Pissing it away

Back when, Hudson mayors were notoriously cheap. The late Taylor Bradbury kept a shovel in the trunk of his Caddy and legend has it he would stop to dig out a blocked culvert instead of calling public works. I wonder what Bradbury would make of $7 for a litre jug of windshield washer juice.

The pennypinching former Sun Life CEO must be spinning in his grave at the profligacy evidenced in the list of payments released at the Jan. 11 council meeting.

Some ratepayers might be okay with the town cutting a cheque for $1,200 to the Montreal Pipes and Drums Band or $500 to les Zouaves de Je Ne Sais Pas Ou for their appearances at the Santa Claus parade. I have an issue with spending money for the sake of spending money, like $2,086 to the Holiday Inn in Vaudreuil-Dorion for the 15-person production team here last fall to shoot an episode of La Petite Séduction. To what purpose? The RadCan production’s Xmas show featured celebrity chef Ricardo in St. Sauveur, where there are things to do. But Hudson? The dilapidated downtown core, replete with shipping containers and other blatant zoning violations? Potholed streets? Pine Flats? A guided tour of Hudson’s scandalously overpriced infrastructure projects and the homes of the key players? The Hudson episode is scheduled to air sometime this spring. Any bets on the net effect on tourism?

Advertising without a campaign plan is money squandered, like whatever it cost for those impossible-to-decipher Welcome to Hud5on banners. A spelling mistake? A reference to the 150th anniversary, now over? Whoever came up with these oddities should have consulted a graphic designer. One out-of-towner told me she had to stop her car to be able to read them. I preferred the duck.

Hydro: Nearly 20 grand, according to the last list of payments. Hydro bills two months at a time, so I’m assuming the bill doesn’t include December. Lighting up Hudson’s splendid firehall costs almost $4,000, followed by the Community Centre ($3,782) and the sewage plant ($2,800). Is there no one on the payroll capable of turning out the lights?

Then there are disturbing legal bills, beginning with $10,083 to law firm Dunton Rainville to represent an elected Hudson official in hearings before the Quebec Municipal Commission into an alleged breach of Quebec’s code of ethics and behaviour. Dunton Rainville is also representing the town in a civil action instituted by Judy Sheehan, the labour-relations specialist hired by the municipality less than two years ago to negotiate a new collective agreement with municipal employees. Dunton Rainville has also been mandated to pursue a defamation action against an unnamed person.

The town’s new DG told me recently current legal expenses are in the neighbourhood of $200,000. I’m still attempting to learn whether that’s for a year — or for active files.

Now I’m wondering whether that is why administrative expenses have shot through the roof in the 2016 budget.

We turn to the Index des memoires, an itemized list of files discussed in caucus and at working tables which resulted in resolutions the public may or may never see. This document made its first appearance at the last council meeting and like any successful striptease, hints at far more than it reveals. I identified nearly a dozen resolutions hinting at legal action — files about former employees, former DG Louise Villandré’s trial, CSST complaints and the creation of “an operational task force to implement…” something in connection with “Cynthia Maher c. Ville de Hudson Pine Lake”. Like I said, it reveals less than it conceals.

Another item reads “Article 81 recover Haulard’s computer and stolen files, demand damages and interest,” the latest instalment in the legal imbroglio involving Hudson’s former director-general and the current administration. Inquiring citizens might well be asking whether Dunton Rainville is piloting this file as well, and for how much. Prior experience has shown the current administration is fast to institute legal proceedings at considerable cost to taxpayers, then settle on the eve of court proceedings.

Far worse are veiled references to libel actions. “Préjudice personnel — atteinte a la reputation. Citizen.” […] “Valente c elses and Hudson.” Anyone who has criticized any of Hudson’s elected or appointed officials seems to live in fear of the bailiff’s knock. Resident David Vance began the opening question period with a demand that Mayor Ed Prévost confirm or deny that he was planning to sue Vance. My recording has Prévost assuring Vance he has no plans to sue him.

The Charest Liberals adopted a law protecting citizens from libel chill but municipalities across the province (Hudson is no exception) continue to use the threat of legal or economic sanctions to silence dissent.

Journalists are used to libel chill. I’ve been sued repeatedly throughout my journalistic career, including by a former Quebec premier. (We settled out of court.) The right to fair comment is a principle worth fighting for, but sometimes it’s better to apologize and live to fight another day.. In some dictatorships, dissenters have to be prepared to die for what they believe. In Hudson, critics of the current administration don’t have that problem, but this bunch appears to believe it can impose its agenda and quash criticism with the implied threat of libel action.

Canadians need to be aware there is no such animal as freedom of speech in this country, no equivalent of the American First Amendment.  A nuisance lawsuit launched against you with your tax dollars can cost thousands and who needs the aggravation and stress? My advice? Transparency activists can draw more attention to their cause by using humour and wit to make a point and energize the disinterested. Keep it funny and nobody gets hurt. Except the lawyers.

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8 thoughts on “Pissing it away

  1. So glad to have you back Jim! Have missed your clear understanding (and sharing) of what is not always so obvious to the rest of us who are muddling through these meetings and agendas. Thank you.

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  2. Leading off with one of my many lawyer jokes:
    Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and a vulture?
    A: Removable wingtips.

    At this rate, when the dust settles on all the internal and external legal bills, this year Hudson will probably spend more on lawyers than what we spend in an average year repaving. These outstanding issues need to be settled quickly because they form a major, unproductive and expensive distraction to any good that the current council may actually be accomplishing.

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  3. Wonderful ,Jim and that comment , Peter, about legal fees creeping up to challenge paving for the taxpayers buck is frightfully accurate. So now at least the bailiffs will bottom out on potholes coming to my door. One thing that caught my attention from the other night’s council mtg. was the Mayor’s assertion that the employee suspension was an internal administrative issue and had nothing to do w/Council . Now if he could just tell us what Council was doing with all that spare time they have because it’s not really obvious to these mortal eyes. Pass the Mayor some more Teflon , he may be running low.

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    1. The trouble with administrative issues is that unelected (unaccountable!) individuals can hide behind a claim of due process to serve as judge, jury and executioner to railroad hapless employees out the door. As I’ve written in the past, there are three levels of punishment in a bureaucracy — shoot to wound, shoot to kill or shoot to kill and throw the body from the train. In the case you’re referring to, I suspect the aim is to begin the file-building process that will result in that person’s firing.

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    2. Pissing it Away

      I don’t want to be judgemental but I have an opinion.

      I am stepping in here with sadness. Sadness that the Hudson community is turning into a not-so-nice socio-ethical place to engaged in.

      I’ve been walking around for months mumbling to anyone that will listen, council included: there is a nice-way to do things and a not-so-nice way to do things. I’ve been told by truly decent folk whom I’ve known forever, that a certain procedure TPAC procedure followed which I said was not-such a- nice, was done according to the DG advice, the law and and as a team player.

      Um hum! There is more than one way to interpret the law, otherwise why would a Court of Law exist! Is there a game going on here under the guise of the letter-of-the-law and team rules ? Why would anyone want to do that ?

      That behaviour signals the loss of the individual right to a personal code of ethics. Dangerous Stuff. What is going on here?

      Bitching and whining will get a person so far, it has no future. So, I’m calling for action.

      Duff’s last paragraph says:. Transparency activists………….keep it funny and nobody gets hurt. Except the lawyer. Healthy undercurrent here. Duff acknowledges a role for public awareness and suggests an action to what otherwise is behind closed doors.

      Next suit on the agenda, how about a slapstick panto on stage at Hudson Village Theatre? I offer to cover the theatre expenses.

      I want to laugh. I have had enough of being sad.

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    3. I hesitate to comment on anything I didnt hear first hand, just because I’m a prime source kind of a girl. With exception, I will respond to Brian’s comment re: last council meeting where the mayor said the employee suspension…..had nothing to do with council…..

      Why would the Mayor make a point of announcing that ?

      Is it true or false that the council voted on the suspension?

      What is going on here?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It is puzzling for sure. I don’t see how an internal administrative issue should be brought up at a council meeting or have to be voted on by council. Doesn’t the DG have responsibility for town employees? therefore also the authority that goes with it? If the DG felt that there was an issue with an employee he would no doubt talk about it to the mayor who would have told him to “do as you see fit”. It’s confusing when the mayor says council has nothing to do with it but votes on it???

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