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Petition aimed at supporting auditor general as well as the Ombudsman

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Feb 19, 2013 - 1:53 PM |

Taxpayers group says their fight to reinstate Andre Marin is also a show of support for Brian Bigger

Updated 11:01 a.m. on Feb. 20

 

Even if their petition to reinstate the Ombudsman doesn’t work, the Greater Sudbury Taxpayer’s Association is hoping it sends another message to city council: extend the auditor general’s contract.

“It’s firing a shot across the bow,” said GSTA President Dan Melanson, at a Feb. 19 press conference at Grumblers on Regent Street. “It’s letting them know if they make these … decisions without regard for the public’s wishes, there’s going to be a backlash and repercussions.

“So yes, we’re looking at this as a pre-emptive strike or a show of support for the auditor general, as well.”

To that end, GSTA has printed 75,000 copies of a petition calling on councillors to reinstate Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin as the city’s closed-door meeting investigator. They’re asking the public to mail them back so he can send them to city hall before councillors meet again Feb. 26. That’s when council is expected to ratify its decision to fire Marin.

As first reported in Northern Life, last June, city council reduced Auditor General Brian Bigger’s contract from three years to one, leading to speculation his future was in jeopardy.

Bigger’s audits have uncovered significant issues in Sudbury Transit, where more than $800,000 in ticket money was uncovered, and in the city’s road’s department, where thousands of tonnes of recycled asphalt wasn’t properly accounted for.

Council’s issues with Bigger and Marin have come to dominate their term in office.

Councillors fired Marin after having a long and acrimonious relationship with him dating back to 2009, when the Sunshine Law came into effect mandating city councils appoint someone to investigate complaints about closed-door meetings.

Most recently, Marin found them guilty of violating the Municipal Act when it passed a motion in camera to direct three councillors, the mayor and a city staffer to negotiate a new contract with Auditor General Brian Bigger.

Melanson acknowledged that even if 75,000 people signed the petition, it would have no legal force on councillors to reinstate the Ombudsman. However, he said it’s the best way to send a signal that citizens are angry.

“We know there are 73,000 postal codes in Greater Sudbury, so we printed 75,000 to have a few extra,” Melanson said.

Anyone who can’t get a copy of the petition can get an electronic version at the GSTA’s website, gstaxpayers.ca.

The petition is an attempt to convince city councillors to reverse a decision they made Feb. 12 to fire Marin as their closed-door meeting investigator. Marin has since labelled them as a “rogue city council’ and is calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to strengthen provincial laws that allows municipalities to pick and choose who acts as their investigator.

Melanson is calling on Sudburians to show up in force Feb. 26 to make their feelings known. While it’s a longshot, the tactic has worked in the past, Melanson said.

“It seems to work with zoning issues at the planning committee meeting, when a whole bunch of people show up and they reverse themselves,” he said. “But whether it will work in this particular instance, I don’t know. I’m not particularly optimistic.”

Melanson said the GSTA is carefully documenting each decision and vote for each councillor, in preparation for the 2014 municipal election.

“So those councillors who choose to run again, will have to run on their record,” he said. “For the first time … the election won’t just be a name recognition contest. They’re going to have to have some substance and they’ll have to step forward and defend their record.

“We have been documenting all of the stuff that has been going on over the course of this council and we will be making certain that the public is fully aware of all the decisions they’ve made, why they made them and what the repercussions were.”

Paul Demers, the GSTA’s vice-president, said councillors have shown a pattern of trying to sideline anyone who criticizes them.

“Council has started down a slippery slope,” he said. “They show their disdain and try to sabotage anyone who criticizes them for not being transparent. They don’t like us because we criticized them; they don’t like the Ombudsman because he criticized them; they don’t like the auditor general because of the things he has brought to light.”

One of the goals of the petition, he said, is to show them that it’s not just the GSTA or Marin who is upset – the public is getting fed up, too.

“People are angry. They’re upset – they really are. And it’s time this council started working for the taxpayer rather than against them.”

 

Original story

 

The Greater Sudbury Taxpayer’s Association is hoping public pressure will be enough to convince city council to reverse its decision to fire Ontario Ombudsman André Marin.

To that end, GSTA President Dan Melanson has printed 75,000 copies of a petition calling on councillors to change course and is asking the public to mail them back so he can send them to city hall before councillors meet again Feb. 26.

At a Feb. 19 press conference at Grumblers on Regent Street, Melanson acknowledged that even if 75,000 people signed the petition, it would have no legal force on councillors to change their minds. However, he said it’s the best way to send a signal that citizens are angry with the decisions they’re making.

“We know there are 73,000 postal codes in Greater Sudbury, so we printed 75,000 to have a few extra,” Melanson said, when asked why they printed so many petitions.

Anyone who can’t get a copy of the petition can get an electronic version at the GSTA’s website, gstaxpayers.ca.

The petition is an attempt to convince city councillors to reverse a decision they made Feb. 11 to fire Marin as their closed-door meeting investigator. Marin has since labelled them as a “rogue city council’ and is calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to strengthen provincial laws that allow municipalities to pick and choose who acts as their investigator.

Councillors fired Marin after having an acrimonious relationship with him dating back to 2009, when the Sunshine Law came into effect mandating city councils appoint someone to investigate complaints about closed-door meetings.

Most recently, Marin found them guilty of violating the Municipal Act when it passed a motion in camera to direct three councillors, the mayor and a city staffer to negotiate a new contract with Auditor General Brian Bigger.

Northern Life later learned that Bigger’s contract was reduced to one year from the three dictated in the original bylaw creating his office.

Melanson is also calling on Sudburians to show up in force at city council Feb. 26 to make their feelings known.

GSTA President Dan Melanson announced in a Feb. 19 press conference that he has printed 75,000 copies of a petition calling on councillors to change course in its decision to fire Ontario Ombudsman André Marin. Photo by Darren MacDonald.

GSTA President Dan Melanson announced in a Feb. 19 press conference that he has printed 75,000 copies of a petition calling on councillors to change course in its decision to fire Ontario Ombudsman André Marin. Photo by Darren MacDonald.

While it’s a longshot, the tactic has worked in the past, Melanson said.

“If it works for a planning committee meeting, it’s worth a shot,” he said.The Greater Sudbury Taxpayer’s Association is hoping public pressure will be enough to convince city council to reverse its decision to fire Ontario Ombudsman André Marin.

To that end, GSTA President Dan Melanson has printed 75,000 copies of a petition calling on councillors to change course and is asking the public to mail them back so he can send them to city hall before councillors meet again Feb. 26.

At a Feb. 19 press conference at Grumblers on Regent Street, Melanson acknowledged that even if 75,000 people signed the petition, it would have no legal force on councillors to change their minds. However, he said it’s the best way to send a signal that citizens are angry with the decisions they’re making.

“We know there are 73,000 postal codes in Greater Sudbury, so we printed 75,000 to have a few extra,” Melanson said, when asked why they printed so many petitions.

Anyone who can’t get a copy of the petition can get an electronic version at the GSTA’s website, gstaxpayers.ca.

The petition is an attempt to convince city councillors to reverse a decision they made Feb. 11 to fire Marin as their closed-door meeting investigator. Marin has since labelled them as a “rogue city council’ and is calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to strengthen provincial laws that allow municipalities to pick and choose who acts as their investigator.

Councillors fired Marin after having an acrimonious relationship with him dating back to 2009, when the Sunshine Law came into effect mandating city councils appoint someone to investigate complaints about closed-door meetings.

Most recently, Marin found them guilty of violating the Municipal Act when it passed a motion in camera to direct three councillors, the mayor and a city staffer to negotiate a new contract with Auditor General Brian Bigger.

Northern Life later learned that Bigger’s contract was reduced to one year from the three dictated in the original bylaw creating his office.

Melanson is also calling on Sudburians to show up in force at city council Feb. 26 to make their feelings known.

While it’s a longshot, the tactic has worked in the past, Melanson said.

“If it works for a planning committee meeting, it’s worth a shot,” he said.

Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer

@Darrenmacd

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