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The fight for transparency

cartoon_jan272016Let’s start with the praise.

The work of Oshawa resident Rob Vella should not only be congratulated, but emulated by others in our community.

Newspapers have an obligation to seek the truth in all matters. Regular citizens, albeit few, only do it as a hobby.

The leg work done by Vella, and his associates Jeff Davis and Lou Devuono, self discribed “city hall detectives”, has been exemplary. Since 2013 they have had to smash through bureaucratic and government road blocks and worked tireless for some years to get to the bottom of a controversial land acquision by the city of 199 Wentworth St. E. for a depot for city vehicles.

The land deal resulted in a city staff member’s contract not being renewed, a scuffle and punch up at a city council meeting, and reports from both sides of the issue that the city paid market value and too much for the property.

In an attempt to quell the controversy, the city hired a lawyer to review the issue and report back. As it turns out, this lawyer found nothing irregular in the land purchase. These citizen “detectives” have been digging into the issue.

Through Freedom Of Information legislation, in which municipality’s must release what could be perceived as sensitive documents if required by law, these citizens have been fighting to get emails and documents pertaining to the hiring of the lawyer who reviewed the land deal out in the open.

They have repeatedly asked for the release of correspondence between councillor Nancy Diamond and lawyer George Rust-D’Eye, who was hired by the city and penned a report that exonerated the city in the land deal.

Their efforts over the years have contributed to keeping your elected officials accountable not only for their current actions, but the actions they have taken in the past. The fact that the eventual decision on this matter has taken years to come to fruition, and could possibly be drawn out longer is an absolute disgrace.

Not only does this continued drawing out of the process fly in the face of every transparency and accountability process that the city has, but it also goes against the oath of office signed by all councillors as well as their code of conduct.

So it begs the question, why?

Why has the city and Councillor Diamond worked so hard to keep these emails from being released? Diamond argued it was a personal email, sent from her own electronic device, and yes, nobody likes to have their personal emails leafed through.

However, Diamond, an experienced politician, knew that in dealing with city business, like the hiring of a legal eagle to review a controversial city decision to purchase the depot property, she would be open to the prying eyes of the public.

Diamond is a councillor known for her financial acumen and fiscal responsibility when it comes to the public’s tax dollars. This whole mess can be put to rest simply with the release of the emails between the councillor and the lawyer. That would end a sad chapter in the city’s past where a simple land purchase blew up into a ragging controversy.

Some citizens are arguing that the contracted fight against the release of the emails suggests that there’s something in the emails that is worth hiding. But that is only conjecture and speculation.

The release of the documents will result in the issue finally being put to rest, and stop the unnecessary spending of taxpayer’s dollars with appeals.