Short Council Meeting

The Committee of the Whole Council meeting on 9 January was probably the shortest ever (less than an hour). The big item on the Agenda was a review of unfinished business from the previous term but Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty moved that consideration of it be moved until after Council had met to create a new Strategic Plan. This would mean that action schedules and even “disposing” of actions could be set in line with Council priorities. Councillor Miriam Mutton wanted to discuss several items but in the end voted with other councillors to accept Nicole’s deferral.  She wondered about the Strategic planning session schedule (not yet set) and whether it would include the Governance review (No).  The dates for budget reviews were postponed a couple of weeks so these other sessions will likely be late February or March.  That means the unfinished business items will not be reviewed until at least March.

Unfinished Business List – summary

Note that these are actions for staff as directed by Council – not actions for Council.

  1. Research whether there should be a social planning and/or community development advisory committee to advise how affordable housing and other community health priorities fit within the strategic plan. Due: June 2019.
  2. Report on feasibility and options for use of Municipal land for affordable housing including use of parking lot at Memorial Arena for Tiny Home Demonstration Development.  No due date set.
  3. Review how to handle Uber in Cobourg: Due June 2020
  4. Report on how to manage Airbnb’s (Short Term Rentals): No due date set.
  5. Related to above: report on possible Accommodation tax: No due date set.
  6. Review Development Charges Addendum Process: Due 20 September 2022
  7. Review Energy Star Benchmarking Tool for Municipal Buildings: No due date set.
  8. Review Waterfront Resident Parking passes: Due in time for 2023 budget deliberations
  9. Develop detailed design of Daintry Public park – include public meeting: Due in time for 2023 budget deliberations
  10. Report on removal of barriers to Urban Agriculture (e.g. Chickens): Refer to new Council
  11. Review zoning by-law for rehabilitation treatment centres and Crisis Centres including a public meeting: Due 6 December 2021

It seems that the “unfinished business” item was added to the Agenda by Staff in an attempt to get a decision from Council but a review in an open Council meeting would in effect require Council to set priorities which could well be different than the previous Strategic Plan. So Nicole was astute in requiring that the issue be deferred until after the new plan is decided.

Other items at the meeting

  1. The Finance Department together with KPMG said that the 2021 (not a typo) financial statements had a clean audit – that is, accurate and no fraud detected.  Lucas asked if 12 months after year end was unusual – yes, it’s usually 6 months – but the schedule is not legislated.
  2. Cobourg resident Paige Wiggans pointed to a disconnect with what the By-Law manager told her versus the winter by-law covering parking on cul-de-sacs and wide corners.  It seems the By-Law manager gave her incorrect advice – the Town’s web site is correct. Brent Larmer apologized. Paige said “turns out we are on the same page”.
  3. For the first time the open Forum was used by someone from the Gallery – he (Mr. Dexter?) asked whether the Town had a dollar figure for the impact of Bill 23 – the answer was No. He also asked about revenue opportunities (3 in unfinished business).  Lucas assured him that he (Lucas) at least would be looking for revenue generating opportunities.

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Cobourg taxpayer
14 January 2023 10:05 am

BTW CAO Vaughan and Planning Director Scott already presented a report to council re: Bill 23 (see blog November 28 2022)

Rational
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 January 2023 12:54 pm

I believe what the commentary focus is on now is what is the potential financial impact specific to Cobourg taxpayers and/or service cuts and not the County as a whole per the report your are referring to. It is extremely important to know the specific financial impact, otherwise how do you prepare Town budgets – which forms the basis of taxes to be collected.

Cobourg taxpayer
13 January 2023 10:11 pm

I would appreciate it if the town of Cobourg finance department completed the required financial statements on time. Instead they’re trying to deflect and diffuse by requesting direction on investigating the impact of Bill 23. If they can’t complete the required tasks why are they asking council to add more?

Dunkirk
12 January 2023 6:47 am

Lots of very justified criticism of Town ‘performance’ levels on the posts below. Rather than add to the chorus, I’ll pass on a link to a short video by someone much smarter than us(9 minutes) that, I feel, can provide our Council with some understanding…..the difference between Planning and actually having a Winning Strategy.
Lets let the Black Hole of ‘Planning’ muddle on thru the Town’s To-Do list…’reviewing’ and ‘reporting’ and ‘developing’ and ‘co-ordinating’….
Lets challenge our Council and Mayor to put together a Winning Strategy towards lower taxes; job creation; private investment; propserity; youth engagement; housing…(ah–the things they campaigned on..remember those?)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuYlGRnC7J8

Sandpiper
Reply to  Dunkirk
12 January 2023 8:19 am

May be Mr Draper can pull up that list by individual / councilors as to what their campaign strong points and promises were . It might be nice to see them posted some where in the Council chambers as a reminder of what the public voted for . Good One ” the Black Hole ” Perfect description !

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Sandpiper
12 January 2023 10:03 am

Sandpiper, see https://cobourgtaxpayers.ca/election-2022-candidates-election-material/ for a collection of candidate material.

Jade
12 January 2023 5:56 am

Does any of this surprise us ? I think not.

cornbread
11 January 2023 1:24 pm

Are “Staff” still working from home? If they are, could this be the reason for slow/poor performance. Get all hands on deck perhaps!

Rob
Reply to  cornbread
11 January 2023 3:29 pm

Cornbread – there isn’t a correlation between poor performance and working from home, when the leadership is engaged and holds their team accountable for the work. I know many people have a hard time understanding this, however it is true. This is a leadership issue.

Sandpiper
Reply to  cornbread
13 January 2023 10:06 am

Perhaps Management and CAO’s
should have a mandatory reading of
THE FUTURE IS ANALOG by David Sax
It may provide some understanding of the Lack of
functionality , timely actions and cooperative responses
between departments .

Lucas Cleveland
Reply to  Sandpiper
18 January 2023 2:22 pm

Sandpiper, this may be one of your most appropriate posts that I’ve read. I just finished this book last week and you are 100% right it would be good for everyone in a leadership role to read that book. We are in the throws of the largest change/shift in our society since the industrial revolution, some argue that we are undergoing the biggest change in humanity since the agricultural revolution. Go no further then ChatGPT to see the way everything from our education system, legal system, economy and social construct will need to change to adopt to a future with AI present in everything we do. With the needs of our growing and aging population, ever increasing costs in all aspects of service delivery and the growing expectations of what governments should provide for its citizens all lends itself for each one of us to seriously all rethink how we are to proceed and what we want to see from our various levels of government. We all should realize that societal change and the rate of change is speeding up exponentially and that many businesses, institutions and government institutions have not kept pace and they will all continue to fall further and further behind if we don’t start to all switch our thinking. It requires all, or at least a majority of the public along with our leaders to realize that looking for ways to change the way we operate in government and the keeping the status quo isn’t even an option. Change is happening faster then ever, the amount of work required to even catch up is getting more and more daunting let alone being visionary. Further not making decisions on how to address those changes is a decision and it means we will continue falling further and further… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by Lucas Cleveland
Eastender
11 January 2023 7:37 am

What is the “Open Forum”?

Bryan
Reply to  Eastender
11 January 2023 8:21 am

Eastender,

Open Forum is a part of the Committee of the Whole meeting (usually at the end of the meeting) when residents can ask questions of clarity. In some cases, Council allows questioning after each agenda segment

Open Forum has not been used to any great extent at Cobourg Council meetings because it is at the end of the meeting and people don’t want to wait that long to ask their question(s). The pandemic didn’t help.
Some (many) people didn’t use OF because they felt Council wasn’t listening and often didn’t answer their question(s)

Lucas Cleveland
Reply to  Bryan
18 January 2023 2:29 pm

During the governance review we will be looking to move that up on the agenda based on this criticism.

Cobourg taxpayer
10 January 2023 3:23 pm

What irks me the most is there is a new CAO and several new staff hired and still many things never get done. Have a bunch of incompetents been hired? Is Ian Davey still doing finance? Wasn’t he the one that was asked for a report during covid when everyone was working from home and he couldn’t complete this in a timely manner. I believe Suzanne Seguin asked why the delay.
And now the financials of 2021 are complete????! Does anyone at city hall know what the date today is? Hello! Did the mayor ask why it’s taken this long for financials when the normal time is 6 months? The CAO is in charge of the finance department what is her response?
It sounds as if it’s council’s responsibility to set due dates so why have some not been set? On the other hand when a due date is set nothing gets done by staff ( see item 1 with a due date of June 2019). Although, as has been said repeatedly, subsidized housing is a county responsibility. And now a new strategic plan is needed which delays things to March? What a confusing mess. How does anything ever get finished?

Old Sailor
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
11 January 2023 2:48 pm

Cobourg Taxpayer: You are right on about the tardiness of the completion of the Town’s Consolidated Financial Statements. The audit firm – KPMG – cannot issue its auditor’s report until Council has approved the financial statements and signed paperwork to that effect. In my working life I was the audit engagement partner for many public TSX listed companies. As I recall larger entities had 90 days after their year-end to publicly file their financial statements on SEDAR. Smaller entities had 120 days. Failing to comply with those deadlines could lead to the company being delisted from the stock exchange and their Directors would have a black mark put on their record as a Director of a publicly traded company. The Town of Cobourg takes over a year to publish their financial statements!!!!! Perhaps we should “delist” Councilors and our Treasury leaders if the Town’s financial statements are not on the Town’s website within 120 days – by April 30 of the following year.

Bryan
Reply to  Old Sailor
11 January 2023 3:15 pm

Old Sailor,

As a PMM (now KPMG) alumnus, my experience is similar to yours except I was in the company’s controller’s office. The company was a sub of a sub of a public company. We had a very tight month end schedule, closed the books in 8 days and reported to the Board in 15. The audited FS due date was equally tight. To meet the audit and quarterly due dates it was “all hands on deck”. Illness or vacation were not acceptable excuses.

Missing these due dates was a career limiting event.

I agree that Council should set a due date for the presentation of the audited FS to Council and Apr 30 is a reasonable date.

Cobourg has also not filed its 2021 provincial FIR (Financial Information Return) which was due May 31. Most municipalities have filed, some as early as June, many between July and October. Cobourg historically is a very late filer.

Last edited 22 days ago by Bryan
Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
12 January 2023 5:01 pm

Interesting that in the last 6 years plus director Davey has never met a financial reporting deadline and was over a year late with the user fee study. I imagine he still has a job because it is too expensive to fire him.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Concerned
12 January 2023 6:27 pm

Concerned,

Due to Ian Davey’s length of service and likely a sizable vacation/sick bank, termination costs could be significant. In the private sector, this consideration would often be balanced against the harm to the company resulting from keeping an unproductive or toxic employee.

Larger non-profit (government) organizations have adopted this private sector practice to some degree. Cobourg, being at the smaller end of the scale has not.

Concerned
Reply to  SW Buyer
12 January 2023 6:50 pm

Nor can they afford to, the town would lose their minds if they paid an employee 200k plus their pension to leave.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Concerned
12 January 2023 7:12 pm

Concerned,

Totally understand your concern.
This is why the best interests of the corporation may not mesh with the residents’ perspective.

Please note that the pension is paid by OMERS (not the Town) once the employee reaches the threshold age or years of service. .

Concerned
Reply to  SW Buyer
12 January 2023 7:35 pm

Oh I know that, but it the additional padding with the pension.

Concerned
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
12 January 2023 4:58 pm

No director Davey is in charge of finance.

Rob
10 January 2023 2:35 pm

If you’re an employee assigned and responsible for a project due in June 2019 or June 2020, you might want to rethink your career decision and polish up your resume. In June 2020, there should have been a recommendation on how to manage ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft, etc). How about launch ride-sharing in Cobourg/Northumberland, observe and evaluate the service and its impact on the community and then make adjustment as necessary – like every other community in North America has had to do. There are templates and examples already in existence, why is this task 2 1/2 years past due (likely assigned >3 years ago)? We have an underserviced community – the lack of progress hurts the residents. Similarly with Airbnb services – figure it out. We aren’t at all unique. There are many communities who regulate this service today – get it done! Where is the CAO in this? Is there ANY evidence of accountability for staff? Is anyone holding the CAO accountable – frankly, this reflects poorly on her? Is this paralysis through analysis?! Unacceptable and embarrassing.

How does the Mayor feel about projects 1, 2, and 3 years past due and project owners who drag their heels? He spoke about this during his campaign, so where is that enthusiasm now?

Sandpiper
Reply to  Rob
11 January 2023 8:54 am

Of course the CAO can be held accountable but who at this council will call for it
They are all afraid of being put in a similar situation down the road .
As for developers dragging their heels , I think we need to ask the Developers why that is
I think you might hear some surprising stories especially around the fact of Planning and engineering department delays , along with requests and costs of the Town that have pushed the projects past the point of financial feasibility and affordability

ben
Reply to  Sandpiper
11 January 2023 1:16 pm

Once again a slam against the planning department with no sources to back it up – good one Sandpiper!

Kevin
Reply to  Sandpiper
12 January 2023 9:16 am

I have heard stories from developers/builders about the lengthy delays from Planning. In part, I think that is what Bill 23 is supposed to ‘help’ with. Developers have funds committed to projects. The faster the projects are completed the faster those funds can be used for other projects. Rob wrote, “… project owner who drag their heel?” I don’t thing he was referring to developers. He may be referring to town employees who are responsible for projects like the review on how to handle Uber. Who is responsible to assign this task? Who was it assigned to? etc. Lots of questions about why the task is not done instead of dealing with the task.

Rational
Reply to  Kevin
12 January 2023 1:21 pm

This article from Northumberland News indicates that the Cobourg Finance Department (Davey) is asking Council for a Resolution requesting them to look at the impact Bill 23 will have on Cobourg Taxpayers, saying it is a lot of work to estimate the impact.

https://www.northumberlandnews.com/news-story/10833854-cobourg-council- questioned-on-bill-23-impact/

Mr. Cleveland said in his Utube posting Jan 4th that 2023 Budgets were now on the agenda for the next 9 days or so and he and the Deputy Mayor busy.

CP24 reports that Toronto, Vaughn and Mississauga have estimated the dollar range Bill 3 will have on revenue and taxpayers.

My point is why would determining the impact of Bill 23 on taxpayers not be automatic and a priority as part of the budget process as other municipalities are saying a 5 – 10% tax increase could result. Others have done this all ready. The Finance Department should not need a Resolution to simply do its job – that’s what they are paid for. AND the Mayor should be pressing for this information as soon as possible in the budget process, not just asking Mr. Davey as the article says if there is intent in 2023 to put a number on it.

Bryan
Reply to  Rational
12 January 2023 3:32 pm

Rational,

Well stated and I agree:

  • Finance should be proactive in bringing these issues to Council rather than passively waiting for direction to do so.
  • It could be an onerous job if one had to start from zero. I don’t think that is the case here. As you noted, other municipalities have already studied the issue and reported on the expected impact. Using their work as a template should significantly reduce the work needed to assess the impact on Cobourg

There are any number of retired “experts” (CAs and other finance/business people) who could assist (or do) the study. I expect that the work would be “consultant grade” and done in a timely manner. All the Town has to do is ask and I’m confident qualified volunteers would show up.

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
13 January 2023 10:48 am

Proactive, they can’t even meet a deadline that they know comes four times a year every year. Clearly not a priority for this director.

Concerned
Reply to  Kevin
12 January 2023 5:02 pm

Have the developers told you how many times they were responsible for delays it’s easy to have one side of the story.

Concerned
Reply to  Rob
12 January 2023 5:25 pm

I suspect for the companies you mentioned (uber/lyft) it would not be financially rewarding enough to come to a town the size of Cobourg if it was they would have approached the town long ago to set up shop.

Bryan
10 January 2023 2:30 pm

John,

Your item 9 on the UFB list is in regard to Daintry Park.

There seems to be a section missing compared to your June 6, 2022 UFB list:

Council motion on 2022-01-24 “Rezoning Daintry Crescent to Parkland”

Specifically, Council’s direction to staff to rezone “Daintry Park” to parkland in a timely manner. I believe Clr Chorley intended “timely” to be 60-90 days, not 12 months with no apparent action.

This is yet another example in a long list of the broken promises and bad faith on he part of the Town. It amounts to a “breach of trust” as I believe Clr Chorley termed it.

Parkland zoning is a minor impediment to overcome if the town was to change the land usage in the future. For the Daintry residents however it is proof that they have been heard and their concerns taken seriously.

Hopefully Mayor Cleveland & Council will “make this right” and prevail on staff to get the task done in a “timely” manner.
I suggest a due date of the CoW meeting on April 3rd.

Last edited 23 days ago by Bryan
Bryan
10 January 2023 1:48 pm

John,

You wrote: “had a clean audit – that is, accurate and no fraud detected.”

KPMG states in their audit opinion: “In our opinion, the accompanying financial statements present fairly, in all material respects”

Presents fairly in all material respects is not the same as accurate. It is a qualifier meaning “reasonably accurate” not “absolutely accurate”

No fraud detected does not mean fraud hasn’t occurred.

As KPMG states

“The risk of not detecting a material misstatement resulting from fraud is higher than for one resulting from error, as fraud may involve collusion, forgery, intentional omissions, misrepresentations, or the override of internal control.”

The auditors do not specifically look for fraud, but conduct their testing with skepticism and wariness.

Note the use of the word “material”. It is important to understand the meaning in the context of an audit. The auditors assess the risk of something being “off” and set their materiality threshold accordingly. The higher the assessed risk, the lower the materiality threshold.

For an organization of Cobourg’s size, a materiality threshold of $50K for example, might be appropriate. This means that a detected “error” greater than $50K is a problem that needs to be assessed and the risk re-evaluated. The materiality threshold may be lowered and additional testing required.

Errors less than $50K are not cause for immediate action but the number and aggregate amount are tracked. If the materiality threshold is surpassed, risk re-assessment and additional testing may be required. 

Last edited 23 days ago by Bryan