Saturday, August 23, 2014

Citizens Evicted From Town Meeting in Sutton, Quebec

Having lived in Sutton for more than 12 years, I still share a great love in the town and interest in what is going on there. This is the newest twist in a bizarre story as written by my friend Eddie Vos and published in local Quebec papers:

  Former Alliance Sutton voters threatened with police.

Just when things could not go nuttier, Sutton mayor Dandenault at the August 11 council meeting did not like me asking two councillors what made them violate their election promise to not dig a new basement with two new stories (called a “community wing”) by voting in December $2.8 million for town hall and later for what became a nearly $300,000 probably illegal call for tenders for professional services. 

The answers were uncomfortable, strange and tortured. Basically: We can ALSO use the wing for “administration” while councillor Poirier suggested that it is not really a WING but more a VOLET communautaire which in French means an item or an issue in a document or regulation (and not a new three-floor building).   

Then Ms. Ann Dyer asked the mayor about his early days of a request for Quebec money and where he grossly misrepresented his own public record as councillor under the last mayor and where he supported the project.  The mayor lost his cool and abruptly (with questions remaining) closed the meeting stating it was now a CAUCUS meeting, giving all 4 members of the public minutes to leave or the police would be called.   Almost surrealistically, I was escorted by the arm by councillor Ms. Beljaars to meet the mayor’s 60 second deadline before his police call.  

I remember many council meetings that ended in friendly discussion and then a drink at Camil’s or the Mocador.  Times have changed.   So, please ask why this broken election promise that, per permanent Sutton inhabitant, amounts to about $1400 over 20 years of borrowing and that in November they deemed unnecessary and grossly wasteful.  FOUR VOTES CAN STILL KILL THE PROJECT!

So what is a CAUCUS meeting?  Logically, the word is not in the Municipal Code.   Caucus is from an Algonquian Indian word that became to mean “a closed meeting of the members of one party to discuss tactics, policy or select members”.   In this case Alliance members were missing to caucus but the town clerk, a notary no less, stayed behind.  He produced 11 pages of Minutes that bear little resemblance to anything that transpired in this 22 minute meeting.  Question period BEFORE this meeting was on the agenda (as per bylaw 239-12) but was disallowed by the Mayor, stating that questions are AFTER the meeting when, as per Dandenault Rules, only questions can be asked concerning topics discussed.  Similarly stifling transparency, mayor Dandenault had earlier refused to table two uncomfortable letters about errors and omissions and about the probably illegal call for tenders, preventing them to become part of the record. 

Two weeks earlier, believing there was a council meeting because all 7 Alliance Sutton members plus 3 town employees were assembled, I was told to leave because it was a CAUCUS meeting.  Is it correct we pay town employees to assist in a political group’s strategy meetings?  Over 90 minutes later, at 9:21 pm, they had a 2 minute full 18 point agenda Council meeting, but of course, nobody there to ask questions.   

Mayor Dandenault elevated the exclusion of citizens to an art form, while not explaining why breaking all important election promises became the mantra of all seven Alliance Sutton members.  Not an explanatory word, ever, in the mailed Sutton Bulletin about this advancing construction monster the people voted against and did not want.   Keep on asking questions to each councillor – and bring a tape recorder to the meetings. Time is short.  P.S. Over $220,000 for lights at a sports field; that’s a lot of light the council should shine on itself.  We were promised transparency; we got obscurity and broken promises.                                            Eddie VosSutton QC   

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