The MississaugaWatch Sniff Test

This question is the MISSISSAUGAWATCH Sniff Test for all Ontario municipal Mayors and Councillors:

Do you support asking the Ontario government to extend the investigative authority of the Ontario Ombudsman to include municipalities?

If the answer is not an UNQUALIFIED "Yes!", ask "Why not?" and proceed with extreme caution.


MIRROR: Complete Mississauga Judicial Inquiry Transcripts

“THERE SEEMS TO BE A COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR POLICY.” (Hazel McCallion –May 11, 2009 Audit Committee)

May 17th, 2009  

Hey Missy Dudes and Dudettes,

INSTITUTIONS NON-COMPLIANCE TO POLICIES, GUIDELINES AND BY-LAWS: A MAJOR ROOT OF YOUTH VIOLENCE

As some readers know, I’ve been observing/videotaping Mississauga Council since June 2006, researching all manner of its Corporate practices and malpractices through Freedom of Information since February 2007.

I’ve acquired a vast stash of video/photos (hard-drives bursting and backed up left, right and centre) as well as agendas, minutes and other City documents.   I’d love to continue research but by necessity, I’ve got to curtail my data collection process and turn to reporting what I’ve uncovered about the City of Mississauga style of municipal governance.

My research focus revolved primarily around Corporate Policies pertaining to treatment of citizens, and youth in particular.

Since alerting Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion back in December 2006 to deliberate staff non-compliance/violations of numerous City policies, procedures, and guidelines (as well as provincial legislation), I’ve met with repeated refusal to admit that any problem exists. Rather, I got repeated assurances that the City’s “dedicated, professional” staff  “conducted appropriate investigations” and took the “appropriate steps”.

Until Monday.

After almost three years of being alerted, Hazel McCallion finally admits that "There seems to be a complete disregard for policy" by City of Mississauga employees.

That was the day the Mississauga Mayor finally acknowledged that audits confirmed major problems with staff (ie:  the City’s Facilities and Property Management) following policies —and to McCallion’s credit, she was honest enough to admit that staff’s “complete disregard for policy” might be only the tip of the policy iceberg.

Yep. And I can name a few violated policies that Mayor McCallion hasn’t even investigated yet—but I have, through Freedom of Information:

and ironically, (approved at the March 13, 2008 Audit Committee meeting)

Yep. Haven’t even bothered reporting on the last three policy violations. After all, no one believed me on violations of the first ones —or no one gave a s***. (I  suspect the latter.)

We’ll see if there’s a change in Corporate Ethical Behaviour as a result of McCallion’s policies “discovery” this week. (I suspect there won’t be.) Still. Have to admit that a certain smug feeling washed over me on Monday.

I heard McCallion ponder the same question that I once had, “I don’t know why there’s such a disregard for policy.”

APRIL 17, 2006 VIOLENCE/VANDALISM POLICY THAT MISSISSAUGA CITY STAFF DISREGARD/VIOLATE

I’ll be reporting on staff violations of policies and procedures. And I shall take my “‘duty to report” seriously over the next few months.

Now in 2009, with revelations from Freedom of Information and direct observation of meetings, I have the answer even if Hazel McCallion doesn’t.  Believe it or not but I know why City of Mississauga staff have “such a disregard for policy.”

Part of the answer is right here  in this video of a portion of the March 17, 2008 (yes, 2008)  Audit Committee meeting. A transcript follows.

MISSISSAUGA AUDIT COMMITTEE (regarding oversight, followup and assessment) March 17, 2008 (3:48 min)

(Click here to go directly to the clip on YouTube)

March 17, 2008 Audit Committee transcript.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion:

I remember asking —because you know, for us to have a real handle on what’s happening, as the effectiveness of auditing, which I think is the best thing since sliced bread that’s internal auditing. I was always very pleased when we brought it in a number of years ago.

It’s not only auditing but it’s also looking at systems —improving them. I think that this is one of the key committees of the City, I have to tell you.

We learn a lot as well as Councillors and Mayor as to how the City operates and the challenges, etc. So it’s a key committee.

But we need to know that if you audited this department in 2006 maybe, definitely 2007 and now 2008 and we’re finding that the same things haven’t been done —we want to know about it. In other words, are the recommendations that are made, have not been followed through then we can say well why not?

You know, this is the opportunity as members of Council.

I’m sure that there will be explanations for it but the point is we have the opportunity to raise the question on it. And so you will do that when you go through the check —we’ve done the check. We certainly did that the Transit coin room. We’ve done it once the years I’ve been —ever since we’ve had an auditing committee, I think we’ve been doing it every year. Because it is handling a lot of money and there’s always —there’s always been problems.

Always been problems in approvals and control of the room where the money goes and all that. I mean we got to watch that like a hawk. Right?

Sally Eng, Director, Internal Audit:

And we have the [inaudible] of doing that, actually. We’re working on the coin room again.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion:

Yup, there you are.

Janice Baker, City Manager

Well, we’d always bring forward —Sally will bring forward as part of every Audit report if there are Audit recommendations—

[inaudible  —several speakers at once]

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion:

—what was recommended in 2007 and what we found in 2008 and whether 2007 has been—

Sally Eng, Director, Internal Audit:

—one of our standard objectives is to follow on Audit recommendations made in the past—

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion:

Yeah oh—

Sally Eng, Director, Internal Audit:

And report on the status. On top of that every year in the October/November meeting we bring forward the status of all outstanding recommendations to the Audit Committee—

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion:

Good. Excellent

Janice Baker, City Manager

Plus Sally reports to me twice a year as well—

Sally Eng, Director, Internal Audit:

—quarterly…

Janice Baker, City Manager

—quarterly on the out [sic] so I have, actually have the March report here that shows the progress being made on all Audit recommendations. So there is follow up on all Audit Recommendations.

LATER ON (at 9:45 am) IN THE SAME MARCH 17, 2008 AUDIT COMMITTEE MEETING transcript

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion:

By the way, congratulations to the Audit Committee staff. They’re doing a great job. We really appreciate all the work you do. And the way in which you work so well with department heads and the department heads that work so well with you.

Because auditing sometimes can cause a lot of controversy but as I see from the report —the many reports,  that there’s really cooperation between the Auditing Committee and the department heads and I’m hoping that’s extremely important.

Janice Baker, City Manager

And that’s in large part due to Sally’s approach. I mean, it’s not that she backs off on anything but you know she’s certainly, I think willing to sit down and discuss issues and come to a resolution on it… so…

Sally Eng, Director, Internal Audit:

From my perspective I think if we’re trying to get things better, the confrontational approach is not going to work, it’s just going to get worse. So that’s the way we —but we do call a spade a spade every time. In a nice way.

Signed,

The (how nice…) Mississauga Muse

PAT CRAIGMILE ON THE VIOLENCE/VANDALISM POLICY THAT MISSISSAUGA CITY STAFF DISREGARD/VIOLATE, DECEMBER 13, 2006

Comments

10 Responses to ““THERE SEEMS TO BE A COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR POLICY.” (Hazel McCallion –May 11, 2009 Audit Committee)”

  1. Bright Snoop on May 18th, 2009 9:19 am

    In other words, if it involves the treatment of people, then it’s all denial and business as usual, but if it involves money then Hazel is all over it.

    I guess the auditors are an exception to the way the Corporation operates, since they’re nice to people. Well, to the staff they’re auditing anyway… It must work because they’re making progress. See? They have a report! (Bet it wins an award.)

  2. The Mississauga Muse on May 18th, 2009 10:10 am

    Hey there, Bright Snoop.

    You wrote:

    In other words, if it involves the treatment of people, then it’s all denial and business as usual, but if it involves money then Hazel is all over it.

    You know, I’m beginning to change my opinion of McCallion (back to a positive way). I’ve seen her now at enough Audit Committee meetings to know that she truly expects policies to be followed. Last Monday truly sealed it for me. It was clear McCallion believes it’s Audit’s job to ferret out and identify problems regarding “system”, alert her and Councillors who then would ensure some policy is put in place to address a problem.

    She’d mentioned that there was a policy “years ago” in place to ensure that just one “individual” doesn’t sign  contracts. And that contractors are researched for viability and assessed/ranked afterwards to avoid a crap-contractor being hired again. Audit couldn’t find the policy let alone it being implemented. It fell by the wayside and there was no explanation of how.

    I’ve been saying that there’s no oversight since March 2006 (three years worth of crabbing and alerting). And let’s remember that throughout that time we had a City Manager stsanding up giving a “Successes in the City: Trust Quality Excellence” reports each year.

    City staff can deny, stonewall, duck, avoid, bully, intimidate and yes, lie to citizens (to paraphrase a Mississauga Security guard, “HyJynx” observation) “because they can”.

    Bright Snoop, you wrote:

    I guess the auditors are an exception to the way the Corporation operates, since they’re nice to people. Well, to the staff they’re auditing anyway… It must work because they’re making progress. See? They have a report! (Bet it wins an award.)

    Actually the report is something that never sees the public light of day other than at the Audit Committee. Perhaps other members of Council read it but that’s doubtful. The Audit Committee report only shows up as an item in the Council agenda –nothing more.  And remember, that at best they’d see only the MINUTES,what one person felt was worth recording. And likely worded in MISSISSAUGASPEAK (remember that McCallion and Councillors can fall victim to MISSISSAUGASPEAK just like the public can).

    I feel really good about Monday. I heard Hazel McCallion despair at the “complete disregard for policy” by Staff confirming one thing I’ve been saying. Second, I heard to acknowledge that Audit only investigated one small area and then openly ponder just how many other policies and procedures City staff are also not following.

    The thing this means for me is when next I write Madam Mayor and tell her of what I’ve discovered regarding deliberate staff non-compliance to policies, by-laws and even abandonment of guidelines written to support Youth, she’ll believe me this time and NOT her staff who’ve steadfastly denied it all along.

    Frankly, I think McCallion cares about the treatement of citizen policies too and believed her staff that they in place and Trust-Quality-Excellence followed.

    That’s the problem hiring spinners as a risk management strategy.  Ultimately  they spin you too…

    Thanks Bright Snoop.

    MISSISSAUGAWATCH photo Uploaded to Flickr June 6, 2007

    MISSISSAUGAWATCH photo Uploaded to Flickr June 6, 2007 …

  3. Bright Snoop on May 18th, 2009 1:23 pm

    I applaud your optimism, Muse, but I can’t share it.

    I watched the video. I saw Hazel clinging to the illusion of quality and the pretense of excellence by overindulging in trust. Janice Baker assures her that auditing procedures are followed and Sally Eng says they are even nice about it. Hazel seems reassured and later commends the Audit Committee staff. The irony completely escapes her. At that point there should have been anvils clanging from the sky.

    The thing is, Muse, even if Hazel has had an epiphany, you and I both know that there’s nothing she can do. If the City Manager and Staff don’t clean up their acts, nothing will change. They’ll close ranks, make excuses, and no one will get anything more than a stern lecture. There are no real consequences to their misbehaviour, whether it is through incompetence, or laziness, or malice, or pick your mix. As you keep saying, they are invulnerable to any sort of accountability to the public. (Those would be the people they supposedly serve.) Staff are only accountable to Council in theory as long as Hazel accepts Baker’s reassurances without question. What is most discouraging is that she does this in a meeting dominated by the fallout from a failure to follow procedures.

  4. The Mississauga Muse on May 18th, 2009 2:37 pm

    Hey again, Bright Snoop.

    You wrote:

    I applaud your optimism, Muse, but I can’t share it.I watched the video. I saw Hazel clinging to the illusion of quality and the pretense of excellence by overindulging in trust. Janice Baker assures her that auditing procedures are followed and Sally Eng says they are even nice about it. Hazel seems reassured and later commends the Audit Committee staff. The irony completely escapes her. At that point there should have been anvils clanging from the sky.

    Careful, Bright Snoop. Look at the date of that video. March 17, 2008.  Over a year ago. I  offered it up first to match last week’s Mississauga News article “Audit finds flaws in City’s collection process” and MissyNews editorial, “Deal with ticket fiasco” simply to show to a viewer that while perhaps there weren’t “anvils clanging from the sky” at least the writing was on the wall is big black unfriendly letters.

    Next Blog will show segments from last Monday’s Audit Committee. I wanted to lay down Sally Eng’s “let’s-treat-our-employees-with-kid-gloves” Audit comment for the record.  This part:

    “From my perspective I think if we’re trying to get things better, the confrontational approach is not going to work, it’s just going to get worse. So that’s the way we —but we do call a spade a spade every time. In a nice way.”

    Remember. The public is only too happy to royally-crap all over youth when they’ve made a mistake. And there’s a Mississauga News article quoting a bus driver as saying nice-nice conflict resolution doesn’t work with punks and thugs.  Yet City (municipal employees) enjoy nice-nice protections that most citizens can only dream about.

    That kind of duplicity and unequal treatment is frikkin’ evil.

    You wrote:

    The thing is, Muse, even if Hazel has had an epiphany, you and I both know that there’s nothing she can do. If the City Manager and Staff don’t clean up their acts, nothing will change.

    Hey, no argument there. You’ve hit it dead-on and that’s why I’ve been saying that citizens are screwed —and above all those “at risk”. Policies designed to help them aren’t followed. And then they’re lied about that they are followed. As I’ve been saying, the public thinks all these great programmes are in place. But no. And when those “at risk” fail to respond, we blame them. I blamed them. I did. But now I know better.

    You wrote:

    They’ll close ranks, make excuses, and no one will get anything more than a stern lecture. There are no real consequences to their misbehaviour, whether it is through incompetence, or laziness, or malice, or pick your mix. As you keep saying, they are invulnerable to any sort of accountability to the public. (Those would be the people they supposedly serve.)

    Absolutely correct. And that’s what the data/Freedom of Information/video confirm. As you know, I’ve gone on record saying that it’s Employees who run Mississauga and not McCallion/Councillors. Fact is, our city has been hijacked and that’s why when I see those banners “MY MISSISSAUGA” I see it as a despicable joke by the City’s communications department. They know that it’s Their Mississauga.

    You wrote:

    Staff are only accountable to Council in theory as long as Hazel accepts Baker’s reassurances without question. What is most discouraging is that she does this in a meeting dominated by the fallout from a failure to follow procedures.

    Yes, that March 17, 2008 meeting was also about failure to follow policy and procedures (back then it was City of Mississauga Corporate Security management and guards). But the May one was quite different. When the auditor began to thank the department heads for their cooperation, McCallion cut him off and continued to dig in with more questions.

    Also. Something that I haven’t pointed out yet. The Mayor announced during the meeting that she wanted to go in-camera (behind closed doors) and I sure would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall for that.  It was two Councils ago that I stood up at Public Question Period to alert her to the degree to which staff don’t follow policies. The Mayor stopped me and asked that I submit it via email/letter.

    I never did.

    Why?

    You’ve already identified it. As you said, there’s nothing that McCallion can do about it. Unless she’s prepared to fire people. Me, just off the top of my head I can think of two dozen senior staff  who should be told to clean out their desks and not work in public service anymore.

    And to be clear, none of them are in Public Works and Transportation (I respect them and good hearts deserve our support and are allowed mistakes).

  5. Bright Snoop on May 18th, 2009 5:10 pm

    Yikes! I completely missed that the video was not made at last Monday’s meeting. I owe Madam Mayor an apology.

  6. DeValera on May 19th, 2009 11:12 pm

    Yes, lets hope/push so that what goes around –

    <>

  7. DeValera on May 19th, 2009 11:52 pm
  8. The Mississauga Muse on May 20th, 2009 8:29 am

    DeValera you wrote:

    “Yes, lets hope/push so that what goes around -“

    It won’t. Again. Because Hazel McCallion DOES NOT RUN Mississauga.

    Staff does!

  9. DeValera on May 23rd, 2009 11:47 pm
  10. The Mississauga Muse on May 24th, 2009 8:44 am

    Hi DeValera

    You wrote:

    What goes around… http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6350604.ece

    Interesting What-goes-around article, thanks.

    Especially:

    AT least half of the House of Commons’ 646 MPs will be swept away at the general election, as voters take revenge on the political classes for the expenses scandal.

    The departure of 325 members of parliament as a result of forced resignations, retirement and defeat at the polls would represent the biggest clear-out of parliament since 1945.

    As many as 30 will be forced to resign directly because of the expenses scandal, while whips expect more than 200 to quit because they are unable to cope with continued public anger. Up to 90 MPs will be voted out in the election.

    However, changing politicians like that is merely cosmetic.  As observing Mississauga Council has proven, it’s not politicians who run the show but the public servants (and they won’t be changing).

    Second, this story has no relevance to Mississauga. We have no media here.


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