Deputy Mayor Disappointed with Financial Reports

At Monday’s regular Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin spoke out about the lack of any reports on the status of Cobourg’s Financial status and the impact of Covid-19 on the Town’s Finances.  Without that she said it was very difficult to plan for the future of our Town.  Since her statement was given as part of her “General Government Coordinator report” there was no chance for a rebuttal but no doubt Ian Davey will point to his dual role as Treasurer and Interim CAO.  But you have to wonder why in this age of computers, snapshot reports at quarter end could not be provided in a maximum of a few days.  Businesses do that regularly; why is it so difficult for the Municipality of Cobourg?  If the interim CAO is busy, ask the IT person.  If there are other obstacles to fast reporting, surely it’s clear that Suzanne’s request is high priority.

Suzanne Seguin - File photo
Suzanne Seguin – File photo

Here is a transcript of Suzanne’s statement (photo right):

“During my last Council update, I did mention that I had requested a review of the second quarter financials for 2020 and setting a date for council to receive another update on the impact of Covid-19 on current and future budgets.  These documents and discussions will help to decide on setting a goal for the 2020 budget [did she mean 2021?].  Unfortunately, here at almost the end of our third quarter, I’m disappointed to say that General Government has not received these very important reports even though many other communities have begun budget 2021 meetings with budget targets which I am asked for on a regular basis, and the impact of Covid-19.  It is very difficult to plan for the future of our Town without these financials to do so.  I will continue to ask our staff for these documents and hope to receive them in the near future.”

Or view the Town’s video starting at her report:

The last report giving any idea of the impact of the pandemic was in early April.  Since then estimates of the impact would have (or should have?) been updated with facts – Suzanne, other Councillors and the public deserve to know where we stand and some idea of what will be happening in the future.

Staff and Council meetings to set the 2021 budget will be happening soon – in 2019, the 2020 budget process started on 16 September when citizens were asked for their input.  Staff were then asked to prepare Department draft budgets and these were publicly presented on 21 November.

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Sandpiper
28 September 2020 9:22 am

It was probably not the intention of Mr Davey’s Department to let the cat out of the Bag
about the Successful Tax Appeals by First Pro and its Tenants and the Huge refunds the Town had to kick back in a year such as this . Bad News all around

MiriamM
Reply to  Sandpiper
28 September 2020 10:01 am

In regular reports to Council, such things as tax appeals and adjustments are listed and identified. Cobourg is not the only Ontario municipality facing large tax appeals by big corporations. The tax burden only gets shifted to the rest of us, and possibly small businesses and the residential sector.

Frenchy
Reply to  MiriamM
28 September 2020 10:04 am

Thank you Captain Obvious.

The tax burden only gets shifted to the rest of us, and possibly (?) small businesses and the residential sector.

Without “small businesses and the residential sector”, who is there to shoulder the burden?

Last edited 21 days ago by Frenchy
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Frenchy
28 September 2020 11:08 am

We can shift the burden off small businesses and the residential sector by reducing spending.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
28 September 2020 2:37 pm

Captain Obvious? Who is that? Another pseudonym?

ben
25 September 2020 8:22 pm

I will not reply to each reply to my post but will reiterate there are protocols to be observed by all participants in the Municipal process.

In this case a coordinator in charge of a portfolio has publicly and pointedly castigated, not disciplined, the people in her portfolio. And in public!

I still maintain that there must be underlying problems in the relationship that the coordinator has with the leader of her own portfolio. If there were problems there are protocols to go through both in the Staff side and the Political side.

Unless you can convince me that the protocols were followed and failed to produce the required statements (for instance did the coordinator talk to the head of Council about it. How forcefully did she talk to Mr Davey?) to the coordinator then I stand by my statement that blame is to be held on both sides and this was an unnecessary political grandstand intended to embarrass the Staff.

In conclusion all I can say is good luck to the coordinator in getting full cooperation from now on.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
25 September 2020 10:09 pm

In conclusion all I can say is good luck to the coordinator in getting full cooperation from now on.

I’m shocked that you would suggest that professionals would stoop to failing to fully cooperate. Ben, I know nothing of your work background but in my experience less than full cooperation is not compatible with continued employment. To suggest otherwise, in my opinion, is absurd. Hopefully our new CAO will agree.

Last edited 23 days ago by Ken Strauss
ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
26 September 2020 7:30 am

Ken, there is cooperation and willing cooperation!!

Dubious
Reply to  ben
26 September 2020 12:53 pm

There is also merit pay and severance pay.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  ben
28 September 2020 7:37 pm

I agree, that display from Seguin was seriously out of line. Unprofessional as a municipal councillor and unbecoming as a human being. SHAME on her.

Frenchy
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
29 September 2020 6:42 pm

Finally… something we can agree on.
There are rumours that she had run-ins with staff up in Prescott while she was mayor there too.

Ben
25 September 2020 3:15 pm

I would to know why the coordinator in charge of the financial portfolio would have to grandstand in Council and castigate the staff? How many times has she asked the staff for the info how many times did she chase up the info?

Seems blame might not be one-sided here. After all for a Boss to discipline a subordinate in public is not a good management practise

Gerinator
Reply to  Ben
25 September 2020 3:50 pm

Ben this is not news to Ian. Lack of timely financial reporting has been a long standing issue that past Councils have ‘put up with’ because they’ve not been able to move the persons responsible to get the job done. I’ll acknowledge that there are some (only some) timing related issues regarding the gathering and reporting of data. There is a new ‘sheriff’ in town and I very much hope that she removes the ‘obstacles’ to timely, relevant reporting of finances so necessary for reasonable decision making and planning.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ben
25 September 2020 4:08 pm

Why should one have to ask staff twice or “chase” essential info? Assigning blame may not be “a good management practise” in the coddled minds of some modern snowflakes but it appears to have worked.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Ben
25 September 2020 5:39 pm

for a Boss to discipline a subordinate in public is not a good management practise

I have only seen this once within the financial community circles where I was employed, and the consequence was a disintegration of morale in the dept, which in turn, affected productivity. That boss lasted a very few months more when he was “let go”.

It appears that Suzanne has been persistent in her requests for info. She had made a promise to Council. That promise was not kept and required explaining. She did so, in a clever, but proper manner, by explaining that “general government” failed to deliver on her requests. It was generic, not personal.

Frenchy
Reply to  Wally Keeler
28 September 2020 8:54 pm

It appears that Suzanne has been persistent in her requests for info

Where did you see that? How many times did she ask Mr. Davey? She said she would continue to ask, not that she has asked numerous times?

The DM didn’t say that “general government” failed to deliver, she said “I’m disappointed to say that General Government has not received these very important reports”
Sheesh, and you say I have reading and comprehension deficiencies.
In any event, it was a classless act on her part.

Last edited 20 days ago by Frenchy
Bryan
Reply to  Ben
25 September 2020 5:59 pm

Ben: what disciplinary penalty did Ian suffer?
To be clear, none of the mayor, DM or council is Ian’s boss. He reports to the CAO. Period.
The DM’s comments made it clear that she has requested these reports several times, received commitments that they would be delivered, yet none have.
Her comments noted that the “office of general government” failed to deliver. It is totally appropriate and fair game in a corporate environment to comment on the failure of a corporate “office” or department to honour its commitments

Frenchy
Reply to  Bryan
28 September 2020 9:03 pm

The DM’s comments made it clear that she has requested these reports several times, received commitments that they would be delivered, yet none have.

I guess I missed that “several times” part, and the part about delivery commitments of the reports. Where did you see/hear that?

And… her comments noted that the “office of general government” failed to receive, not deliver.

Did you and Keeler write your posts together?

JimT
Reply to  Ben
26 September 2020 9:17 pm

“The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

Suzanne Séguin
25 September 2020 12:33 pm

John, I received an email yesterday from Director of Corporate Services Ian Davey, that the Second Quarter Financials for the Town of Cobourg to the end of June 2020 will be on the agenda for the October 5th Committee of the Whole meeting. Mr. Davey has also indicated that he is looking at October 15th for a COVID-19 update to Council. – Suzanne

SW Buyer
Reply to  Suzanne Séguin
25 September 2020 12:43 pm

Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Amazing how all of a sudden, the reports will be available in the next few weeks, just as the new CAO takes office. Gotta look good for the new boss.
The problem is that these reports are long overdue and there is no excuse for them not being provided and being late.

Last edited 23 days ago by SW Buyer
Dubious
Reply to  SW Buyer
25 September 2020 1:39 pm

SW, which golf green was getting the grease before Suznne?

Kevin
25 September 2020 10:02 am

Regardless of the current financial situation (we should get an updated) there is no doubt that spending at the federal and provincial levels is much, much higher than in a ‘normal’ year. The money will have to come from somewhere which often means higher taxes. The responsible thing to do at the local level is to provide essential services, not increase the number of town employees (maybe a reduction through attrition is in order) and stop all unnecessary projects. Covid and Covid spending are not going away anytime soon. This is not a time of plenty.

Leweez
Reply to  Kevin
25 September 2020 2:21 pm

Agree with an employee reduction through attrition.
Offering a “package” does save the employer money

JimT
Reply to  Kevin
26 September 2020 9:30 pm

But now we have MMT (Modern Monetary Theory):
“MMT’s main tenets are that a government that issues its own fiat money:

  1. Can pay for goods, services, and financial assets without a need to collect money in the form of taxes…
  2. Cannot be forced to default on debt denominated in its own currency;
  3. Is only limited in its money creation and purchases by inflation
  4. Can control demand-pull inflation by taxation…
  5. Does not compete with the private sector for scarce savings…”

[Wikipedia]

Apparently, in the Brave New World of the 21st Century, the old rules about fiscal responsibility no longer apply.

Last edited 22 days ago by JimT
Frenchy
Reply to  JimT
27 September 2020 9:13 am

JT says the government will take on the debt so we don’t have to. But, aren’t we the government? I was once told that every time you hear the phrase “the government”, replace it with “your neighbours”.
Try it.
Speaking of WE….

Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
27 September 2020 11:18 am

Attaboy Frenchy!
Such a simple concept.
Applied to a current local situation:
your neighbours are being (will be) asked to spend $1.24M for new busses for Cobourg, not the bargain price of $331K trumpeted by the local politicians.
Is this really a good deal?
What are the alternatives?
Can we afford this?
Is this what Cobourgians really need?

JimT
Reply to  Frenchy
2 October 2020 12:49 pm

I said no such thing! I merely quoted an item explaining MMT as proposed by various “authorities” and others.
Misunderstood again! [sigh…]

Last edited 16 days ago by JimT
Frenchy
Reply to  JimT
2 October 2020 3:47 pm

JT = Justin Trudeau

Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
27 September 2020 9:50 am

JimT, MMT may work for a while in a country that produces everything internally. For a country like Canada with significant imports — oil, finished goods, food, vaccines, capital — the imports will become more expensive. Since Justin wants to shut down our resource industries and fund vaccines for the rest of the world we have a huge problem. We can’t spend ourselves rich by making the productive poorer!

Kevin
Reply to  JimT
28 September 2020 7:57 am

With MMT we do not need to increase taxes now. But, on the same Wikipedia page:

“According to advocates, the primary risk once the economy reaches full employment is inflation, which can be addressed by gathering taxes to reduce the spending capacity of the private sector.

Deficit spending now adds to the debt that ‘our neighbours’ will have to pay back.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Kevin
28 September 2020 8:09 am

In case anyone is confused by the extent and impact of the deficit spending, a recent speech by MP Pierre Poilievre (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WdVnRLAvRQ) should clarify things.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Ken Strauss
28 September 2020 7:45 pm

That goof? Give me a break, we shouldn’t listen to conservatives unless it’s for humour value. Try Jagmeet Singh, he makes sense and he cares about people. We need more of that.

Frenchy
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
28 September 2020 8:26 pm

Try Jagmeet Singh

That goof? Give me a break,we shouldn’t listen to dippers unless it’s for humour value.
He’d be spending our great-great-great grand-kids’ money rather than his dancing partner JT, who (for the time being) has stalled at just our great-great grand-kids’.

Last edited 20 days ago by Frenchy
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
28 September 2020 8:49 pm

Surely you jest! I assume that you have no children to burden with the deficit from Justin’s vote purchases.

Bryan
24 September 2020 5:57 pm

John: Thank you for this. Very timely. You wrote “… in 2019, the 2020 budget process started on 16 September when citizens were asked for their input. Staff were then asked to prepare Department draft budgets and these were publicly presented on 21 November…” It has been commented previously that few (if any) citizens take advantage of this opportunity. The reason, I believe, is two fold: ..minimal useful budget information is presented at the September meeting(s), so there is little to comment on. Most of the citizen presenters ask for additional items. ..citizen participation and comment at the November meeting(s) is not encouraged. Residents are grudgingly allowed to comment at the end of the meeting during the “open forum” with a 5 minute time limit. Sometimes, Council allows the “open forum” comments after each budget section. This is a bit better. The net result is that Staff gets what they wants, perhaps with some minor changes. Citizen comments/suggestions are largely ignored. Council members rarely (there are exceptions) challenge budget items and question staff in a substantive detailed manner. Perhaps this year, with reduced Town revenue and a new CAO there will be some changes Your point about the lack of periodic (quarterly)… Read more »

Last edited 24 days ago by Bryan
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
24 September 2020 10:53 pm

Due to COVID-19 Cobourg is facing its greatest financial challenges in many years. How is it possible that at this critical time quarterly financial reports are 6 months late with no explanation for the delay? Outside government those responsible for such a failure of financial management would have been replaced months ago. NONE of the Councillors or the Mayor expressed any concern about the lack of financial reporting. Why?

Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
25 September 2020 7:24 am

Im guessing the interim CAO was expected to wear two hats and do two jobs including dealing with the pandemic. Maybe the blame for this ls just as much with the Deputy as anyone else?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Informed
25 September 2020 8:59 am

I can’t find the town’s 2019 financials. Where are they available? How can anyone consider a budget without knowing what was spent/collected last year? I watch Council meetings and this problem has not been discussed. Only the Deputy Mayor seems to care. Why are our Councillors and Mayor unconcerned about running our town blind?

Last edited 24 days ago by Ken Strauss
Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
25 September 2020 11:24 am

Im sure the pandemic and beach issue consumed much of the time this year since March.Not an excuse but maybe one reason?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Informed
25 September 2020 12:09 pm

Informed, why would the pandemic affect publishing 2019 financials? It is usual for a company to publish their results before the pandemic started in March. Why can’t our town? Also, with everyone on full pay and no visitors to Victoria Hall to distract, staff should have had more time than usual to work on financials. But more importantly, why does the Mayor not think that financials are critical to managing our town?

Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
25 September 2020 1:52 pm

Not sure. Maybe we will find out

cornbread
Reply to  Ken Strauss
25 September 2020 2:48 pm

The mayor was a school teacher, supported by a strong Union that took care of most of his financial situation. We need business management people on council to run things more like a business with proper deadlines.

Dunkirk
Reply to  Ken Strauss
26 September 2020 8:38 am

Agree…and it’s worth noting that communities such as Pt Hope; published their Audited Financials for 2019 on Aug 4th and Trent Hills on May 5th. Both those neighboring communities are dealing with the same health challenges.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dunkirk
26 September 2020 9:19 am

Indeed, Dunkirk. It is perhaps relevant that several local communities have recently replaced their CAO and/or CFO.

JimT
Reply to  Ken Strauss
26 September 2020 9:45 pm

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way”.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Informed
28 September 2020 7:49 pm

Glad to hear that someone is saying that, well done Mr. Informed. I sure hope Miriam Mutton runs next time, we need more of her and nothing at all from Seguin.