The other day a member of Hudson’s town council greeted us with “have you heard the good news?”
“Uh, which good news?”
“Louise Villandré pleading guilty to six charges.”
“That’s good news?” The former town manager had been charged with 19 counts connected with the disappearance of approximately $1,1 million between 1997 and 2012. Villandré’s guilty plea short-circuits a trial so it saves the Crown time and money. But it also means we’ll never learn exactly how the once trusted public servant pulled it off, or why. Did she have a gambling addiction? Worse, how could it be that two mayors and three administrations never asked for the external auditor’s reports or challenged the growing number of bridge loans.
Between 1997 and 2012, the Town of Hudson increased its indebtedness from about $6 million to more than $32 million. Most of that debt was in what amounts to a line of credit, the argument being there was no point in rolling it into fixed-rate municipal bonds until Hudson received monies pledged by the federal and provincial governments. Clearly, two mayors and three councils didn’t think that was irregular even though the Hudson Gazette questioned the practice.
This past Monday (Dec. 14) evening, the mayor and council were to have learned whether, now that Villandré has pleaded guilty, whether any of the town’s losses are covered by insurance. Until now, this administration’s recovery efforts have concentrated on refusing to pay the external auditor’s bill and intervening to prevent a private auction of Villandré’s personal effects. Did Hudson have insurance against administrative malfeasance and if so, was it invalidated by a clear lack of oversight? We know members of previous councils co-signed every cheque issued during that period.
The current mayor and council have made a priority out of blaming others as an excuse for inaction. The result? A revolving door at town hall, where the atmosphere is charitably described as poisonous.
This evening I’m headed to the community centre for the presentation of the town’s 2016 budget. Between you and me, I’d rather stay home and watch the last U.S. Republican candidates’ debate.