Opening remarks from James Cooke, Legal Counsel for Todd Langlois, former Auditor General
February 3, 2012, 2:30 PM
(Transcript of opening remarks and reporter questions can be found here).
I just want to thank you all for being here. First, my name’s James Cooke, I’m a civil litigation lawyer in Windsor, Ontario. Seated to my left is Mr. Langlois whose name you all know. My client’s asked me to read a brief statement and then both of us will take some of your questions.
I want to say first that my client wouldn’t be here at all if certain disparaging remarks hadn’t been made by persons who don’t have the courage to put their names behind what they said.
Secondly, I’d like to point out that when the people of Windsor are looking at this, they need to keep in mind that there is a long history with this city administration of people leaving, or of being terminated.
I think that what happened here could be viewed in that context. In fact my client’s predecessor, who was a staff auditor that was acting in the role of lead auditor, has made similar complaints of a toxic work environment at city hall.
There were two allegations made by anonymous sources, apparently from city hall that my client wants to address.
First, there was an allegation that failed to address outsourcing.
That allegation is completely untrue.
His employment contract, which he was forced to sign, over a month after he started work, provided that he had 90 days to deal with the outsourcing requirement, if not he could be terminated without any severance pay.
He was not terminated.
Second, my client submitted and RFP, directly to the Mayor, for approval on May 30th, 2011. To this day, no action has been taken by the Mayor or council, with respect to that RFP.
The second allegation deals with complaints about my client’s conduct around the work place and they’re not specified anything more than that.
Again, this is an allegation made by an anonymous person lacking the courage to put their name to their statements.
Not once, was anything said to my client about his so-called conduct.
Inevitably however, a person in my client’s position is bound to ruffle a few feathers – it’s part of his job.
I should also add, neither at this meeting where he was terminated, nor in the letter terminating his employment, was my client ever informed for the reasons for his termination. He did ask and was never told.
Instead, he learned of the so-called reasons in the newspaper and on the radio and television.
The Mayor is quoted in today’s Star as saying, “that he’s trying to throw everything and the kitchen sink in to get more money from the city.”
My client hasn’t commenced a lawsuit. I have no idea how a press conference or a public comments like this would result in more money from the city or anybody else. It was some anonymous source at city hall that forced my client to tell his version of the facts.
The Mayor goes on to deny that he was involved in my client’s functions at city hall.
That is not true.
My client was told, for example, directly by the Mayor that Enwin was not within his scope of responsibilities. This was done on more than one occasion. In addition, the Mayor made thinly veiled threats to discourage my client from fully pursuing his legal obligations as auditor general when it came to staffing reports to the Mayor and city council.
My client had legitimate and reasonable concerns about the chairmanship of the audit committee.
It is chaired by the current CEO of Enwin. And as there was a dispute with the Mayor, about whether Enwin was subject to audit by my client, there was a possibility of, at the least, an appearance of conflict given the dual roles of the chair of the audit committee.
As well, my client felt that the perception of conflict may give the impression that my client was not operating in an independent manner, as he was required to do.
I just want to briefly go over what his legal duties are, and they are enacted in the Municipal Act that was done back in 2006 and amended in 2009.
The Municipal Act, first of all, sets out my client’s duties as follows.
To assist council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achieving value for money in the municipal operations.
Now this part of the Municipal Act was amended in 2009 because of undue influence of city administration and city politicians on the auditor general , not specifically in Windsor, but all across the province, and it was amended to provide that the auditor general shall perform his or her responsibilities under this part in an independent manner.
It goes on in the legislative provisions, to provide that the auditor general may exercise the powers and perform the duties as may be assigned to him or her, by the municipality in respect of the municipality, its local boards, and such municipally controlled corporations and grants recipients as the municipality may specify.
In other words, the obligations of the auditor general , by law, are not simply limited to city hall.
In respect of the duty to provide information, the Act provides the municipality, its local boards and the municipally controlled corporations shall give the auditor general such information regarding their powers, duties, activities, organization financial transactions and methods of business as the auditor general believes to be necessary to perform his or duties.
And without reading other provisions, the auditor general has complete access to the records of the municipality, and municipally controlled corporations in order to carry out his obligations. And it goes on to provide that the auditor general, both during and after his employment, has an obligation to confidentiality with respect to those records.
These are very broad powers.
My client was, like his predecessor, subject to what he felt was a toxic work environment. My client feels that his role was perceived as a threat to some people in administration, on council, and on standing committees of council.
In this respect, his treatment does not seem to differ from that of his predecessor.
The city created this position as part of a campaign of accountability and transparency.
The auditor general was supposed to be independent, there to receive complaints from taxpayers and employees, and legally required to assist council in holding itself and its administrators accountable, for what they do.
In furtherance to that, my client prepared two reports that showed that outsourcing could triple the cost of his office. In each report he stated he would comply with whatever council decided.
The public has never seen these reports as neither the audit committee, the mayor nor council have seen fit to release them.
The Mayor directly stated to my client that my client would be in the Mayor’s office, quote, asking what happened if the resourcing reports were issued.
My client felt the Mayor was implying my client would be fired if these reports were considered by council.
My client prepared a risk assessment, three year work plan and budget. None of this made its way to the audit committee or council for public discussion.
On two separate occasions, administration and the Mayor, refused basic information requests made by my client. The Mayor discouraged any risk assessment review of the aquatics centre.
Just before my client was terminated, a public audit committee was schedule on January 26th. The public meeting would have received public reports from my client, including the staffing report and the three year work plan and budget.
Instead, contrary to the recommendations of my client, the meeting went in-camera without a public session.
Lastly, let me address the manner in which my client was terminated.
My client never met all of council. In spite of its legal independence, council never asked him into the closed meeting at which the vote was taken to terminate him. He was never given the opportunity to tell his version of the facts.
Instead, council chose to hear only from the very administration that my client was supposed to assist council in overseeing and apparently, the audit committee chair.
On the day of his dismissal, he was called to the city solicitor’s office, and in the presence of the city solicitor was dismissed by an outside lawyer.
He was never told the reasons for his dismissal. On the contrary his questions about why he was being dismissed went unanswered.
His letter of dismissal makes no reference to any specific reason for his dismissal. Instead, he now reads the so-called reasons, like everyone else in Windsor in the newspaper or hears it on the radio and television.
My client is told that he will receive no severance pay, and has not received any severance pay, unless he signs a release which is effectively a gag order and requires him to release any and every claim he may have against the city.
In the release, he’s told he cannot disclose the terms of his severance. Nevertheless, the same nameless sources that disparaged my client anonymously, also disclosed exactly what the contract says about the severance pay.
My client has never held a press conference. He’s never had the need. And all he seeks today is to set the record straight with respect to his dismissal and his work at the city.
Opening remarks from Eddie Francis, Mayor of Windsor, Ontario
February 3, 2012, 3:30 PM
(Transcript of opening remarks and reporter questions can be found here).
I’m just going to offer a few remarks and then we’ll take your questions and answer any questions that you may have.
First and foremost, Mr. Cooke’s and Mr. Langlois’ media conference today was full of errors, inaccuracies and misstatements. The decision to terminate Mr. Langlois was made on the recommendation of the 3-member audit committee, the same audit committee that recommended he be hired.
Todd, through his lawyer, would like you to believe that this was about Enwin, about a controlling Mayor, about a heavy handed CEO or a conspiracy involving a city staff.
It was a great target. It’s always a target. Just like the WFCU centre was a target until we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars proving otherwise. And it’s still a target.
I make no bones about it, council and I are very dedicated, very involved and we take the bull by the horns. Collectively, that’s how we got the WFCU built. That’s how we got the aquatics centre under way. That’s how we got the bus terminal, a revitalized downtown, the university, the college.
That’s how we’ve been able to hold the line on taxes, reduce debt.
We are involved.
But I’m pretty sure that our track record shows that we aid any process. We facilitate any process. We don’t bring it down.
The process with the audit committee was completely delegated to the audit committee. When everything and anything was on their recommendation and that we deal with that.
Now, I know this sounds all very intriguing, very controversial, but in reality this is no different than any other issue that any other corporation or any other workplace faces, which is an issue between a contract employee and their employer. Nothing more.
The audit committee made a recommendation, council accepted that recommendation.
It’s a simple as that.
I understand that Todd is disappointed. Things didn’t work out. But this is not the first time that a corporation has had to terminate an employee and I’m sure that we’re not the only ones that have been in this situation.