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Chris Cooke's picture

And Life Goes On

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 09:27 -- Chris Cooke

I’m not sure where to start.

The City Manager in London Art Zuidema has left the building.

Zuidema was paid $234,000.00 and had been the City’s top bureaucrat for five years before London Council put a spot light on the manager and discovered the elevator does go to the top floor.

The only reason I mention this is because Zuidema’s issues and problems where miniscule in comparison to what is happening at Sarnia City Hall. And yet five years down the line Zuidema is out.

Zuidema who came from Hamilton wasn’t laying harassment and bullying charges against his employer and wasn’t seeking financial compensation. The City of London didn’t pay $289,000.00 to a Mississauga harassment lawyer. The City of London didn’t pay $80,000.00 to an Integrity Commissioner.

The City of London isn’t building a $75,000.00 steel reinforced wall to separate the City Manager from the mayor. In fact, the only wall separating the two in London is a glass wall with their names on it.

Both Matt Brown the mayor of London and Mike Bradley the mayor of Sarnia have had their share of problems. Brown was having an affair with his deputy mayor, a lady named Maureen Cassidy, formerly of Sarnia.

He took a verbal beating in the media and we suspect at home where he had a wife and family. He doesn’t anymore.

But for the most part City Council left him alone. An Integrity Commissioner showed up, interviewed Brown and Cassidy for eight hours, claimed no foul and left leaving a $2000.00 bill.

If you are doing the math you can see that London isn’t Sarnia.

But there are similarities.

Neither Zuidema nor Margaret Misek – Evans had prior experience as a chief bureaucrat before arriving in their respective municipalities. Both were and are handsomely paid for what appears to be mediocre performance.

In the case of Zuidema he just didn’t get along. He didn’t get along with inside workers. He didn’t get along with the London Police Services Board and his relationship with fire fighters was tenuous.

And while he got along with some members of City Council it wasn’t enough to keep his job.

Misek – Evans also doesn’t get along. She doesn’t get along with the mayor, charged him with harassment and bullying and is offloading hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of costs on Sarnia taxpayers. It has been nothing but lawyers and investigations since early last year.

She has surrounded herself with what appear to be ineffective and inefficient managers while keeping a majority of Councillors on side.

From our vantage point we aren’t sure how she does it.

But she has managed to get a $25,000.00 raise, persuaded Council to pass a Code of Conduct that controls freedom of speech, hired the step son in law of a municipal Councillor to “fix” IT while she suspected her emails were hacked and got Council to approve a $75,000.00 wall to separate her from the mayor and the public that pays for it all.

And she continues to keep her job.

I could point out here that Zuidema in London didn’t do half of the stuff and he’s gone.

But I digress.

I can remember having a 90-minute lunch with Matt Mitro at the Coffee Culture on London Road last year. The discussion centred mostly on the mayor but also the inadequatcy of IT at City Hall.

On and on Councillor Matt went.

Not once did he mention his stepson in law Mark Dillon was in IT. Not once did he mention his step son in law had applied for a job in Sarnia and would be moving from Festival City Hydro in Stratford.

Mitro only mentioned it after I confronted him last fall. And then he expressed surprise that I would call him blurting out “yes, that’s right he is coming to Sarnia and we are damn lucky to have him”. The undertones being that Sarnia is some sort of hell - hole with a negative reputation and why would anyone of his stepson’s caliber want to reside here?

How Dillon as IT manager got the job remains unclear. Were there other candidates? Is he really the best of the best? Are we really as lucky to have him as his step dad claims?

Sarnia has problems of its own making and those problems persist due mostly to a lack of strong management and a weak Council. A lack of experience in the top ranks has dribbled its way down to the lower levels where paranoia has set in.

Examples?

I have some.

Last January the City’s Communications Co-ordinator Katarina Ovens sent out a release correcting CTV Television News about the City Hall wall. The release was from the City Solicitor, Scott McEachran.

The television network apparently interviewed a citizen who suggested the $75,000.00 cost would top out “closer to $97,000”. McEachran noted, “staff was not asked for factual information” and indicated the project is on budget.

When is it the job of a City Hall bureaucrat to correct the media?

I could point out here that dictators get started by limiting freedom of the press.

Is there not more pressing business than taking on CTV News?

Let me suggest that there is.

McEachran’s name is all over a news release explaining how the City Hall Purchasing Department screwed up a request for proposals to sell the abandoned, asbestos filled Sarnia General Hospital.

The old hospital is listed with Title Realty Group Inc. of Vaughan, Ontario after McEachran claims in published reports that there was “miscommunication or a misunderstanding” between the Purchasing Department and the Sarnia Real Estate Board over commissions.

Which brings me to this question.

How many tax dollars does Title Reality Group Inc. of Vaughan pay in Sarnia?

That’s right.

None!

Meanwhile, the 260-taxpaying members of the Sarnia Real Estate Board are out of pocket and at best will have to share commissions with a Vaughan relator if and when the old hospital is ever sold.

McEachran summarized it with the following phrase. “Life goes on”.

Life does go on and let me suggest to you it would go on a lot better if he, the City Manager and her comrades were somewhere else.

As for Mayor Mike, it would have been cheaper if he just had an affair.

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