I submitted a formal complaint to the City of Toronto CFO and City Manager yesterday regarding their comments to media on the Mayor's inaccurate representation of budget changes:
Dear Mr Rossini,
It is important that the civil service remain out of partisan political sniping, and that they provide quality advice and then implement council's wishes, regardless of personal opinions. I fear your personal opinions, or perhaps poor judgement, led to involving yourself in Toronto's mayoral election. I request that you please stop.
Mayor Ford uses large numbers, often fictitious or exaggerated, and it is important that everyone (including the Mayor and Council) sees you as an honest arbiter of *facts alone*. Your release yesterday puts that in doubt, and is doubly offensive in an election.
It is absolutely correct that there have been legitimate efficiencies and savings identified by staff this term, just as there were in the previous term - to similar degrees and amounts, as you are I hope aware. Commenting on term, and including misleading information, is really not acceptable. Just two examples:
1. Claiming that eliminating a user fee (the PVT) "saved the taxpayer $50 million" is false. It saved car owners $50 million, and while property taxes did not increase that year, TTC fares did by a significant amount, bringing similar revenue back to the city, and increased the overall cost to taxpayers.
2. Claiming both that TPS wanted even more than the increased budget they received so we saved money, and at the same time that user fees were raised $30 million (which taxpayers have to pay) so we saved money, is irrational and misleading. Both meant higher costs to city taxpayers.
I would request that you simply release detailed separate lists of actual budget changes, requested budget amounts, user fees added, and tax increases and decreases. Then candidates, elected legislators, media and the public can review all the information. I would also request that you refrain from trying to comment on large numbers stated by candidates. Trying to figure out how to comment neutrally is not working for either the CFO nor for the City Manager, and you are (accidentally I hope) misleading voters.
Please accept this complaint in the spirit intended: making the civil service stronger through greater public trust. You and your staff do good work despite honestly pretty insane council decisions at times. But it is dangerous to participate in the election, as you colour how future councillors treat your advice.
[phone and address removed]
Attached: City of Toronto Complaint Tracking Form
Hi Mr. McLeod, thank you for your email and for expressing your concerns.
Let me say categorically that I have no intention nor desire to involve myself in the election or partisan political matters. I agree 100% with your statement that the civil service must remain totally unbiased.
Please allow me to clarify a few matters on what transpired yesterday.
First and foremost, the information released yesterday is not new. I just provided information to Councillors which the media have had for quite some time.
The information in the Briefing Note more specifically Appendices 1, 2 and 3 was provided to the media on Budget Launch day back on November 25, 2013. We also referred to the "Budget Savings" component in our 2014 Budget Launch presentation to Budget Committee (please see slide 11 to the link provided below.). You will note the preliminary number in the slide for 2014 has changed since November 25th from $155 million to $147 million (reported yesterday) as adjustments / changes to the budget were made during the City's approval process.
20Toronto/Strategic%20Communications/ City%20Budget/2014/PDFs/Presentations/ FINALrevisedDec2.1_2014%20Operating% 20Budget%20Launch.pdf
We have released various versions of the Briefing Note Appendices since November 25 most often in response to many media requests. But we had never formally provided it to Councillors. As this matter has already become an election issue, as a courtesy, I felt it was important that Councillors officially had this same information ie the Appendices, as well. So we also had to do a Briefing Note to Councillors to explain the Appendices.
I know the timing of the release of information to Councillors looks bad, but it is and was something that needed to be done. There was no partisan intentions on my part.
I understand that in your complaint you request additional information and details. We are in the process of collecting this information which may take about a week to assemble. I do want to point out that Appendix 2 of the Briefing Note does contain links which provide some source details to the various initiatives.
Thanks again for bringing your concerns to my attention.
Dear Mr Rossini,
Thank you for your quick, detailed, and quite encouraging response.
My intent with my request was to suggest a better approach to releasing data, rather than to create a new project for your team - my apologies for any headache this may have caused. I completely understand that this would take time, and it's not my intent to create a five-alarm fire, but rather improve future documentation created by your team.
I hope that any future discussions on this can be presented in a more clear way, since by way of example, that $155M on slide 11 appears in no other location in your entire presentation. This is confusing to someone trying to learn the facts.
Would you be comfortable with this correspondence being posted online, or with portions being quoted? As I have posted online that I sent my letter, I would like to post your the full email chain if you don't mind.
Hi Mr. McLeod, yes you can publish my response to your email. Don't worry about the extra work, others have requested similar info, so we will do it regardless.
Thx again and have a nice weekend
Thank you for your note and submission, Mr. MacLeod.
This is to advise that upon consideration of your submission with the City Manager's Office, this complaint will be tabled as a Request for Information.
Formal complaints received on the template/form that you had filled out are treated with a different process and is reserved for customers who are dissatisfied with the service they received.
Nevertheless, we thank you for your comments and trust that the response from Mr. Rossini is satisfactory.
We will work on providing the information you requested.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Program and Strategic Support Manager
Office of the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer
City of Toronto