/images/hope.jpg" align=right vspace=4 border=1 >In a recorded vote, council defeated a recommendation by Mayor Randy Hope to add the position of Advisor to the Mayor at a cost of $83,359 per year.
The proposal, coming just over 3 months after Hope was elected on a platform of accountability, open government, financial restraint and proven strong leadership, was seen as a call for help by a struggling Mayor who seems to demonstrate complete overwhelmment by the job despite repeated attempts by local media outlets to artificially portray otherwise.
"In this municiplity, political roles are filled through election," Councillor Weaver reminded the mayor. "I would suggest that there are 17 political advisors sitting around this horseshoe...because that is a resource that I believe is being neglected at this time," Weaver added.
Councillor King stated, "[Mayor Hope] your advisors sit around this table."
When asked by Councillor Parsons to justify the position, Hope answered, "This is a report that I put together that I believe the benefits of liaisoning with council in making sure that the directions of the Municipal Act and the new legislation provides us with an opportunity to liaison between council members and the office of the mayor in making sure we that we clearly define our policy, rules and direction in the municipality and in which way we should be taking." -- ed note: Hope campaigned as a proven leader capable of setting the course of our future, but now needs an unelected assistant to define our direction? Is Hope incapable of leadership and original ideas?
Councillor Pickard stated that he thinks this position already exists, and it's called the Chief Administrative Officer. "It's a redundant position."
Hope was questioned by Councillor Crew about how the need was identified and by whom, to which the mayor responded, "We received support from Human Resources and our department in identifying other areas that the information can be used." Crew then inquired who was doing the job now, to which Hope responded, "That would be something you'd have to ask Administration. [It's being done now] in the sense that it's being done from a direction of what Administration is bringing up with council's direction." In addressing the benefits to taxpayers, "This would respond to the general public's concerns about the issue about council getting in control and putting back in place the policies that they believe support the community."
"I disagree with that!" Crew responded. "It appears that this is going to be a person that would influence decision-making ... and I have a big problem with that because that name should have been on the ballot."
Debate on the topic was charged with the persistent speculation throughout the municipality in recent weeks that the position was custom tailored by Hope as a patronage reward for his campaign manager.
The proposal failed to disclose the qualifications of the position, the hiring process if any, and the relationship between the advisor, council and administration. When Hope was questioned, he provided lame and incoherent justifications for the position, while floundering around in obvious distress with his answers. Hope seemed unenthusiastic when defending the need for an assistant, at times giving barely audible answers. Following the 16-2 defeat, the mayor was visibly deflated.
This apparent thinly veiled attempt at political reward raises a host of questions over conduct in the recent municipal election. Hope's avoidance of direct answers, including the name of the person he may have been considering parachuting into the $83,359 position, clearly appears as an attempt to mislead council of his intentions and circumvent the democratic process.
If there is even a hint of substance to the speculation that the position of Advisor to the Mayor was being proposed to reward Hope's campaign manager, then the Minister of the Attorney General should be called upon to launch an inquiry into any possible undemocratic attemps to fool the Chatham-Kent public and perhaps manipulate the outcome of the election.
With the deadline for campaign expense reports to be filed coming next week, it will be interesting to see how campaign expenses add up. Blow that speck of dust off your calculators.
Complete "unfiltered" Video of the debate is /multimedia/20070402-hs.wmv">here .