Enough already

Great leaders and awesome managers think about the dignity of others.

This approach allows for differences of opinion, the pursuit of excellence and builds loyalty within an organization.

Long since passed are the days of brow-beating or humiliating people to get a desired result. Employees quite frankly don’t have to take that from a boss or colleague.

This spring the Town of Erin hosted a party for its retiring CAO. What was meant to be a celebration, ended up as a public spectacle when Mayor Lou Maieron prepared a report questioning the planning and cost of the event after the fact.

A brief flurry of letters to the editor ensued and points were made for both sides. It seemed to be time to move on – for our tastes, anyway.

This past Wednesday, however, the issue reared its head again in open session of council. Granted, holiday schedules were partly responsible for the mayor’s report being carried over until this time, but it also gave ample opportunity for the mayor to pull his report back altogether.

Councils have the right, and arguably the obligation, to handle personnel matters in closed session. The resultant action is definitely a matter of public interest, but the discussion and background, particularly in a case like this, could have been handled with far more thoughtfulness than it was.

The conversation could have been very brief and deliberate in closed session. The mayor could have easily said, “I have received some complaints about our recent party and I’d like to see a policy developed that limits costs and provides a protocol for future events.”

No feelings would have been hurt, no hint of transgression would have been made, the resultant action would have been open for review, and the matter would have been dealt with. The mayor could then point to the new policy as proof to the individuals who were concerned that their point was addressed.

But, for some reason, this item was dealt with in open session again, as if round one of this maelstrom were not enough. While the political theatre may intrigue some, we worry for staff and council as a whole. If these debacles keep occurring, office morale will continue its free-fall and any hint of collegiality around the council table will be destroyed. People need to work together if they are to achieve good deeds.

While we understand the mayor’s quest for openness and transparency in all things, we cannot help but note how at odds that quest is with what took place earlier that same meeting.

A lawyer on behalf of Maieron, and Maieron himself after declaring a pecuniary interest and leaving the mayor’s chair, made a presentation to council. Maieron and his business, Silvercreek Aquaculture, were the intended recipients of a parcel of land when a subdivision near his home and fish farm business was given approval by the OMB.

Long story short, the town is currently owed in excess of $30,000 in outstanding property taxes on this parcel, dating back many years. Maieron’s position is he doesn’t owe that money and, in not so many words, if the town attempts to collect those taxes from him, he will take legal action.

This places the property in jeopardy of being offered for sale as a tax sale in the near future. After three years a municipality can, as others have, sell the property to pay arrears. After two years, such a sale can be pursued on vacant land.

In addition to the outstanding tax issue which has brought this matter to a head, Maieron’s lawyer asserts there remain problems with elements of the prepared deed, fencing commitments that have not been met and the storm water evacuation system is causing problems on his client’s property.

When this landed on council last week, the only reaction they could publicly make was to receive the delegation and note that they would seek further legal advice.

Obviously the town must have a position, but based on privacy legislation and the now public threat of legal action by Maieron against the Town of Erin, councillors could say nothing of consequence.

That very threat of legal action compromised the openness with which some might have liked to speak or make inquiries. Had the property merely been identified by the roll number without Maieron representing himself with his lawyer, there could have been a little more conversation.

Obviously there have been in-camera discussions and legal correspondence since 2006 when this started. While Maieron did the right thing and absented himself from the chair, it seems a prickly spot for staff and council to be in. Why the spectacle? Why now?

Perhaps the larger question is how would council or the mayor deal with another property owner in the same set of circumstances? Time will tell.

The only certainty is this issue has dragged on far too long.