Friday, July 12, 2024

Reader Frustrated With the System


During a recent closing of a file I’d submitted to the Ombudsman (notice I said closing, not resolution), I was made aware that mine wasn’t the only Meaford file being investigated at the Ombudsman’s office. I thought the other complainants may be interested what they may expect.

I, like many, always assumed the Ombudsman to be a ‘big brother’ or ‘final authority’ with municipal issues not able to be resolved locally. So, I left them to the last. After attempting to discuss some serious issues with various staff managers without success, I moved on to sharing not only the issues with council, but the lack of concern on the part of some senior staff. Apparently that lack of concern is contagious in the administrative offices, because for the most part, council didn’t care either. I even attempted to involve our local MPP. Since a portion of our funding comes from the province, perhaps there’d be help from that office. Instead, I was rather haughtily told not to involve our local provincial representative; that I was to take this up with staff, then council. The fact that I’d made it clear I’d already done so didn’t matter. So, on to the Ombudsman it was.

At first, the Ombudsman rep was quite concerned at some of what was in the rather lengthy file I sent. But only at first. My 40-50 emails out (over 2-3 years), with about a 10% reply rate was very easy to follow; just time-consuming.

One issue involved a lack of clarity or financial sense with a particular program. However, in the end, the staffer in question was found to have done their job satisfactorily, by responding to my concerns with an information email. I reminded the Ombudsman that the reply took almost 18 months to receive, and was neither factual or accurate. The actual rendering of the program, or the budget expenditures for it were vastly different than the reply described, as I had pointed out in further emails. No matter, they did eventually respond, so staff had done their job, and all is well. Under that legal precedent, Trump should have been exonerated completely. Truth and accuracy isn’t required, just empty rhetoric.

On that note, one other large issue got similar treatment. My email trail with a staff manager showed extremely unsafe machine operations, actions which were defended by the staffer, rather than denied. However, in communications with the Ombudsman, the same manager described a completely different, and completely false scenario. (I also mentioned this conflicting report to council and got my usual single response. Apparently the ‘representatives of the taxpayers’ are ok with staff issuing false statements to the Ombudsman.) If the staffer was so sure of themselves to previously argue their methods earlier, why change the story later? They should have proudly doubled down on their prior attitude towards safety. In other words, they’ve known all along that these actions are unsafe; they’re just clever enough to know when to change the story. Even more frightening, when I reminded the Ombudsman of the content of previous e mails, she agreed that the behaviour was dangerous; even came close to agreeing that the manager had probably fabricated their response, but in the event of conflicting stories, the municipal employee’s version is the one that will be considered as the final word. If that’s the case, why bother with this office at all?

In short, the other complainants shouldn’t expect miracles, and we now have proof why some staff members feel to be beyond reproach: because they apparently are.

We’ve all heard the expression ‘you get the government you deserve’. What have we done to deserve this?

Bill Cameron, Bognor


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