Maybe We Don’t Deserve Good People Like Bill Hodgson in Municipal Politics. Do We?
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted July 5th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
“My whole spirit of community service is crushed. I just feel discouraged. I don’t see an end to the nasty, self-serving people.”
Those were among the words Lincoln regional councillor Bill Hodgson shared with a local newspaper this July 4th to explain why, after 25 years of public service, he has decided not to run for another term of regional council in Niagara.
Crushed. Discouraged. Those two feelings have shaken his spirit, to say the least.
This decent, honest and caring man – three of the qualities that have always glowed from the only Bill Hodgson I have known going back to his earliest days as a school board trustee in Niagara and mine as a reporter at The St. Catharine’s Standard – has also found himself a target of the kind of political bludgeoning that has left others wondering why any good person in this region would want to run for elected office in the first place.
“I feel bad about this and I’ve already had some people tell me that if I don’t run, then they win,” he told me after I called him about the newspaper report this July 5th. “But I can’t go back,” he said, before going on to explain how much all of the stress around being attacked has taken a toll on his health and his family.
“It is a high energy role and if you run out of energy you have a responsibility to your community to step aside if you can’t do your due diligence anymore.”
One year ago this spring, on April 26th, 2017, Bill Hodgson walked into a meeting of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority where he had served for the Town of Lincoln as a board member. The doors of the meeting room were then swung shut with a sign reading; “Meeting is in Closed Session,” and with sheets of paper taped over the glass on the doors so those of us who came to attend the meeting could not see in.
Inside that closed room, in front senior NPCA managers and a board that includes 10 other politicians he sits on Niagara’s regional council with and who he then sat on the Conservation Authority’s board with, he was summarily “censured” for reasons that had something to do with some email he apparently passed on to one of the managers about a private consultant interested in doing a forensic audit of the NPCA’s operations.
He was accused of committing some impropriety in whatever process the NPCA had going at the time for choosing a firm to do an audit, but was never made privy to whatever is contained in a lawyer’s report the board used to censure him.
A month later, in May of last year, Bill Hodgson returned to the same meeting room just long enough to tender his letter of resignation from the board.
Apparently, The Standard now has a copy of this lawyer’s report that was kept under wraps for so long by an NPCA that brags ad nauseam about being an Ontario-wide “leader in transparency.”
But whatever this report says, the one thing members of the public and some of our local l and provincial representatives who’ve been raising concerns about the NPCA and how it is spends millions of tax dollars know is this.
Bill Hodgson, while still a member of that board, tried to do his part to see that an independent forensic audit of the NPCA’s operations is done. And in the wake of those attempts, he walked into a board meeting one morning where the doors were papered over and some of the people who pay those taxes were shut out, and he was censured in a way that left him feeling that he had no choice but to resign.
And in the wake of that, not one other member of that board, some who have sat on municipal councils with Bill Hodgson for years and should have known what a decent person he is, showed the courage or decency themselves to stand up publicly in defense of him.
A few months later, when the NPCA’s board chair, Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata, stood before the Town of Lincoln’s council in a chambers were Bill Hodgson once served as mayor, the town’s current mayor, Sandra Easton, didn’t even show enough decency to speak up for a person who has represented her community with class for the past 25 years.
Shame on all of them and one can only hope that their role in all of this is remembered this coming October 22nd when we get to cast our votes in municipal elections.
Perhaps the only fortunate thing that has come out of this sorry episode to date is that Ontario’s Auditor General’s Office finally did launch an audit of the NPCA’s operations, although it wouldn’t be surprising now if the new provincial government simply tosses in the trash any conclusions or recommendations that come out of that probe.
Unfortunately, we lose a good person like Bill Hodgson and if enough people in this Niagara region do not get engaged and vote other good people on to our local and regional councils this coming October, he will be right when he says; “I don’t see an end to the nasty, self-serving people.”
It is up to all of us – you and I and everyone else who is of voting age in this region – to wake up, get more involved, and make sure that isn’t true!
See an online story The St. Catharines Standard posted on this by clicking on – https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8723219-becoming-citizen-bill-the-end-of-a-niagara-political-career/ .
For news commentaries, Niagara At Large posted last year on this matter, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/05/03/npca-board-takes-aim-at-one-of-its-own-members-lincoln-regional-councillor-bill-hodgson-with-move-to-censure-him/ .
And click on this one about the cowardice of the current mayor of Lincoln around not speaking out for Bill Hodgson when the NPCA chair visited her council last year – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/07/20/the-craven-cowardice-of-lincolns-mayor-and-town-council/ .
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