Here I sit, a victim of some nasty bullying by the councillor and his henchmen. I’ve been banned from Lynwood Park for at least a year – if I walk my mom’s dog in the park or try to sneak in a game of tennis I’ll be subject to arrest, a $2000 fine and a criminal record.
The bureaucrats tell me that they have no need to explain why this ban was issued apart from the obvious political reasons (it was delivered to me just before the community association “elections”) and that I have no recourse except to take the City to court.
I know that some people reading this blog are happy about all this – “serves you right for criticizing the councillor” and “you must be guilty of something terrible for the City bureaucrats to take such drastic action against you.”
But I’m confident that most readers who have followed this blog for a while, and especially those who know me and lived through the events described below, must be very disturbed at what Rick seems to be getting away with.
After I retired from a 30-year teaching career, I became president of the venerable Lynwood Village Community Association (LVCA) because of my love for shinny (outdoor hockey).
I had many reasons for buying a house in Lynwood Village, but the presence of outdoor rinks and tennis courts in the park behind our home was the cherry on the sundae!
Imagine my disappointment that first winter – the ice was in terrible shape, barely skateable most of the time. Floodings were few and far between. Snow was just pushed to the side, not lifted over the boards. The basement changerooms were unsupervised teenage party rooms where the vandals ran wild. There seemed to be little adult supervision and NO community volunteers helping out. The rink was closed a lot of the time but the City bureaucrats who are supposed to enforce the terms of the rink contract seemed to be totally absent.
I was used to the fantastic outdoor rinks in Lakeview Park, renowned as the best in the city, and I wondered why ours was so crappy in comparison.
I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. The guy who was signing the rink contract on behalf of the community association had done a good job during the time he lived in Bells Corners. When he moved to Kanata he continued to sign the contracts and run the rink as absentee manager because there was no one else willing to do it. And he can’t be blamed for the almost total lack of community volunteers willing to do the heavy lifting at the rink. There was no financial accountability, no record of how the money was spent, but this (sadly) is the way most community association rinks are run.
It was very clear that the taxpayer was getting ripped off – for an investment of roughly $10,000 a season (rink grant, City workers installing, taking down and storing the boards, electricity, water, a large team of City bureaucrats, insurance, etc.) the level of service provided to the community was abysmal. Outdoor rinks cannot be run successfully without a LOT of free volunteer hours provided by the community, and I seemed to be the only one working for free.
The former president had done an outstanding job but most of the volunteers had moved on. Their children were now grown-up and it was time for other people to do their share. But no one had stepped forward and the community association had become more or less dormant.
With the blessing of the former president I revived the community association by taking out the old sandwich boards and also hand-delivering notice of the meeting to Lynwood Village residents. The meeting was a huge success – the building was jammed – even the councillor and his wife came! Lida seemed enthusiastic about me reviving the community association and even came to my house to pick up a stack of flyers that she promised to have Rick’s staff distribute to other parts of Lynwood that hadn’t been covered. The flyers ended up in the landfill. That was the first broken Chiarelli promise, but not the last!
In addition to signing the outdoor rink contracts and operating the rinks, I also signed the access management agreement with the City to manage the Lynwood community building. Previously the community building had to be booked through City Hall at great expense and hassle, so it mostly sat empty, ripe pickings for the vandals. I worked hard at facilitating access to the building by cutting through the red tape and offering it completely FREE to all community groups, not just a handful of insiders. This was a lot of work and responsibility for me, but I thought it was great that such a valuable community resource was being used again, so I’m certainly not complaining. Hundreds of local residents got free access to the building.
After that first meeting we never did manage to attract a lot of people to a community association meeting, even though we delivered notice of meetings at least twice a year. Typically only a handful of people would show up, and very few people were interested in joining the board or taking responsibility for anything. This is not surprising, as community associations are in decline everywhere in the city, except where there is some contentious issue threatening property values. I went to Westcliffe Estates Community Association meetings at the time and Rick’s employees usually outnumbered the two or three residents who turned up.
Lynwood Village residents may have been too busy to come to community meetings but MANY participated through a community website that I set up. It wasn’t a top-down site that only transmitted information to the community – it was a wide-open site where anyone could post and edit their thoughts.
ALL business related to the community association was posted to this public site – there was total transparency, especially related to financial matters, which were really pretty simple. We didn’t ask people to pay for memberships or charge for the use of the building, so the only revenue source was whatever money was left over from the rink grant because of the THOUSANDS of hours of unpaid labour that volunteers like myself put into the rink. The rink grant wouldn’t have covered half of the season if we had to rely only on paid labour. Many good people did back-breaking work for free to make the rink a success. It broke my heart to see what happened to the rinks last winter and I can’t see how this season will be any different.
I am proud of my tenure as president. I put in countless hours of FREE volunteer work, not just on the rinks and managing the building, but also on many other community projects (organizing beautification projects in Lynwood Park, Earth Day celebrations, litter-picking parades and Fun Days, editing and distributing newsletters on a regular basis, maintaining the community website, volunteering at the bike coop run out of the basement of the community building, etc.). I’m not complaining or looking for a pat on the back – I enjoyed serving the community.
It was pretty much a win/win situation for everyone except the councillor and City bureaucrats – some shocking things go on and I wasn’t shy about expressing my opinion when I saw abuse of the taxpayer or political skulduggery.
Everything changed when I ran against Rick in the October 25, 2010 election as one of the many fringe candidates who opposed the councillor. This was before the Don Robertson/Lloyd Francis fiasco, so Rick was still popular at the time in Bells Corners. Rick and some of his supporters saw their opportunity and the nasty business started. The community website was shut down and calls for help were placed to the highest levels of the City’s bureaucracy.
On Nov. 3, 2010 the LVCA had its planned AGM. Notice of the meeting had been distributed by hand to EVERY residence in Lynwood Village.
The building was packed for the promised election of the executive. Some were fierce RC supporters but most were there to support me, so if the vote had been allowed to take place I am sure that I would have won.
After a long discussion City managers stepped in to take control of the meeting and declare that more time was needed and that the vote would now take place two weeks later.
On Nov. 5, 2010 I got a letter from a City lawyer saying that the access management agreement was terminated because “there was no functional executive board in place.” Huh?
On Nov. 17 the building was again packed but the meeting was brief – instead of the promised elections City managers Fremp and Mike announced that a new executive had been appointed (two prominent RC supporters)! Everyone was sent home, told that the “interim board” would serve until real elections were called. The appointed president announced that she had signed the rink contract.
In December the appointed president and vice-president resigned, so there was no one left to run the association or maintain the rinks. In January a City employee was pressed into service and he “maintained” the rinks, or at least he cashed the cheques. What a disaster it was!
In May the councillor and his staff distributed notice of a May 19 2011 meeting for the “Lynwood Community Association” to SOME homes in Lynwood Village, and to other homes outside of Lynwood Village (notably the neighborhoods where the councillor and some of his close supporters live).
The flyer said that a new interim executive had been appointed (by the City managers).
Just before the meeting Greg Dack, program manager for corporate security, advised me that, under the Trespass to Property Act, entry into the Lynwood community building would make me liable to a fine of “not more than $2000.”
I was in the park that evening but I made no attempt to enter the building for the community association meeting, and not just because Mr. Dack, his employee Mr. Dawson and Rick’s hitman Jay were blocking the entrance. I’m a law-abiding citizen!
The councillor himself wasn’t there but he sent his wife, his daughter, some of his employees and his ally from the Westcliffe Estates Community Association to run the meeting under the watchful eye of the City managers. Over half the crowd was sent home before the “vote”, told that any political discussion was banned.
When Mr. Dack spotted me he told me that I was not just barred from entering the community building – I would have to leave the park entirely and stay out of it for at least a year. He refused to provide any justification for this outrageous ban, telling me that he was under no obligation to tell me anything and that I had no recourse.
The police showed up five minutes later (two cars plus a plainclothes officer) and explained that Mr. Dack was right – if I wanted to avoid a criminal record I would have to leave the park and stay out of it for at least a year.
I of course obeyed the police and left the park, so those who are spreading the rumours that I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the park and thrown into the back of a cruiser should take a look at the video above. Unfortunately that’s not the only rumour I’ve been subjected to. The nastiest ones come directly from the councillor’s office and his close supporters – supposedly I “stole money from the rink” and I only run this blog in order to blackmail the councillor – I’ve offered to shut it down for a $1000 cash payment. I can provide proof of these sleazy tactics if anyone’s interested.
Ever since then I haven’t set foot in the park behind my house. The tennis club sent me a note saying that the City had informed them that I was banned from the park, so they were refunding my membership and replacing me on their board. Tennis is one of my passions so this is a real low blow.
I’m being treated as a dangerous criminal even though I’m not guilty of anything except having a big mouth and being stupid enough to criticize powerful, well-connected and ruthless politicians and bureaucrats.
Mr. Dack has told me that he does not have to explain the reasons why he issued the notice under the Trespass to Property Act.
It seems obvious to me that the councillor was involved and that I was banned for strictly political reasons.
I feel that, at the very least, the City should have to justify its decision to ban me from a public park for a year. I have a right to know what crimes I’m being accused of.
Calls to the mayor’s office, the clerk’s office, corporate security, the City Manager, the legal department yield no advice except “hire a lawyer.”
Surely that can’t be right? I don’t want to sue the City – all I want is for this outrageous ban to be lifted.
So far the only media attention has been the article below by a Rick-friendly community paper reporter, so hopefully someone else in the media or on council will be interested in my story and denounce this shameless abuse of power.
The publicity probably wouldn’t be pleasant for me or for my family (“retired teacher banned from park for undisclosed reasons – let your imaginations run wild”), but surely in the end justice will prevail.