Our curiosity has increased with this term of Midland Council and the actions (and inactions) undertaken by Council and Senior Staff. During the previous term of Council, Midland was referred to as “Georgian Bay Township” due to the number of new staff hired who had strong ties to the CAO of the day during her term in Georgian Bay Township. Recently, Midland is now being called “Innisfil North” as a result of the number of new staff hires who have ties to Innisfil which so happens to be where the current CAO was employed as their CAO in years past.
Curiosity #1: Are these trends a coincidence or do they lead us to believe some sort of collusion and favouritism? According to our sources, the CAO recently hired a new/replacement Director of Human Resources without posting this vacant position and had the support of Council to do so. If this senior Department Head position was filled without a public posting for qualified applicants, why does the Town post other job vacancies for summer students, seasonal workers, etc.? Did Council members not understand or comprehend the significance of this deviation from past human resources practices or were they sleeping when the CAO presented this action for their approval?
Curiosity # 2: Another matter that has raised our curiosity is when Council and the CAO hired a lawyer to act as the Director of Corporate Services earlier this year. In communities the size of Midland, the hiring of a Municipal Solicitor is almost unheard of as lawyers tend to specialize in specific legal areas such as Human resources, Real Estate deals, Planning and Development issues, etc. Does Council and the CAO expect the newly hired lawyer to be knowledgeable in all of these areas, thus, resulting in the need to retain outside legal expertise in all Municipal matters? If that is so, great move as it should save the Town some money. If that is not their intention, why would Midland hire a lawyer who has had no experience working for a municipality?
Curiosity # 3: Earlier in the term of this Council, they proudly announced a hiring freeze on new staff. The recent decision to hire an Executive Assistant is an example of Council not following their own policy. Council and the CAO also hired a Deputy Treasurer when the previous incumbent was terminated and the position left vacant for some time. Are there any other examples of new hires that have not followed Council policy?
Curiosity # 4: A few months ago, a report to Council stressed the need to increase the wage grids for Midland staff based on the rationale that staff were leaving the Town to seek employment elsewhere due to the Town’s low wages. There have been too many municipal staff to begin to come up with an accurate number who have left the Town over the past five years (due to outright terminations, forced retirement, new employment opportunities elsewhere, etc.) Has anyone bothered to ask those staff who have sought employment elsewhere why they chose to leave Midland?
Our sources indicate the most common reasons are the lack of leadership from Council and Senior staff and the less than ideal working environment as staff look over their shoulder to see if they are next on the hit list. Certainly fair wage compensation is important but the majority of staff appreciate solid leadership and a supportive working environment much more. The working environment in the Town of Midland has been slowly poisoned over the terms of the previous CAO and the current CAO but Council seems oblivious to this problem. You can’t fix the problem if no one acknowledges that it exists so we ask, who will face the facts and do something positive?
Curiosity # 5: Some years ago, the “Midland Community” group was openly critical of how few Municipal Department Heads lived in (and paid taxes) in the Town of Midland. At that time , there was three or four Department Heads who lived in the Town. At the present time, it would appear there may only be one who lives in the Town yet “Midland Community” has never raised this issue again.
Curiosity # 6: “Midland Community” was also well known for being critical of the increases in Midlands municipal taxes and the Town’s high tax rates. Council approved a 3% increase in 2017 after a number of years of 0% tax increases yet “Midland Community” was largely silent and in fact appeared to support the 3% increase. This group was also openly critical of two previous Municipal Treasurers for having the audacity to tell Council that Midland’s taxes were not the highest. The new Treasurer, during the September Council meeting, stated that Midland’s taxes “are in the middle, not high, not low”. Again, “Midland Community” has not reacted to that statement nor did Council offer any comments. Why the change in attitude?
Curiosity # 7: At that same September Council meeting, Council approved a staff report to accept a higher bid for a Parks and Trails study. This decision cost Midland taxpayers approximately $16,000 more than if the lower bid was accepted. The staff report indicated the higher bid was scored higher than the lowest bid but offered no evidence of the rating used. Again, Council was silent of the matter and approved the recommendation with minimal discussion.
Curiosity # 8: According to our sources, the newly hired Town Engineer has permission to drive a Town vehicle to and from work (apparently this person lives in the Innisfil area). Most of us do not enjoy this benefit and have to arrive at our workplace using our own vehicle. If this is true, it appears to again be a different policy than in the past. What is the cost to the Midland taxpayer for this?
Curiosity # 9,10,11: This Council has been plagued with bad decisions (see the sale of MPUC, the failure of the Midland Bay Landing development, the recent OPP decision, the “sale” of part of Edgehill Park, the withdrawal of the Barnstormer brewery development due to environmental issues, etc. etc. etc.) While these decisions are in the past (and rest assured the Town will eventually pay for these poor decisions) there are numerous other decisions that this Council will be making that will be just as impactful (and perhaps more so) than these ones.
These include a Service Delivery Review process that will no doubt result in some valued Municipal services being discarded through the assistance of an advisory committee that has an inordinate number of “Midland Community” representatives. The Town is also undertaking an “Ad Hoc Governance Review Committee” that has not received much publicity but may also lead to poor decisions being made. The third area that Midland taxpayers need to be wary of is the recent (October General Committee) proposal to create a Municipal Services Corporation to “advance Midland’s Strategic Real Estate Assets”.
This is under the guise of moving the Midland Bay Landing development forward (which would be a positive) however, buried in the CAO’s report is mention of other Town assets such as Parkland and buildings. Very little details but this should most definitely make our good citizens wary of where this will go. Where are the Town’s watchdogs in these three matters?
Curiosity # 12: Our final curiosity for now, is when will the Midland taxpayer wake up and smell the coffee? You are being misled and not being told the absolute truth by this Council and senior staff. Will a number of good citizens step up to the plate next fall and run for Municipal Council and return Midland to its past glory as a progressive, caring Town? Only time will tell but we challenge you to step forward and help turn the good ship Midland around before it crashes into more rocky shores.