December 30, 2015 – The following is my report on the Joint Board meeting held on December 18. My apologies for the long delay in preparing and posting it. I sent an almost-final draft of this report to Councillors Gamble, Greig and Thompson yesterday afternoon for their information and for possible consideration in Council’s present deliberations regarding the 2016 Township budget.
On the day after this meeting, someone asked me how it had gone. My short answer was that I came away with more evidence that the Joint Management Board is in ‘way over its head.
At the outset of the meeting, I was surprised when the Georgian Bluffs Director of Operations stated, bluntly, that the Board had failed to provide direction required for the negotiations with Sus-Global Energy Corporation. He didn’t go on to provide a reason, but I will: it is clear that none of the Board Members (Mayors and Deputy Mayors) know much or anything about negotiating a “commercial” agreement such as is being contemplated.
This is why the Chatsworth Council had the good sense to invite one of our residents, Mr. R. DeJong, to help in these negotiations. However, that initiative was partially thwarted at the November 27 Joint Board meeting when Mayor Pringle voted with Georgian Bluffs to exclude Mr. DeJong from direct participation. As noted in my report on that meeting, Chatsworth Deputy Mayor Mackey requested that the vote be recorded, and opposed the decision because it went against the expressed will of the Chatsworth Council.
The blunt statement by the Director of Operations could apply to virtually every important matter that has been raised at any Joint Board meeting I have attended over the last 3+ years. Invariably, there is no substantive discussion before issues are glossed over, or deferred, or shuffled off to staff without much or anything in the way of specific direction.
The Budget for 2015 (Agenda 6.3) is the most recent example. In setting it aside towards the end of the meeting, Mayor Barfoot commented to the effect that “it is clear that we won’t be able to reach an agreement on this today.”
This points to the proverbial “elephant in the room.” The February 2011 Agreement between Georgian Bluffs and Chatsworth was incompetently drafted (my FOI request confirmed that no lawyer was involved, at least for Chatsworth, and that no key points or drafts were ever circulated ahead of the Chatsworth Council meeting at which CAO Moore presented it for approval). These points are hard to believe, but true, the result being an Agreement that is fundamentally flawed and unworkable (to be clear, this is not a reference to the unfair Sunset Strip subsidies). Yet this issue has never been on a Joint Board Agenda.
In addition to dealing with the 2015 budget (which wasn’t dealt with), my understanding was that the meeting was to provide the direction that the Director of Operations said was lacking. There was some general discussion, but little in the way of specifics, so I don’t think much was accomplished in this regard, either.
It is important for readers to remember that the proposal from Sus-Global didn’t make it over the technical bar established for the initial screening, and that another proposal that was received late (on account of a courier problem) was shredded. Even so, the Joint Board made the astonishing decision on November 27 to enter negotiations towards a “business arrangement” with Sus-Global, supposedly in the interest of saving time by avoiding a fresh RFP process.
This bizarre decision may or may not have saved a few weeks, but for sure it reduced any confidence that taxpayers might have about any eventual agreement with Sus-Global, if reached, is the “best” that can be done in the circumstances.
Agenda 6.1 was dealt with by way of a motion for staff to work solely with Sus-Global towards what I would understand as being the elements of a draft agreement. This is to be done in the next several weeks (the Director of Operations made reference to a Joint Board meeting on February 11, 2016 but I not certain of that).
The non-disclosure agreement that Sus-Global had put forward (Agenda 6.2) was explained as being an attempt to move the negotiations along. The Director of Operations said it was unnecessary given the motion passed at Agenda 6.1, so it was withdrawn.
In the public question period towards the end of the meeting, Mr. DeJong made several specific suggestions. Here is a summary of my understanding of what he said:
- It is important for the townships to have a comprehensive list of the assumptions upon which Sus-Global’s proposal and plans are based;
- The Joint Board should retain a lawyer immediately;
- There can be no “agreement” until documents approved by the lawyer for the townships have been signed; and
- Even though the Joint Board has agreed to “negotiate” exclusively with Sus-Global over the next short while, it is important for the Board to pursue and keep other options in mind.
December 17, 2015 (2:45 pm)
This Joint Board meeting starts tomorrow morning (Dec 18 at 8:00 am) at the Georgian Bluffs office. This meeting was scheduled at the end of the last meeting in November, but the Agenda package was made available to me only by request earlier this afternoon.
Here is the Agenda with Links to the supporting documents in the package.
As usual, I will attend the meeting and prepare and post a report on it.