- Eric Johnston
FACT or FICTION?
Dernière mise à jour : 27 oct. 2021
I have spent the last four years on Council with Mr. François Ghali and the picture that he paints of himself in his Team Track Record does not reflect in any way the reality that I have seen and experienced. I have concerns in the following areas:
Priorities: Ignoring the negative impact of short-term rentals;
Financial integrity: Announcing surpluses while auditors declare losses
Honesty: Commission Municipal du Québec’s inquiry raising serious breaches and violations of the Code of ethics and conduct;
Roads: Politically motivated decisions vs best practices;
Internet: Delaying service availability;
Management style: Toxic work environment.
These concerns are based on my work experience with Mr. Ghali and reflects strictly my personal opinions. I will be providing a separate post shortly with comments about Mr. Ghali's recently published election platform.
Based on my experience and concerns I recommend voting for Danielle Desjardins for Mayor so that we can have a more collaborative and community focused approach.
Mr. Ghali invests time and money in areas that do not address immediate needs for residents.
What message is Mr. Ghali sending by naming Mr. Nicolas Docmanov as his candidate in our electoral District 6?
Mr. Docmanov is well known in the community as a major promoter of short term rentals; he even brings his commercial garbage to Lac Notre-Dame from La Grange in Montfort.
Why leave desperately needed garbage containers in storage and unused for almost two (2) years?
We have tolerated the disruption to our environment long enough, the commercial activity of short term rentals must be more tightly controlled!
The most flagrant mismanagement of Municipal funds that I witnessed by Mr. Ghali was the negotiation of the snow removal contracts in 2018.
Mr Ghali refused to follow the advice of his administration and the majority of Council who recommended that the Municipality take advantage of a two year option to renew the existing contracts at the same price as had been negotiated three years earlier.
After repeatedly promising to protect the renewal option while pursuing other alternatives, the Municipality missed the renewal date option which resulted in an increased cost of $500,000 over a two year period.
Mr. Ghali's election materials claim that:
"The tax rate has not been increased by the Municipality"
This is blatantly false!
The two (2) tax rates that are under the control of the Municipality were both increased by the Ghali administration in 2019. Just take a look at your own tax bills to see the proof yourself.
The general tax rate was increased by 8.13% from 0.4024¢ to 0.4351¢.
The annual administration fee was also increased from $35 to $50.
A new tax on vacant land was also introduced which costs tax payers in total $120,000 per year.
There was then an increase of 9.18% in property values in the 2020 tax roll and the general tax rate for citizens was not reduced; effectively providing for another tax increase.
The tax increases were required in order to balance the budget, especially given the debt taken on for road construction; so why misrepresent the facts to our citizens?
Actual Financial Results
Mr. Ghali is also making misleading statements regarding the financial results for the 2019 operating period. In his Facebook page and in public presentations, he gives the clear impression that the 2019 fiscal year produced a surplus of $297,063. In fact the audited financial statements show the Municipality had an operating loss of ($383,887).
Click here for a copy of the 2019 audited financial statements. Page S7, line 25, shows the operating losses for 2019 and 2018. Page S17, line 27, shows the cash flow losses. Page S23-1, line 9, shows the reduction in the cumulative surplus.
Given the lack of rigorous control over the Municipal accounting, it is impossible to predict with any certainty what will happen with the 2020 financials. Financial statements should be filed with the provincial government by April 30 of the following year; to date the Municipal Council has been given no indication when the 2020 financial statements will be ready.
The auditors commented that our bank reconciliations had not been done in a systematic fashion and Council was advised at one point we were almost two (2) years behind in the reconciliations. How can a mayor, who has the power to investigate his administration, tolerate such a blatant lack of internal controls for so long?
Commission Municipale du Québec - 13 alleged violations
Mr. Ghali promotes on his Facebook page that he has a proverbial honesty. My grandfather told me that I should watch out when someone is always talking about how honest they are.
Based on concerns brought to Council members by several employees, as well as complaints made by a member of Council, the Commission Municipale du Québec (CMQ) has filed a total of 13 alleged violations of the Municipality's Code of ethics and conduct against Mr. Ghali and is currently conducting its inquiry.
For me personally, the most shocking violation (#8) refers to Mr. Ghali lying under oath. You can click here to see the alleged violations filed by the Commission against Mr. Ghali on November 16, 2020:
« Le ou vers le 29 septembre 2020, lors de la rencontre avec les enquêteurs de la Direction du contentieux et des enquêtes, il a menti sous serment convenant ainsi à l’article 6.3.1 du Code 2018, lequel interdit à tout membre du conseil d’agir de façon à favoriser, dans l’exercice de ses fonctions, ses intérêts personnels; »
It appears from the Commission's record that Mr. Ghali filed a legal request seeking the dismissal of the alleged violations. However, in a decision rendered on September 30th, click here for full details, the application was turned down so the matter will eventually be presented before the Commission.
As a citizen, you should be made aware that your Municipality is responsible, under the law, to pay all of Mr. Ghali's legal fees for his defense, the amount paid so far by the Municipality is in excess of $125,000 in the past 12 months and will further increase until the hearing takes place before the Commission.
The eventual legal cost for the Municipality is unknown given the opportunity to appeal any decision.
Since the beginning of the mandate of Council in 2017, the highest priority has always been given to obtaining subsidies for road repairs and reconstruction. At all times, any support the Municipal administration required to pursue subsidies has been immediately authorized by Council.
Credit for the subsidies of $11.9 million should really go to our Interim Director of Public Works, Mr. André-Philippe Hébert. During the February 2021 Council meeting, via resolution 2021-02-1514, Mr. Hébert was given the mandate to prepare the subsidy proposals.
Since these subsidies came from existing provincial programs, studies and planning documents of the required work go as far back as 2015; Mr. Hébert had to update lots of information as well as preparing new information for the subsidy requests.
It is also important to keep in mind that the number and size of the subsidies is also directly linked to the post COVID pandemic economic recovery program implemented by the provincial government. We are all happy to benefit from the accelerated subsidies made available from the provincial level.
In early 2019 a $2,500,000 loan was authorized to complete work on four roads in the Municipality; two out of four roads were completed within two years and as of the time of writing of this post, the work on Chemin Notre-Dame Sud has yet to be completed and the last portions of Chemin du Lac Farmer are being done just now.
Under the Ghali administration, road work projects remain a highly political process as opposed to following established best practices. There was even an attempt to deliver less repairs than committed for the Chemin Notre-dame Sud project by reducing the budgeted dynamiting for ditches and by using lower quality road surface materials versus the crushed stone required under Municipal regulation 2016-462.
High Speed Internet
In my opinion, many residents today do not have high speed internet access due to the inaction of Mr. Ghali.
Mr. Ghali consistently torpedoed any attempts to implement an interim solution using high speed wireless internet access. Luckily ISF Québec, with the cooperation of Pierre Gagné, was able to provide service to an ever expanding group of residents in St. Michel. In the Montfort area, Groupe Acces communications made investments to provide service despite the lack of support from the Ghali administration. It is now clear that Mr. Ghali is against any towers for wireless high speed internet.
ISF Québec had made a proposal to the Ghali administration in March 2019 to provide high speed wireless internet access to the entire Municipality at a very competitive rate. Mr. Ghali and his administration never even disclosed the proposal to the Municipal Council.
High speed internet access is an essential service: no one should deny service options to residents.
With regards to the Mr. Ghali's comments about Cogeco, the negotiations were only done at the provincial level and it is due to the provincial funding that Cogeco is proceeding.
Mr. Ghali tolerates...
Anything that brings tax revenue: development first, environment second.
Recently residents were shocked to discover that the changes contained in regulation 2017-498-10 camouflaged a provision that would have allowed roads to within ten (10) meters of waterways. Luckily residents fought back and the negative changes were removed from the regulation.
When we try to protect visual points of interest, we are ridiculed and attacked by Mr. Ghali for being spoiled children. Yes, there is a well hidden house in this photo. Eco-responsible development works!
Voting for Danielle Desjardins as Mayor will protect the environment for future generations
Abusive Management Style
Toxic work environment
Mr. Ghali comes from the "old school" of politicians and has an autocratic management style which is simply out of date.
After two years of managing the Municipality, Mr. Ghali succeeded in alienating five of the six councillors.
Negative impacts of the management style of Mr. Ghali
As stated in a previous blog, I have never experienced such a negative working environment in my entire life; these feelings were shared by others on Council:
Jean-Luc Groulx resigned;
To quote from his letter of resignation: “I would rather run into a burning home... than endure the tensions of Council”;
Click here for a copy of the letter of resignation that Mr. Ghali never published;
Yvon Paradis, not running for reelection;
“The worst 4 years ever in my 40 years of service to the community”;
Click here to hear Mr. Paradis’s emotional goodbye;
André Cliche , not running for reelection;
Click here to see his video featuring his retrospective of Municipal politics in Wentworth-Nord;
David Zgodzinski, not running for reelection.
Our Municipal employees are suffering
There seems to be an almost universal dissatisfaction with the working environment for both our blue and white collar employees.
Formal written complaints have been received from employees and Constables and there are currently two ongoing investigations by independent outside firms looking into the employees concerns.
I am firmly convinced that our Municipality is not well served by the highly political and confrontational management style pursued by Mr. Ghali.
My recommendation is to vote for Danielle Desjardins as Mayor as she brings solid management experience focused on a more collaborative and community based approach.
Click here for information about how to vote