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Municipality to hold public meeting Aug. 27 into sale
of Bruce Telecom

By Liz Dadson

www.kincardinetimes.com

Kincardine council

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Kincardine council plans to hold a public meeting, Wednesday, Aug. 27, to address concerns about the sale of Bruce Telecom.

Wednesday night (Aug. 13), council spent an hour-and-a- half in closed session, discussing a closed-door meeting investigation report from Amberley Gavel Inc., concerning the in-camera (closed) meetings held prior to the sale of the telephone company to Eastlink. That $26.5-million deal was announced Jan. 22 by council.

When council returned to open session, Wednesday night, a motion was approved, stating that council had received the investigator's report and will make that report available to the public.

It also announced the public meeting Aug. 27.

In a press release, dated Aug. 14, the municipality states that council considered the following factors in determining the potential sale of Bruce Telecom:

  • The telecom industry is changing dramatically and there are now multiple companies providing communications and entertainment services to the community. In order to compete and remain sustainable, Bruce Telecom would likely require a significant capital investment. This capital investment would be funded through municipal tax dollars.
  • There had been a significant decline in the income that the municipality receives from Bruce Telecom and this trend would continue.
  • A major telecom company would be better positioned to provide state-of-the-art services to our residents.
  • The proceeds from the sale would be reinvested in the community and at current rates, that investment’s interest income would likely exceed the income generated through the operation of Bruce Telecom on a risk-adjusted basis.
  • The proposed purchaser would respect the rights of unionized employees and maintain job and career opportunities in Kincardine.

The press release states that in order to assist in both assessing the future of Bruce Telecom and assisting with the sale, Kincardine retained a number of advisors, including those with expertise in telecommunications, finance, various aspects of law and human resources.

"Subsequent to the announcement of the sale, there has been some concern from a ratepayers' group and some citizens regarding the sale," states the release. "We have worked to try and provide as much information as possible to all interested parties to protect the interests of stakeholders in Bruce Telecom, including customers, employees, and taxpayers, all while respecting legally- binding confidentiality agreements with interested parties."

The municipality states that given the complicated nature of this sale, council and municipal staff worked closely to ensure that all appropriate municipal rules and regulations were followed, of particular note, this included holding some closed council meetings to discuss the sale. 

"When the municipality received a complaint about the nature of the closed meetings, the municipality immediately referred the complaint to Amberley Gavel Inc., an investigator, which ultimately filed a report that states that the municipality should not have held certain closed meetings," states the press release.

"The municipality strongly disagrees with the findings and in no way accepts that the Municipal Act was violated. However, in order to address any concerns that the public may have, regarding the report or the process followed, the municipality is releasing the report by Amberley Gavel Inc to the public."

In addition, although not addressed in the Amberley Gavel Inc. report, council will make available materials considered during the closed meetings related to the issue of the Bruce Telecom sale and hold a public meeting to receive deputations from the public considering the sale. 

Materials will have redactions to protect the interests of Bruce Telecom and its stakeholders and the rights of the interested parties.

More information on the public meeting and documentation will be available on Kincardine's website: www.kincardine.net

In the report to council, dated June 19, 2014, Amberley Gavel states:

"Amberley Gavel has concluded the council for the Municipality of Kincardine breached the open meetings requirement of the Municipal Act in closing its meetings to the public between Feb. 6, 2013, and Jan. 20, 2014, during discussions of the proposed sale of Bruce Telecom."

 


Amberley Gavel states that the Municipal Act provides that the report be made public. "It is suggested that the report be included on the agenda of the next regular meeting of council or at a special meeting called for the purpose of receiving this report prior to the next regular meeting."

To read the entire Amberley Gavel Inc. report, click here.

In response, a letter from the McMillan LLP legal firm, acting on behalf of Kincardine in this matter, states:

"The closed meetings (regarding discussion of the sale of Bruce Telecom) allowed for the protection of highly-confidential financial, economic and strategic information relating to Bruce Telecom, the municipality and the consultants, respectively. 

"At the same time, the public was advised, through the dissemination of the public bylaws, including By-law No. 2014-010, that a sale of the assets of Bruce Telecom was being contemplated and that the consultants were retained to provide their professional advice on the proposed sale.

"The substantive decision to sell Bruce Telecom was confirmed by recorded vote, in open session of the council on Jan. 22, 2014. While the negotiations of the acceptable price for the sale and other financial details were discussed in the closed meetings, the unique nature of Bruce Telecom, the industry in which it operates and the type of information being discussed, justified the decision to go in camera. This was arguably commercially prudent and reasonable in the circumstances."

In conclusion, McMillan states the municipality respectfully requests the investigator to reconsider its proposed decision reached in the investigation report.

To read the entire McMillan letter, click here.

In response, Nigel Bellchamber of Amberley Gavel, states in a letter dated July 22, 2014, that the investigation report should not be changed as a result of McMillan's review.

Bellchamber reminds council that this report is to be made public in accordance with the Municipal Act 2001.

"We recommend that this be done at the next scheduled meeting of council, or at an earlier meeting called for the purpose."

To read Bellchamber's response, click here.

© Liz Dadson



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