Community Concerns After Revelations About Strathearns
The local internet is buzzing with activity since the revelation that Councillor Stewart Strathearn’s wife Joan has been identified as being a convicted criminal who was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in a penitentiary for her part in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme that saw middle-aged and elderly couples lose their homes, businesses and retirement income to elaborate scams back in the 80s and 90s. As if that were not troubling enough, the claims continue that she owes almost $2 million dollars in restitution to the victims and has yet to make a payment. It is alleged that she married, changed her name and moved to Midland only to be discovered by a group called VictimAdvocates. With Stewart Strathearn running for re-election in 2018 and this time, as Mayor, that would make his wife “first lady” of Midland. Is this what we would have as our head of council and representing Midland at the County and to the Province? That will be for voters to decide.
After learning of the allegations via anonymous tip to our news form and Twitter feed, we were shocked and dismayed to read the documents and allegations that Joan Margaret Strathearn is (was) the Joan Margaret Blackwell that they have been pursuing for many years.
The group’s website (http://dixons1996.wixsite.com/justiceforthevictims) implies that the group is formed of victims of Joan Margaret Blackwell and Micheal Jenkinson’s frauds. They have been looking for the pair and seek the restitution owed which amounts to around $1.8 million dollars. They claim that they became aware of Joan’s whereabouts by searching online and after reading stories published on the Town of Midland’s website and, ironically, on this site’s critique of other Council issues.
We attempted to verify some of the documents posted but many predate the internet as we know it (a fact that works in the favour of the subject in this case). We visited the archives of the newspapers cited and for a fee, were able to access the old publications which we can confirm are accurate. The only ones we could not access this way are those of the Sunday Sun and will require us to visit the archives in person. The news in those articles is already confirmed in the ones we could buy online. So, having done some “due diligence” we are asking some questions on behalf of the community at large.
The purpose of this article is not to republish the lengthy and disturbing facts found in the court documents and newspaper articles posted on the VictimAdvocates website (http://dixons1996.wixsite.com/justiceforthevictims) as you are free to read those for yourself and form your own conclusions.
Instead, we must ask some tough questions about this revelation and how it impacts Midland, aside from the embarrassment.
The losses incurred by her victims are troubling enough but we’ve learned that they will use the legal system to recover those funds from her/their assets now that they know where they live again. The facts of the crimes are heartbreaking and reminds us of those reported about disgraced local developer Perry Hatzipetrakos but on a much larger scale, making his frauds of local elderly pale by comparison.
It is also rather ironic that we had just posted an article about the fundraising drive that his group, MidlandCommunity.ca began after their website redesign. In the research for that article, we found that Joan is the owner of the MidlandCommunity.ca domain name and has been from the day it was first registered. It was also noted that Joan is the person who receives the [email protected] email and plays a role behind the scenes. We even asked about the auditing of those donations and who handles the funds and how a member of that group (of which many of us are) can get an accounting of those donations. No response from that group on that article.
The key question of the group’s founders (George Dixon, Roy Ellis and Stewart Strathearn) is what role does Joan play within the group and were they not the least bit concerned about the optics of having Strathearn and his wife as spokespeople and managers (ambassadors) of their group? Does Joan have any responsible roles in the community that involve finances or any access to finances or vulnerable people?
What about Strathearn’s position on the Police Services Board? He is one of five people who control the funding and oversight of our community police. Criminal background checks are not required to run for or hold a seat in politics. If they were, scrutiny would be paid to the applicant, their spouse and immediate family members. I wonder if our members of council would all pass background checks like that? Should they have to?
I suppose one could say that he is not his spouse and that her sins don’t apply to his ability to do a job, but we are not talking about a shoplifting conviction are we? He is married to her and her debts and criminal past would be well known to him. She is alleged to owe almost $2 million to her victims and both have known about this debt since 1996.
Assuming these revelations are true, this speaks to a person’s ethical and moral standing. When were they planning on repaying the restitution? Were they hoping that the name change, location change and the fact that the victims are now dying off to shelter them from the debt?
How can a leader in our community continue to represent us and command the respect of those in the community, on boards and Town Council with these skeletons having fallen so clearly out of the closet?
There is shame and disgrace in these revelations. Will our Mayor Gord McKay repeat those now famed words he used when it was revealed that he had been a knowing party to selecting a convicted fraudster to develop the Midland Bay Landing project (ironically a name that was chosen by Joan Strathearn) that “we are not all lily white”… Will that be his response yet again? If he would comment to us we’ll let you know.
What about the police board and the police in general? Are they content to sit down and be guided by Stewart Strathearn under these new circumstances?
Perhaps Mr Strathearn should consider bowing out of his positions of influence and authority, focus on helping Joan to repay her victims and focus on their issues at home. Nobody could blame him for wanting to deal with these chickens that have now seemingly come home to roost.
I would also think that MidlandCommunity.ca may be considering how this looks… and if they knew about any of this all along.
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see if they choose to respond to these revelations online and in the local media. It is not everyday that a story like this comes to a small community like Midland. If the allegations are untrue, then we would expect some kind of response and naturally we would publish that followup. The next question would be what purpose could making all this up serve? We won’t know if we pursue that until the Strathearn’s make some kind of public statement one way or the other. Given the nature of the allegations, some kind of response is deserved.
In the meantime, we continue to share news that is published online and concerns our community and expect the professional news media to pick up the ball. Sadly our local newspaper (MidlandMirror) has proven to shy away from controversial stories but we will remain optimistic none-the-less.
I suspect that this is not the last we will hear about this issue.
The local news (simcoe.com) published a story where they confronted Strathearn about this issue and his response was telling:
The site, under a “Jo Midland” byline, recently published information about the wife of Coun. Stewart Strathearn. They stated Joan Strathearn had been convicted of fraud under a different name and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.
Stewart Strathearn did not comment on the report, saying the information brought up “painful memories.”
“I don’t want to pour gasoline on this fire,” he said. “I’m happy to talk about my duties as a councillor, but not more than that.”
Jo Midland said the information was posted after they received information they felt needed to be shared.
“If he knows his wife was convicted of those offences and was happy to keep her hidden away up here, that speaks to his character,” wrote Jo Midland.