Thursday, April 26, 2007

Haldimand: You Asked Why did I Sue?

I have had several people ask me what comments I sued the Regional News for. So here it goes for those that are interested. This was a comment by Bill Jackson of the Regional News, June 8, 2005.

Comment by Bill Jackson

It seems the infamous Donna Pitcher takes a lot of time and effort to write to local community newspapers and complain about editorial content in the Regional News. In case you don't remember, Pitcher ran for the ward two seat in the last municipal election and lost to Buck Sloat. She garnered a hefty 125 votes and was the loud mouth of the proposed hydro sale revolt last year.

At that time I did a number of stories bringing to life her whining about the hydro divestiture process and how she thought too many discussions were going on behind closed doors.

Councillors later decided to retain the company, yet Pitcher continued to complain about information that wasn't being released and ambushed Mayor Marie Trainer at a council meeting recently with a series of requests, asking her to put the accountability back at the table.

Soon thereafter councillors were accused of cornering a hospital administrative assistant and the mayor on two respective occasions regarding personal and municipal business. Pitcher supported these claims, both of which happened to involve Sloat. She questioned the accuracy of our news reporting and reamed The Regional News for opinion editorials backing the councillors.

In a most recent display of hastiness, Pitcher lashed out at what she calls a municipal informant who is leaking confidential information to our paper. She believes once the informant comes out we can all deal with the real problem-the informant.

Here she misses the point again, only this time she takes a round about turn and shoots the messenger not acknowledging that the Mayor could be hit with a harassment case. She fails to address the fact that the Mayor could be guilty of breaching ethics in the same manner as Trainer accused the two male councillors of confronting her just a few weeks ago. As stated in our article, her worship reportedly made her secretary cry.

And it wasn't a municipal official who told me about the issue. I never said it was. Plus, Pitcher wanted in-camera information to come out. I guess her definition of logical is a bit different than mine. But I'd like to hear her justification for her reasoning. Her name might be Pitcher but her logic is all about offence off the base path. How about some defence in the form of sound reasoning?

I'm pleased though that opinions on our news makes their way into papers across the county. We get read. In the newspaper business objectivity rules the roost. You can choose to read regurgitated public reports on hydro revenues that are cancelled out by income tax increases and discussed thoroughly at council, or read about how the mayor might be in deep.

If you believe in objectivity, you don't believe that the mayor was still visibly shaken at a council meeting five days after someone yelled at her. She's a political veteran.

Pitcher provides information in her letter this week that I was not even at the council meeting and previously chastised me for inaccurate council reports.

I won't even dignify that with an explanation except to say quite frankly, for every one of Pitcher's letters we receive at least 10 other opinions backing us. And that feels good.

You see, I would never recommend Pitcher to anyone standing near a ballot box. Nor would most people. She just doesn't make sense. As some of Haldimand's "elected officials" told her at a public hydro meeting last year, she quite simply didn't have the facts straight.

Sometimes opposite opinion is completely grounded and poses a balanced argument. Except for the fact that you must retain two things if you want to be a good reporter or for that matter a good politician: objectivity and some degree of consistency. You also have to be able to defend your opinions and convince or make others agree that your opinions are justified.

In my opinion, Pitcher does none of this and gets my vote for this week's lunch bag letdown.

Well that certainly brought back fond memories for me. The fact is that I obviously upset a few individuals, and they felt the need to make me go away.

At the time this comment was written, I had a very strong feeling that there were a few individuals that were involved in the writing of this comment, but I knew that I would never be able to prove it. Well I was wrong! In court under Oath, Mr. Jackson told the judge that his words were the truth and substantiated. He named four Haldimand County Council Members to the judge, Councillors Ashbaugh, Delimonte, Sloat and Paterson. Councilor Delimonte and Sloat are currently on Council.

I had one witness in Court, Mayor Trainer. My question to the Mayor was: Have I ever ambushed you? Response: No!

A few excerpts from Court;

Relating to the defence of fair comment. In the Marineland case Mr. Justice Henderson said this of fair comment:

..if the defendants raise the defence of fair comment, the defendants must plead the facts that were known at the time of the alleged libel in order to establish a substantive base for the defendants' comments.

Was the occasion of publication one enjoying qualified privilege? To once again quote Mr. Justice Gravel:

..for public policy reasons there are occasion's where, in addition to being able to make fair comment on true facts and although absolute privilege may not exist, a person may make defamatory statements which are untrue.
..the privilege attaches to the occasion and occurs when there are reciprocal duties of interests sufficient to trigger the public interest in disclosure.

I could go on and on, but I won't as this gets very technical. What I can tell you is that I represented myself and took this case to Small Claims Court in Cayuga. The Regional News tried to prove to the Court that I was in fact an "infamous" person, their defence failed.

What I have not had closure with is the fact the Mr. Jackson's comments were based on factual information from Elected Officials of Haldimand County. I have not been able to make them accountable for their actions as to date, but I am still working on that. Some may say that I should put this to bed! I refuse! Some have said get a tough skin! I do have that already. Some may say that I am being vindictive! I am not! Some may say that I have taken this personally, and I deserve what I got as I am a verbal person. Wrong! I have only wanted one thing, and it is a simply request, "accountability" from our "elected officials"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Haldimand's "Path's Cross"

It is funny sometimes how our paths will cross with others, and for me this path was not one that I saw coming my way. But it has, and it seems that I have again got myself into very touchy waters.

I won't go into great detail how this happened, but I will tell you why I am involved. As many of you know, I believe that we all have the right to be heard, whether people agree with our opinions or not. So again some on Haldimand County Council will not want to hear what I have to say. So here we go!

I just got off the phone with Mark Vandermaas from Voice of Canada. He was telling me that last week he had sent an e-mail to the Clerk's Department at Haldimand County requesting that he and Merlyn Kinrade of Caledonia appear as a delegation. I only know that the subject matter was the OPP. OOPS guess that's a "hot issue".

It appears that they were "denied the right to speak before Council". I asked Mark what reason was given for this decision. The Clerk told Mark that the procedure was, that Haldimand County Council votes on who can be heard!! It seems that Haldimand County Council voted and did not want to hear this delegation. This is Absurd!!

The procedure is that you ask to be heard as a delegation, and give some information on what you are going to speak of, and are given 10 minutes to speak. Council "does not vote" on whether you can or cannot speak. The only time that this would happen is if you have not appeared at Council in Committee, and you wish to speak at the Council of the Whole Meeting. Mark had asked to speak as a delegation at 1:00 in the afternoon, which is a Council in Committee Meeting.

I do know from my conversation with Mark that he is involved with Gary Mchale, and Caledonia, and this have been a "hot issue" for many Council Members. Council members have publicly stated that they do not want "outsiders" to come in. So is this why they were denied the right to be heard? What about Merlyn Kinrade who is a resident of Haldimand County, what is their excuse for not letting him have his say?

What have we become here in Haldimand, when we are calling people "outsiders"? Where is the respect from our members of Council? How dare these Council Members portray the good people of Haldimand this way.

It looks like again members of Council are letting their personal feelings towards an issue or an individual to cloud their judgement.

Haldimand County Council " Who are you Kidding?

When I was on the campaign trail in 2006, the issue that was talked about the most was Caledonia. Of course many others campaigning had all the answers and made alot of "huge" promises! Many were promising to get rid of the OPP.

In fact at the Ward 2 debate, Councilor Sloat told the audience that he had already been involved in talks with Chief Mullen with the Hamilton Police Department, and they will take on Haldimand County. Did this come out in the press? No! Now maybe it is just me, but I can't understand for the life of me why not, this seemed to be vital information, that the public had a right to know!! The next morning I called Mayor Trainer to ask if in fact these talks have been going on, and she was totally unaware of what Councilor Sloat was talking about. Was this a "lie" by Councilor Sloat?

If in fact Council Members in 2006 felt that this issue of the OPP was so important, they had the opportunity before the election to put this question on the "Election Ballot" Did they? NO! The reason? If in fact a question is on the "Election Ballot" the public's voice is heard and Council has "No Choice" but to proceed in the direction of the vote! So in saying that, do I believe for one moment that Haldimand County will hold a "Referendum?". NO!

Well back to my point. Haldimand County Council has "deferred the policing report" that was done by staff until mid May 2007. Who are they "Kidding". They are only trying to fool the public, making us think that they are doing what they promised. Do they really think that we are that gullable?

The fact is that this Elected Council has no time before September of 2007 to do anything, except make it look like they are doing something. Council has had plenty of time in the last year, so why have they waited so long? As I have said earlier, Haldimand has to give the OPP a one year heads up if they are not going to re-new. Well the contract comes up around September 2008. So according to my math, they have no time to even ask "US" the public what we think, let alone do studies etc...... and waste taxpayer money.

Were these indivuals that are now in power knocking on the same doors as I was? If they were they have forgotten what the public wants, respect, honesty, and not to waste our money! Well it is newspaper day today, and as always we do look forward to what is happening here in Haldimand County.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Haldimand County Council to Review Policing"

Well I went to Council this afternoon to see what was going on with the Policing Issues. I picked up the report "Framework for Review of Policing Service Delivery", submitted by Karen General, General Manager Corporate Services. The report is very detailed and well done. What I liked the most was the "PUBLIC INPUT" section. Karen goes into great detail regarding informing the Public, and how vital it is to do so. Some of the Methods; community surveys, questionnaires, public information sessions, website, media releases, and a "Referendum".

The report also says that there will be extensive media, police personnel, community and Provincial interest in the process. In order to demonstrate that the openness and consultation embodied on the Act is addressed, Council must be seen as unbiased and impartial to safeguard the integrity and fairness of the process. That is a powerful Statement!!

We need to get involved, we could be looking at another "Haldimand County Hydro OOPS" that cost us alot of money for Council's "look and see", this Review would cost the taxpayers a great deal of money, for a "look and see". If I am not mistaken the contract is up around September 2008, we need to give the OPP a one year notice. That would mean that the County would have to do a lot of work in a very short period of time! As was stated today, this venture was not included in the budget for 2007, is that not the budget that they just finished a few weeks ago?

As Mayor Trainer said today that she and a few other Council Members promised people during the election campaign that they would look into an option for policing, I would think that the best option would be for everyone to "Grow Up", act like "Adults" and "work it out"! The question would be for me, what difference would there be if we had a force of our own, or used a force such as Hamilton's, "Who would police Caledonia"? I think the answer would be the OPP.

Please don't leave this up to Haldimand County Council to decide, write letters, call your Council Members, Phone the Mayor! We cannot bear this Cost!

Response from "Municipal Affairs" regarding Haldimand Council

Well I received a response today from Minister John Gerretsen. I do understand that Municipal Affairs cannot really get involved. But what he does say is that he encourages us to contact municipal council and staff in regards to the development of a code of conduct and the appointment of an integrity officer. I would hope that there are individuals out there that do want to get involved with this process. It is vital that we have these "tools" available. Below is a copy of the letter I received today.

Dear Ms. Pitcher:

Thank you for your faxed letter dated March 22nd, 2007 and your subsequent e-mail dated April 3, 2007, regarding an article printed in your local newspaper and your dealings with members of Haldimand County Council in this respect. I appreciated receiving your correspondence and have noted your concerns.

From your letter, I understand that you are particularly concerned about the remarks of certain current and former councillors, which appeared in the article of 2005 and resulted in your taking the local newspaper to Small Claims Court for libel/slander. I also appreciate your concern that the members in question have not taken responsibility for their remarks, and that the matter has not been pursed by the current council.

While I can understand your frustration, this remains a legal matter and, consequently, it would not be appropriate for me as, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to intervene or to make recommendations to you about possible future legal action. I therefore encourage you to continue discussions with your lawyer before proceeding further.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that the Municipal Act, 2001 has been amended-under the Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006-to include new accountability and transparency provisions. Effective January 1, 2007, municipal councils have the discretionary authority to establish a code of conduct for council and local boards and to appoint an integrity commissioner, an ombudsman and an auditor general.

For more information, you may wish to access the online version of the amendments on the government’s e-laws Website, I would also encourage you to contact municipal council and staff to discuss the new provisions in the Municipal Act, 2001 that provide for the development of a code of conduct for council and the appointment of integrity officers.

Ms. Donna Pitcher, once again, thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.
John Gerretsen

So is there anyone out there that is interested? I am, but I can't do it alone, and besides the point it is clear that any correspondence that would come from me, wouldn't go far!

My "Second Letter" to Haldimand County Council

Well, here is my second letter to "Haldimand County Council" dated March 12th 2007.

March 12, 2007

Haldimand County
45 Munsee St.

Janis Lankester via email
To all Members of Haldimand County via email
CAO Bill Pearce

Re: Letter of February 7th 2007
Janis please distribute this letter to Members of Council, and CAO Bill Pearce.

I am very disturbed that Council as a whole and the CAO Bill Pearce have ignored my letter that was reviewed in closed session on Monday Feb. 12th. It seems that no one in that room knew what I was talking about, the fact of the matter is that at least three individuals in that room knew exactly what I was talking about!

What does it take for anyone on this Council to take a taxpayer as myself seriously? Elected officials do have many Codes that they need to follow, e.g.; Elections Act, Municipal Act 2001, Criminal Code etc. Just because they are not covered under the Codes of Haldimand County, does not mean that Haldimand County does not have responsibilities as well.

I will let you know that my intention for writing the first letter was to make the rest of Council aware of the actions that were taken by these four council members, two of which are currently sitting on Council. I was hoping that with five other Council Members and a CAO that you might have come up with a resolution. It could have been as simple as even letting me think that you were doing something, anything. It is an insult that you have chosen to ignore this.

I have no intentions of suing Haldimand County, as if I was to do that I would be no better of a person than the four Council Members that slandered me, as they abused the taxpayer time and money. I am looking into actions against the four Council Members, but I won’t go into that, as this will be a Civil Case and will be of no business to Haldimand County.

I am still looking for some kind of resolution from the County, I strongly believe that I deserve at least that much. I know that Haldimand County does not have an Integrity Commissioner, but there is one in place by the Province of Ontario for County’s that have not implemented this yet. I have given this County plenty of time and opportunity to look into this matter; maybe it is now time for me to look to the taxpayers of Haldimand County for a resolution.

Donna Pitcher

My letter was discussed in Closed session on March 12th, my response from the County, this time a letter sent in the mail, "Council has given no further direction in this matter". I did get an e-mail from the Clerk asking, "What Resolution are you looking for"? I did not respond to this question as I thought that seven elected officials could discuss this intelligently.

One problem I have with their response is that when the Mayor of Haldimand County was "accused" of harassing her secretary, Council decided that the public needed to know, even though the County's Harassment Policy clearly states that these issues should be kept "strictly confidential". Council also decided that they needed to spend approx. $15,000.00 of taxpayer money to investigate this accusation. My issue is the "truth", not an accusation. I am not saying that what they did in the Mayor's case was wrong, but what Council is doing is "choosing" what issues are of the "Public's Interest", and they do have that right.

So in my case why did Council "choose" to ignore my issues? I am thinking that maybe if my issue was against the Mayor, they would have taken me seriously. Obviously Certain Council members did not want the public to know what they were doing on taxpayers money. I wrote a letter to Municipal Affairs, and have still had no response. I am not counting my chickens on this one either!

I did find out that because we don't have our own Integrity Commissioner, that is not an option either. I wrote to the Ombudsmen, response, they don't get involved with Municipal Affairs, well another option gone. I spoke with the OPP, Libel/Slander is in the Criminal Code, but it has to be against a group, religion etc... so that is not an option. I can go to the Superior Court of Justice, regarding a Conflict of Interest, but I would need to carry the burden of the court costs, that is not an option either.

So my question would be, "How can our Elected Officials be made "Accountable"? If you have the answer to this question, I would love to hear from you.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My Letter to "Council" regarding "Accountability"

When I first started this blog, my intentions were to tell my story, but I have been hesitating to do so. My reasons for hesitating, Haldimand County is in the news again, and of course it is not positive. I have thought long and hard about whether to delete this blog, just let go of what I think is an injustice, and get on with my life! As many, many people before me have done!

As my story is very important to me, it is not of any importance to others that I have asked for help, or direction. It does however show how dirty people can be if they want to get back at you, or get rid of you because you can be "verbal". As in the past I have had some issues with Certain Council Members, and should have been pro-active at the time, but my heart has always got in the way, and then when I did come to my senses, my time for action had run out!

Well I have decided that I will not be "Guilty" for adding more stress for Haldimand County. I will not be "Responsible" for the lack of "Morals" for Council Members of Haldimand County. I will not be responsible, or feel that I am responsible for requesting that Council be made "Accountable for their Actions, or their inactions". They are adults just like me, and have chosen to ignore "my" issues, yet there are Council Members who seem to believe that "their personal issues" are more important than mine. The trouble I have with this, is that Council Members should not be making decisions for Haldimand County on "Their Personal Feelings".

So I would like to start my story with my first letter that I wrote to Haldimand County Council and Haldimand County CAO, asking for a resolution.

February 8, 2007

Mayor Marie Trainer,
All Council Members of Haldimand County
CAO Mr. Bill Pearce

Please submit this letter to the above mentioned for Council on Monday
February 12th, 2007.

In November of 2005, I pursed a Libel/Slander lawsuit against The Regional News This Week, and reporter Mr. Bill Jackson. On January 30th, 2006 the Judge made his decision in my favour.

While on the stand and under Oath, Mr. Jackson told the Judge that his information was the truth and from credible sources, he revealed his sources and named Councilors Ashbaugh, Dalimonte, Sloat, and Patterson.

It is obvious that the above Council Members motive was one of a malicious nature, and used Mr. Jackson and The Regional News This Week as their personal device to publicly sully my reputation.

Council Members are paid by public tax dollars, and should never be involved in this type of activity. A resolution to this matter is necessary.

Donna Pitcher

The above letter that I sent to Council, was discussed behind closed doors on February 12th 2007. The response I received by "e-mail". Council has given no further direction to this Matter". Well you can only imagine how I feel about that!

I do have a serious problem with this!! Firstly I am not accusing anyone of anything that they have not done. This letter was based on a Court document, and is public information. Councillors Buck Sloat and Tony Dalimonte are currently on Council, and as you can see their names were "clearly stated" in my letter, YET they were "FULLY INVOLVED" with the discussions behind closed doors and in the direction that Council has taken!

Did they Bully fellow Council Members? Did they sway Councils decision? I cannot say for sure, but what I can say is that I truly believed that they should never have been involved with this "Direction", as they are the ones that were involved!

I could have sued Haldimand County in 2006 for a great deal of money, I chose not too! My reasons; "this is not about money" This is about public officials being "ACCOUNTABLE". I will get into more detail at a later time of what steps I have taken, including a second letter to Council, that I had the same response back as the first letter.

Two local papers have also been given all my information regarding these matters, but do not want to get involved! I am very fortunate that I have very close friends and family that have supported me, without them I would have given up a long time ago!

As I have said before I love Politics, and I truly believe that there are good politicians out there. But my faith in the system is being challenged. "We all have the right to be heard".

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Local Reporter Comments "What Price for Integrity"?

I must say "kudos" to Bill Jackson of the Regional News this Week. Bill's comment is a "must read for everyone", he hits the nail on the head.

I enjoyed reading this comment, and can only hope that more of this will come our way. I don't like to be negative, but the news in Haldimand County the last year or so has been scarce, at least when it comes to politics, at least when it comes to "don't rock the boat" attitude.

Maybe there is a problem for smaller newspapers taking the pressure from politicians on what they write or don't write. An example of this would be maybe, just maybe, if a reporter was to write something not so positive about an elected official, maybe that elected offical won't give them an interview, or information. Who knows for sure.

There has been a lot of sugar coating, in the press regarding Council "getting it together". I disagree! Council may only be taking things behind closed doors, for us not to see. In my case, my issue was discussed behind closed doors, and has simply gone away as far as Council is concerned. But as I have said before, I will get into more detail later.

As Bill said in his comment "After all, ethical issues have taken centre stage here in Haldimand recently just as much as anywhere else".

I truly believe that Elected Officals must be ethical, moral and responsible in their positions, and when they are asked to be "Accountable" for their actions, WE MUST NEVER LET THEM CONVINCE US THAT WE ARE ASKING FOR TOO MUCH!!!!!

We pay them, We elect them, and We expect them to do what they promised us they would do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Well, Maybe I won't just talk to "myself" after all!

I am pleased and surprised that there are people out there listening, and willing to comment. I was only allowed 1200 characters in "My Story", and of course I got carried away and ran out of room! So the rest I will explain later. Anyone who is involved in politics, knows that we always have lots to say. So again, I am very pleased that there seems to be an interest. As I said earlier, we really just like to be heard, and as a taxpayer, we have the right to be heard! It is also important that we get involved, and voice our opinions. In my case I have had the doors shut so tight, it frustrates me, and as I stated earlier I will explain at a later date. I know that many won't want to hear what I have to say, but I will speak my mind, and speak the truth. So please speak your mind as well. But please keep it "respectful".

Monday, April 9, 2007

Let's find out if anyone is interested.

Well here it goes. I feel that I am an unheard Voice.

If you are interested in Local Politics, have been involved in local Politics in any way, and are frustrated because your Voice is not "heard", then this is the place to vent.

If there is interest out there, I will write my story. As I always have much to say. I would like to keep this "Respectful". I am new to this "Blog" concept, but find it very interesting.

I will add more information as I go along with you, including of course my story. So if you have ever written that Letter to the Editor that was passed over, this is the place to be heard.

Donna Pitcher