Who is Bruce McLeod (continued)
McLeod is a long-time city council follower. If he doesn’t watch Monday council meetings on TV he’s there in person. He’s spoken before council probably “30 or 40 times” over the past 10 years.
McLeod, a former warehouse logistics manager who has moved between Windsor and Toronto over his career and is now retired in Windsor, is also part of a group that has been dubbed “the white-haired watchdogs,” older residents who often can be found following city council debates and critiquing city decisions.
McLeod has been among those attending audit committee meetings on the controversial 400 City Hall Square building project about construction cost overruns “for ages,” he told WindsorOntarioNews.com.
“Otherwise the whole matter would have just been deep-sixed, eh?”
He says his interest in council largely stems from the way it is being run by Mayor Eddie Francis.
“There’s this culture of secrecy – Mayor Eddie Francis, I think his maxim would be, ‘If they need to know don’t tell ‘em, and if they ask us, don’t tell ‘em, if they sue us or they file a Freedom of Information request, don’t tell ‘em.”
McLeod objects to the numerous in-camera meetings held by council. He says that ostensibly these meetings are supposed to be about certain topics only and that councillors know what will be discussed beforehand.
“And we find out peripherally that things get discussed behind the scenes where we can’t have any access to it.”
Or, he says, if councillors are asked why certain subjects are talked about in private the answer is, “Well, that’s where we work everything out.”
He said this “culture of secrecy” has been a hallmark of Francis’s two terms.
Asked if there was similar secrecy among previous councils McLeod said he didn’t live in the city until about the time of Francis’s election.
Why was the meeting with Kwame Kilpatrick so important to him as a matter of ethics?
McLeod said it comes down to the basic fact that Windsor’s mayor should not have been dealing with a “shady character.”
Kilpatrick, who would later serve jail time for being convicted in the “text-message” scandal and resign as Detroit’s mayor, by travelling to Windsor to meet Francis broke an earlier condition of bond where he was not supposed to be out of the country without permission.
Told that Kilpatrick had not yet been convicted McLeod said that didn’t matter.
“He’s been charged and everybody in the world knew the details,” he said.
Moreover, he said, Kilpatrick was later convicted of perjury –“swearing before God to tell the truth” – and therefore “for a politician to do that is worse than murder I think.”
Therefore, McLeod said, Francis should not at all have been dealing with someone who has “no respect for the truth.”
But McLeod’s complaint should be seen as part of his wider criticisms of Francis over why the Kilpatrick meeting even took place.
McLeod said Francis has led negotiations to purchase the operating rights (not ownership) to the Detroit half of the Windsor – Detroit tunnel for $75 million (the City of Windsor owns the Canadian half), an initiative he described as a “dubious, stupid premise that makes absolutely no sense.”
He said Francis has wanted to purchase the City of Detroit operating rights to prevent the American half of the tunnel falling under control of a private operator – namely Matty Maroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge.
In fact, in 2007, the city’s lawyer in the negotiations, Cliff Sutts, was quoted as saying the strategy was “to keep this out of the hands of Matty Maroun.”
For McLeod, there is “no good reason” the city should be offering $75 million to the City of Detroit. He acknowledged the “oft-repeated” claim that, should Maroun get control, the businessman could “close it.”
McLeod said that “makes no sense at all because there are laws on both sides of the border that govern the conduct of affairs on international crossings.”
Francis has said the city fears that should Maroun gain control he would also build a cordoned-off road to the Ambassador Bridge thus controlling vehicular access to the tunnel and ending the “downtown to down town” connection.
The citizen activist also questions the amount of loan Infrastructure Ontario would provide the city.
He says it wouldn’t be $75 million, as reported, but the provincial agency agreed only to fund “up to a certain amount” which was found out after a Freedom of Information request. The exact amounts were blacked out, he said.
Further inquires to Infrastructure Ontario and the Mayor were not answered, he said. “We found out since that it was like $12 million.”
Who would come up with the balance? “Well, that’s the question.”
So why did the mayor do it?
McLeod says sometimes “you have to close your eyes” and ask the question “what’s this all about? Is somebody trying to build themselves a little empire here? What’s Eddie up to?”
Why would Francis do that?
“I don’t know,” McLeod said. “Nobody exactly knows what his plans are once he leaves politics.”
McLeod said Francis “apparently” has indicated he wouldn’t run after a second term, which expires next year.
“But the word right now is, he’s going to be running again because he’s burned all his bridges. He doesn’t have any credit or any currency with any of the political parties. They don’t want him”