So, it’s all over. The audits have been done, the provincial report is in, Mayor Provenzano is ready to ‘move on’. But what really happened here? How do we make sense of it all? Is the fabric of our social service net mended, or still fraying at the ends?
I’m back, to take a crack at making sense of it all. Not sure I will fully succeed, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Me bumbling my way through this has to be better than the deafening silence out on the streets right now. Maybe it will start a new discussion… who knows?
To start off, I’m going to ‘simple’ things way down, and tell you a little story about a chicken ranch, and the woman who took over the chicken ranch and needed to find a good dog to guard the chicken coop. Something folksy and whimsical, to get everyone’s mental juices flowing. Try to bear with me!
Old-timers and country folk know all about this. Maybe you don’t. Truth is, an egg-sucker is a bad dog.
An egg-sucker is a dog that was tasked with protecting the chickens and the coop from predators but somewhere along the way this dog develops a taste for eggs. So, instead of protecting the farmer’s interests, the dog ends up being the biggest threat to the operation. And once an egg-sucker embarks on its quest for creamy delicious yolks, well… it’s almost impossible to get them to stop. That dog’s usefulness is all played out. Time to get a new dog.
This is exactly what happened at one particular chicken ranch (We’ll call it the ‘Algoma Public Health Ranch’). And on that ranch, they had a dog that was tasked with protecting the chickens and the eggs (We”ll call that dog Jeff Holmes). But this dog turned egg-sucker, and by the time it was found out, roughly half a million eggs had vanished. So, they had to get rid of him.
Just about that time, a new woman came along, to take over management of the Algoma Public Health Ranch (We’ll call her Dr. Barker). She didn’t have a lot of experience in running a ranch, but one thing was abundantly clear – she was in a hurry to get a new dog, to protect the chickens and the eggs. She was in so much of a hurry, that she cut some corners. Instead of paying out premium money to deal with reputable breeders, and seeking the advice of the old-timers around the ranch, she struck out on her own, and found herself a bargain. So, she made a deal with a breeder, to get a new dog (We’ll call this breeder Ron Hulse).
But wouldn’t you know it, this fella passed off another egg-sucker to her! (We’ll call this egg-sucker Shawn Rootenberg). She was told that this dog went by another name, so she had no way of knowing she got herself another egg-sucker! At least, she claims she had no idea about it, anyway.
So, she takes this new egg-sucker, and plants him right in the middle of where the last egg-sucker just got done doing his thing. Only this new egg-sucker had a way worse reputation. This one had caused widespread destruction on multiple ranches before, racking up more than a million eggs, some from his own close relatives! But the breeder held a strong belief in the rehabilitation of bad dogs, and was willing to stake the well-being of the Algoma Public Health Ranch on his hunch. So he kept quiet about this dog’s true history.
But in the midst of this terrible blunder, a minor miracle happened. For some strange reason that only she could explain if she was still around to tell the tale, this woman did something that was either very convenient, or very clever… at any rate, it was indeed fortunate… she put a muzzle on this new dog, before letting it loose in the chicken coop! So this dog ran around for months, never once sucking on eggs, but not really having the power to protect the ranch, either. It was kind of a symbolic thing, really. A muzzled dog is basically all bark, and no bite.
To wrap this tale up with brevity, we’ll finish off by saying that some clever camper finally recognized the new dog, identified it as an egg-sucker, and the dog was run off, before it ever got the chance to demonstrate its true nature. And that’s the end of our little story.
Now folks, here is the part where audience participation come into play. Got a couple of question for ya! Ready?
- Was it right or fair for the Algoma Public Health Ranch to be subjected to another egg-sucker, right after they just got finished ridding themselves of one?
- Why did the new ranch manager muzzle the new dog, rendering it basically useless, if she didn’t know it was an egg-sucker?
- Would you knowingly bring a dog that was a known egg-sucker into your ranch, and trust it with your livelihood?
- What would you think about someone who deceived you in this way?
I tied this story to a simpler time, and a simpler reality, to accomplish one basic goal. What I’m trying to do, is introduce the topic of morality and ethics into the equation, because after reading all the media stories, reviewing the facts, and then reading the government’s report, I can’t seem to find basic common sense or morality anywhere. Do we still, as a society, have a basic grasp on the difference between right and wrong? Do such things still exist? Do they still matter? Watching the Algoma Public Health Unit scandal from start to finish, I am left with an overwhelming sense of futility. The world has gone insane. I just can’t relate to it anymore.
Here is a brief synopsis of the whole APH scandal, at least, my understanding of it.
- Jeff Holmes pilfered roughly half a million dollars from APH coffers, while in the capacity of Chief Financial Officer for that organization.
- During the fallout from that event, Dr. Kim Barker took over as Chief Medical Officer at APH.
- She was inexperienced, and anxious to fill the empty CFO spot, even on a temporary basis.
- So, she pushed for a replacement, ran into difficulty, and struck out on her own to secure Shawn Rothberg as interim CFO.
- She hired Rothberg, who turned out to be a convicted fraud by the name of Shawn Rootenberg. The consultant who helped secure Rootenberg for APH, Ron Hulse, knew of his real identity, but felt that Rootenberg deserved a chance to prove himself, and could only do so under an assumed identity
- Dr. Barker claims she didn’t know that it was actually Shawn Rootenberg she hired, but limited his abilities as interim CFO, not granting him signing authority, or access to HR, or payroll, even though those are traditional duties for a Chief Financial Officer.
- Rootenberg spent six months as acting CFO, completing his contract, before his true identity was discovered.
- All hell breaks loose in local media, and audits and reviews are initiated.
- Dr. Barker resigns.
- A waterfront development project, and a medical marijuana grow-op project, go up in smoke, because of Rootenberg’s perceived involvement in them.
- The Algoma Public Health Unit is left in a state of shock and disarray.
So, this all leads us up to today, and the provincial government’s ‘Assessor Report’, authored by Graham Scott. This is the final say, the authoritative ‘bill of goods’, on the whole APH scandal. It’s the thing that should make us all rest easy, that order has been restored, and our public health service is in fine working order. So, did the report accomplish these feats?
No, it didn’t. Not by a long shot.
The ‘Assessors Report’ is a 56 page document. Let’s keep in focus, front and center, what precipitated this report, shall we? Do I need to remind everyone of what that was? Let’s say it all together – the review was requested because it was discovered that a convicted fraud had operated as interim CFO at Algoma Public Health for six months, under an assumed identity!
So, what does Mr. Scott have to say about the deception that led to his involvement at APH? Absolutely nothing! Well, maybe he did say something, but there are large sections of his report that were redacted in bold black, that make the whole thing remind me of CIA terror reports coming out of the United States during the whole torture scandal over there. If this was a government report, generated for the people of Ontario, why are there areas redacted? Who got copies of the full report? What happened to public transparency? Why is nobody freaking out over this?
Sorry, I digress.
Anything negative Mr. Scott might have had to say about Mr. Rootenberg’s use of an assumed identity is completely cloaked behind black. He does mention that Mr. Rootenberg messed up on a few levels, and makes mention of Mr. Rootenberg’s efforts to secure a Starbuck’s franchise on APH property, but there is no statement of any kind visible from Mr. Scott, that condemns, dissuades, or denounces the manner in which Mr. Rootenberg secured his position as CFO for Algoma Public Health.
This is the most disheartening aspect of this report for me. This was the golden opportunity for Mr. Scott to talk about the merits of honesty, integrity, and moral conduct in public service! We get none of that from him. Instead, what we get, and something I find absolutely appalling, are subjective overtures of praise for Mr. Rootenberg from Mr. Scott. In his report, Scott states that Rootenberg ‘approached his work with energy and vigor and moved quickly to address many of the serious issues facing the APHU’. But he doesn’t stop there. Scott goes on to say that Rootenberg was ‘project oriented’, and makes a further comment, explaining how ‘it is hard to win a popularity contest as an ICFO’.
I’m sorry, but in the absence of any visible denouncement of Mr. Rootenberg’s failure to properly identify himself in obtaining this position, Mr. Scott’s words of praise fall flat and repulsive on my deaf ears. If he could employ subjective license to praise Mr. Rootenberg, surely Mr. Scott could have employed some of that same liberty to balance the equation of moral conduct?
In his press release, Mr. Scott states emphatically that there was absolutely no evidence of any illegal activity on behalf of Mr. Rootenberg. Well, since we now know that Dr. Barker prevented Mr. Rootenberg from having any signing authority, or any access to APH funds, is this really such a surprise? Are we supposed to be impressed by that?
So, what does Mr. Scott conclude in his report? What is the ‘end game’ for the Algoma Public Health Scandal?
Well, the Board members who were in place prior to the fall Municipal Election, including the Board Chair and City Council member Marchy Bruni, were turfed unceremoniously. I’m strangely comfortable with that. Call it bad luck, whatever you want, but Mr. Bruni seems to have jumped out of the frying pan, and into the fire, getting caught up in the huge mess while on the PUC Board and the Tainted Water Scandal, and landing right smack in the middle of the APH Scandal. He may be humiliated by his removal from the APH Board, but from where I sit, it’s more of a mercy killing. The APH Board watched the whole train wreck unfold, and were like deer in the headlights the whole time. They needed to go.
The other notable thing about Mr. Scott’s report, are his two ‘options’ for Algoma Public Health. Option ‘A’ involves dismantling the APH completely, and having it absorbed by Sudbury. Option ‘B; involves turning APH into a meaner, leaner version of itself, but doesn’t involve getting absorbed into Sudbury. I am not comfortable with either of Mr. Scott’s options, for one simple reason: both options include a cut in management positions at APH. Let me explain my opposition, in a little greater detail.
While APH was dealing with the fraud committed by Mr. Holmes, a dysfunctional Board, an inexperienced Medical Officer of Health, an interim CFO who was actually a convicted fraud, somehow managed to keep Algoma Public Health functioning, and providing service to the people in our community. In the midst of all this scandal and fallout, and under extra scrutiny, they persevered. So, for all their troubles and efforts, both of Mr. Scott’s ‘options’ include cutting their throats? The net effect is, those who did their jobs and didn’t screw up, still have to pay. That might not be Mr. Scott’s intention, but that is the net effect. We already have our sacrifice, the Board members must go. So, why are the unsung heroes being punished? Why are those who caused this whole scandal allowed to walk away unscathed?
Nothing about this scandal sits right with me. It stinks from top to bottom. Morality and basic common sense has been thrown out the window. The guilty get praise, and the innocent get punished. The world is upside down, friends.
But there is a silver lining in all of this. If you are a person with a troubled past, a criminal record, something you feel is preventing you from becoming the success you were always meant to be, take heart! In Ontario, you can start fresh! You can realize the dream!
All you need to do is find someone who is willing to help you conceal your identity. Assume a false name, find a consultant to help you present yourself as someone else and process your pay, and get yourself that awesome corporate position! The police won’t care, the government won’t care, and the vast majority of people in society are too ignorant or blind to realize what you are doing is basically wrong! And if you get discovered, and an investigation gets launched that costs the taxpayers many thousands of dollars, all the naughty bits will get blacked out, but you might even get complimented by a government official for your creative efforts!
It’s a great day to be alive in Ontario, isn’t it?
For Northern Hoot, I’m R.B. Shea (an alias, but don’t hate the player, hate the game!)