvement to our municipal election process.”
The sessions for the candidates are being staffed by Misek – Evans and the “senior management team” on a weekly basis. They will include “publicly available information” and will not include discussion of personnel, labour relations or matters of the political nature.
However, Bradley doesn’t see it that way. He says if the administration didn’t have a political stake it would hold the information sessions after, not before the election. “That way they would be dealing with an elected Council not candidates.”
Bradley summarized his feelings about the current administration by quoting the late John Robertson, who was City Manager from 1977 to 1991. “When it came to municipal elections John reminded staff to not get involved … “be a turtle”.