London’s Mayor Joe Fontana has said he will not take a leave of absence in light of have 3 criminal charges against him by the Crown/RCMP. The charges are as follows.
Breach of Trust by Public Officer, contrary to section 122 CC
Fraud Under $5000 contrary to section 380 (1)(b) CC
Uttering Forged Documents contrary to section 368 CC
These are serious allegations for anyone but for someone in public life and at the helm of an organization with a budget of 1 billion dollars it does give pause whether the Mayor still has the public’s trust in guiding the organization.
Public Service is an organization we once held in higher regard and we expected those in it to hold a higher standard. In particular those who lead such organizations should set the example. Its an important part of being leader.
I don’t know if the Mayor is guilty or not but the optics certainly do not look good and it appears to be far more the a simple issue. As many in the community have pointed out, one should be able to contact their bank or employer and within a matter of hours or a day be able to track how and where a payment was made.
But what’s more important at this point is that this issue is a distraction council and the city does not need right now. A third year of budget deliberation is about to begin with the Mayor and his supporters on Council calling for a third straight tax “freeze”.
Which brings us back to integrity. Many people have been turned off by politics recently, saying that politicians will say anything to get into power. But is that truly the candidates fault or our own?
We listen to the ‘promises’ like 10,000 jobs or “I won’t raise your taxes for four years” but we fail to ask them questions beyond the sound bytes. How are they going to do this? Where will they find the funding? Do they have a specific plan?
If we continue to allow questions like this to go unanswered and we fail to hold our candidates accountable to their answers then we have only ourselves to blame for much of this. A well informed electorate should be a goal for all candidates and those who hold public office. The politics of fear and deception should not be allowed to drive the political landscape. Those that seek to continue to go down this road should be held accountable for their actions.
The question is now what will happen next. There is a good chance a motion will be put forth at committee to ask the Mayor to take a leave of absences penning the outcome of his case. Under the municipal act however the Mayor does not have to step aside even if everyone else on council wanted him to do so. Based on the news conference from Thursday he has no plans to step aside.
I think we must go in two directions; We must continue to let the Mayor know that a sizable number of London citizens are not happy with the decision he has made to stay on for now. There is a petition online that people can sign. Is this enough? In my humble opinion the answer is no. Those of us who spend a lot of time in social media have to constantly remember two things. We are a very small percentage compared to the total population and we tend to sometimes stay in the ‘bubble’. How does the average Londoner think of this? How does the average Londoner express their opinion? As Jay Menard writes in his recent blog post, a poll to get the opinion of a greater number of citizens would be interesting to see.
He is not being asked to resign, he is being asked to temporarily step aside for the good of the city he says he loves so much. The Mayor likes to talk about all the events he has been invited to and has attended. I wonder if the numbers of invitations will now decrease.
The second thing is that the work of council and the city must go on; although this is a sizable distraction, the business of the city must continue. As I’ve said previously the budget cycle for year three of council is about to start and people must focus and let their councilors know what they would like to see. We must also remember that although the Mayor is supposed to lead council, he only has one vote, the same as every other member of council.
Despite the setbacks, London has many many good things going for it and we must continue to go in the direction to improve the city for all who live, work and play here.