Friday September 29th, 2023 - 03:14:53 AM

Group plans to use Old Petition to Force Forensic Audit
Austin Wright, November 15, 2007

The following article was submitted to the Chatham Daily News, but it wasn't published in keeping with their apparent policy to present only one side of local political issues, protect political participants from any undesirable scrutiny, and prevent any of my opinions from appearing. Chatham This Week printed a heavily edited version to avoid "angering" the parties being criticized. The citizen's group mentioned in this article has subsequently announced, after all their free publicity, that they are dropping the audit petition for now to give the mayor a chance to do their bidding.

The local media recently reported that the Chatham-Kent Coalition of Concerned Citizens has come up from the murky depths for another attempt at demanding a municipal audit.

Those who have been following this secretive group might remember that they collected 7000 signatures in 2005 supporting a failed bid to obtain "an official audit of all resources and finances in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent to answer all concerns of citizens and taxpayers." More recently, the group engaged in advertising prevaricating misinformation opposing the Rec Centre and also placed libellous American-style attack ads during the last election that shocked many residents.

Afterwards, it was discovered that this group was actually a non-entity that nobody would take responsibility for. They are likely counting on the notoriously short memory of the public to shield this new incarnation from criticism.

It is very interesting that the C.K.C.O.C.C. would safely step out of the shadows when they think the Statute of Limitations has expired for litigation that was deserved from its previous activities. Even more telling, the mayor seems willing to do the group's bidding, however detrimental the consequences may be. Is this the same mayor who campaigned on a platform of openness and accountability, now marching to the beat of an enigmatic pseudo-organization?

Perhaps this group should reveal its directors and members to the public, and demonstrate some responsibility for their actions before proceeding on another disruptive mission. If R.O.C.K. is indeed behind the effort as stated, then we can be certain that this is just a thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the de-amalgamation debate. Is this a clever ploy to destabilize an already dysfunctional council so the province will step in and put things back the way they were in the good old pre-amalgamation days?

What are the "various other community organizations" also involved? Is it too much to ask that the public be briefed on the groups and individuals behind all this intrigue?

Before I learned the true costs and consequences, I was a supporter of the audit concept. However, this group has since obfuscated its identity while engaging in extraneous activities completely unrelated to the audit, which may have alienated previous supporters of their petition and damaged their integrity. Others might now realize how expensive, unsettling, and futile an audit would be, and no longer support it. Besides, the municipal books are already audited annually to the Province's satisfaction, which is why the original petition was refused.

The C.K.C.O.C.C. wants to use the old petition to demand a conveniently redefined "Forensic Audit." Signatures collected in 2005 are invalid towards any renewed objective of the coalition, since the petition that citizens signed then did not define the kind of audit now being requested. It is unethical for them to re-materialize several years later claiming that each signatory supported a "Forensic Audit" when such an audit was not even implied in the preamble of the old petition. To think they can support new goals with old signatures seems like duplicitous revisionism, but at least it provides an indication of the preferred tactics used by these nebulous organizations and their adhering politicians.

Citizen groups have a democratic right to muddy the municipal landscape, but we should demand no less than the transparency of knowing the individuals hiding behind phony unregistered coalitions, and where their money is coming from. Then let them start over with a clearly defined missive available for public scrutiny, using new signatures collected from properly informed citizens. Such audits rarely reveal anything anyway that those being examined don't want discovered.


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