Mayor Brian Saunderson is asking council for support to take away a 1998 Order of Collingwood award and cut ties with a provincial association led by one of Collingwood's former CAOs.
During Monday’s strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, Saunderson put forward a notice of motion to revoke the Order of Collingwood from Ed Houghton, who was a recipient of the award in 1998.
Saunderson also put forward a second notice of motion to terminate the town’s membership in the Ontario Municipal Water Association, of which he noted Houghton acts as chief executive officer.
Houghton acted as CEO of Collus Powerstream from 2000 to 2016 during the time covered by the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry. He also served as the director of public works and chief administrative officer for the Town of Collingwood during that time.
The inquiry was called by council in February 2018 to investigate the 2012 share sale of 50 per cent of Collus to PowerStream and the subsequent spending of the share sale proceeds on recreation facilities for Central Park Arena and Centennial Aquatic Centre.
Throughout the inquiry, Houghton's influence in the share sale was called into question and the final report by the commissioner suggested the former CAO had too much influence over the sale while also being CEO of the utility company.
“With Mr. Houghton at the helm, Collus Power – the town’s asset – was in charge of selling itself, and the town – the owner of the asset – had no effective control over the process,” stated the inquiry commissioner Frank Marrocco in his report to council, which was released in November 2020. “This unusual dynamic did not serve the town’s interest.”
The report out of the inquiry addresses the “generational” personal relationships between then-mayor Sandra Cooper, her brother Paul Bonwick, Houghton and then-deputy mayor Rick Lloyd.
“Undisclosed conflicts, unfair procurements, and lack of transparency stained both transactions, leading to fair and troubling concerns from the public,” states Marrocco in his report. “The evidence I heard and the conclusions I have drawn show that those concerns were well-founded. When the answers to legitimate questions are dismissive, spun, or obfuscated, public trust further erodes.”
The two motions pitched by Saunderson on Jan. 10 will be considered, discussed and voted upon at the Jan. 24 regular meeting of council.
— With files from Erika Engel