LONG SAULT, Ontario - Tammy Hart and her colleagues around the township council table in South Stormont are at odds over spending plans for the 2014 budget.
At issue is the amount of money the township may spend with a new newspaper that has plans to operate later this year in the township.
Hart is suggesting money should not be spent on so-called "new media" while her colleagues around the council table are suggesting the municipality should try to get as much bang for its advertising buck as possible.
We have reproduced letters from both parties below.
**UPDATE: Hart has issued another letter, clarifying statements she made previously. It is reproduced below.**
Township council offers its reasons for advertising in new media
Four members of Council have decided collectively to take this unprecedented step to inform our taxpayers on an issue that has discredited the integrity of four members of your elected council and township staff.
There has been a suggestion by the deputy mayor that in council’s deliberation for the 2014 budget, preference was given to support a newspaper attempting to establish itself in South Stormont.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Therefore we wish to explain and clarify the misinformation being circulated by Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart.
In December 2013, a presentation was made to council to introduce a newspaper with a local flavour specifically for the residents of South Stormont. The newspaper requested the township consider advertising in this new publication on a monthly basis, much like the township does in another local newspaper. Council was in favour of the project in principal, however, a review of marketing initiatives would take place as part of 2014 budget deliberations.
The issue of increased advertising came before two budget meetings. Discussion ensued with members expressing concern questioning the need for more advertising however, as a growing community with an increasing need for communication with our residents through multiple media avenues, an increase was approved.
Two (2) proposals for newspaper advertising were presented at the January 21, 2014 budget meeting and a report was prepared by staff for council to consider. The discussion centred very much about the value and need for further promotion of South Stormont, programs, activities and opportunities. Council agreed to advertise in both new newspapers.
We are taken aback to think a member of council would mislead the residents of South Stormont in this fashion. This attempt to discredit the reputations of your elected officials and total breach of trust against fellow members of council is disgraceful.
We trust this open letter has provided the rationale employed by your township for the betterment of our communication in our community.
Mayor Bryan McGillis
Coun. Barry Brownlee
Coun. Cindy Woods
Coun. Richard Waldroff
Hart says she objects to spending taxpayer money on new media
To all my constituents in South Stormont, I would like to offer my prospective on the situation in South Stormont regarding the $10,600 awarded to a new newspaper. During two budgets meetings where Mayor Bryan McGillis, councillors Cindy Woods, Richard Waldroff and Barry Brownlee all voted in favour of funding a newspaper at no time did the mayor or council members express to me that this was adverting dollars to be allocated for the newspaper.
It was verbally implied the amount was to help towards the start-up costs. I have on several occasions, including the December 11 council meeting, express my concerns of using taxpayer funds towards this venture.
At this time I am still awaiting the official minutes of the two meetings from township administration. I stand by my original votes against funding this project and welcome a review of the minutes showing that council will not fund this project.
At no time did I go on record stating that I did not agree to a responsible amount of advertising dollars, I just object to providing taxpayer funds towards a new media.
Tammy A. Hart
Deputy Mayor of South Stormont
Hart clarifies previous statement
In regards to my statement this week, (to all my constituents in South Stormont), I wish to clarify a couple of issues.
Please know that I completely understood that council agreed to advertise in (new media) during the first budget meeting on Jan. 21, 2014.
My point has always been (and what I have been trying to express), is that at no time during the final draft budget on March 5, 2014 was it clearly understood by me that the expenditure of $10,600 was solely for advertising. There are no signed agreements of any kind, no information in front of me describing an ad of any sort for advertising in this newspaper. Had the mayor and council members disclosed this point at that time, I would have suggested that we vote to support funding for the newspaper after we can establish its existence. Unfortunately now this issue has snowballed and taken on a life of its own. This is just another example of why transparency is so important and needs to be adhered to by everyone.
I do hope that council will reconsider supporting the newspaper and vote to use taxpayer’s money for badly needed infrastructure instead.
I would like to add one last thing; I answer to the taxpayer not the Integrity Commission, the mayor or council. The voting public will have the opportunity to judge my integrity in the October election; I look forward to it.
Once again, I am all in favour of supporting local business and anyone who is thinking about establishing a business in South Stormont I welcome it.
Tammy A. Hart
Deputy Mayor of South Stormont