My preamble: I chose not to respond to the Town’s “public statement” of July 15th which I can only assume came as their rebuttal to my public closure (so I had hoped) of the five year persecution of both myself and my former Chief of Police, Mike Osborne, when the town consistently failed to succeed in their misguided and unfounded attempts to have us charged with offences that never happened. My article that I’d hoped closed that dark chapter appears online here: https://www.billgordon.ca/opp-clears-midland-police-chief-and-i-of-criminal-allegations-again/
Sadly, with their publication of the slanderous and patently untrue allegations, that were denied as factual by the justice system repeatedly, and also rejected by the arbitration system, they seem intent on keeping this issue alive through the election cycle. I can only assume their motivations are to influence the voters. Fanning the flames that never seem to die.
The Town of Midland will NEVER be permitted to treat anyone like this under my leadership. This abuse of power and tax money into a multi-year vendetta is a disgrace. Every attempt to discredit either of us has failed repeatedly and publicly – but harm is still done. The only councillor who spoke out against this was Beth Prost. The rest supported the Town position without ever seeking input from either myself or Chief Osborne.Bill Gordon
While I chose not to respond to their statement, preferring instead to let the facts speak for themselves, it seems that my former Chief of Police, who is still awaiting his compensation after winning his battle with the Town of Midland, has chosen to set the record straight in the following document which I have chosen to publish. It was also sent to the local media who may or may not chose to pursue it. This has to end and both he and I wish it would. The town refuses to let this die so I suppose it will live one until a new administration is formed. The letter is lengthy but I have read it several times and it is accurate.
Chief Osborne’s Statement Is Below
Dear Town of Midland Council:
I read with disappointment the Town of Midland Council’s (the Council’s) Public Statement of July 15, 2022. After more than 7 years of harassment by your appointed representatives to the Midland Police Services Board (the Board) and waiting 8 years to resolve my contract, I thought we had finally reached an agreement at arbitration to resolve our differences and move on.
However, this release clearly demonstrates your intention to continue discrediting me in the community to advance your own political careers or personal agendas. This public statement, like many of your communications was misleading and unnecessary. The internet is also permanent and one day my grandchildren will read your comments and wonder what really happened. For this reason, I will respond to Council’s comments, provide context to this situation, and maintain the evidence to support my position.
Firstly, I did my job to the best of my ability at all times, within the law, in the best interest of the residents of Midland and always instructed staff to do the same. I have in the past volunteered thousands of hours and continue to volunteer in Midland and received recognition for these efforts from our MP and MPP who nominated me for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award (received), Georgian College that nominated me for a Premier’s Award and the Midland Rotary Club. I take pride in my accomplishments and grow tired of your relentless attacks 4 ½ + years after disbandment. I was also quite involved in the Police community serving in a number of capacities including Vice-President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, to ensure Midland was well represented and that I was as current as possible with trends in policing.
Contrary to your allegations, I have never refused to provide the OPP our records. I stopped communicating with the Board and Town because they were extorting me to provide the records in exchange for favourable contract negotiations. Since I would be breaching legislation to give them the records in exchange for financial gain, this was potentially a criminal offence. In addition, the Town would not respond to my questions or clearly state that information was going directly to the OPP. They would say they will consult with the OPP on the security of records, not that the records would go directly to the OPP who could then redact all of the necessary information and return what Midland was entitled to. I had hoped an agreement that was in draft would have accomplished this, but the Town decided to pursue legal action rather than let that agreement be finalized and matters resolved. I thank Councillor Prost for trying to convince Council that mediation was more productive than litigation and Councillor Gordon for his integrity in the face of overwhelming pressures. To date the Town has not confirmed whether the OPP took the records and redacted sensitive information before the Town or their representatives came into their possession. If the OPP were not given the records and redacted the information, then the entire legal action against me, to get the records directly to the OPP, was a ruse and you have breached legislation.
Your Public Statement also suggests that there was information on destroyed hard drives that the Town does not have. You know this isn’t true. The Town is fully aware that this was garbage; non-functioning drives that were no longer of use but contained remnants of highly sensitive information. They were destroyed because that was the requirement. The Town is also aware of how these servers functioned and that all information on the destroyed servers / drives remained on the functioning servers that were surrendered to the Town. This is a red herring thrown out to cast a cloud over my career and an otherwise successful OPP transition.
Ask yourselves, why were there no charges? It is my belief the OPP recognized there was no loss of information, that the destruction of these devices was necessary and appropriate and through their interviews, learned this was part of a pattern of false allegations, harassment and failure to follow legislation on the part of the Board you appointed. The OPP were aware that I never refused to provide them the data and even engaged a third party to try and facilitate this, but the OPP were not speaking with me, likely because of your relentless attempts to have charges laid rather than seeking or permitting a resolution. They also knew the timing of the allegations was suspect. Your allegation that the Board only discovered in 2021 that the drives / servers were destroyed is false and evidence was provided that your representatives knew of this in February of 2018. You also waited until 3 days before my contract arbitration in 2022 to make the allegation which is suspicious and appears to be an attempt to delay this matter again. The OPP would also recognize that I and the Midland Police Service cooperated fully in the disbandment providing all records we were permitted to provide to OPP, courts and the Town and some of the destruction of electronics was at their request. I also participated in lengthy interviews with them, without legal counsel because I did nothing wrong and my position was supported by experts from OPTIC that oversaw the records management system for the OPP and about 43 Municipal Police Services, the RCMP, representatives of other police agencies including the LEARN Committee that provides recommendations and guidelines to police services on records retention and Chiefs of police, current and retired. Lastly, your own legal branch acknowledged there was information on the drives that only the OPP or courts should have, and the OPP Senior Legal Counsel advised there was information on the servers that you could not have. From a common-sense perspective, if you could not have a portion of it, I could not legally disclose it to you.
Our Service was also effectively managed. Our team obtained amazing results that Council never speaks of because it doesn’t meet your agenda. During my eight years as Chief, our average increase in expenses including wages and benefits was less than 2%. More importantly, during my tenure from 2010 to 2017 Midland’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) consistently trended downwards dropping 51.1% overall. This was the greatest percentage decrease of any municipal police service in the Province over this 8-year time frame. When examining my evaluation period 2014-2017 for the recent arbitration, Midland’s CSI dropped 18.5%, 3rd best in Province with only 8 Municipal police services having reductions during this time, while provincially crime severity rose by 12.9%. Our team performed admirably during very difficult times.
Council and your 5 Member Police Services Board, controlled by the municipal majority of Mayor Strathearn, Chair Dixon and Deputy Mayor Ross have been more concerned with appearing right or getting re-elected or reappointed, than addressing community problems.
Midland Council and the Midland Police Services Board deliberately and repeatedly released inaccurate and misleading information, before, during and after the transition to OPP. Council also appointed Board members Dixon and Strathearn who had been highly and publicly critical of the Police Services leadership in their role as founding members, authors and police critics for MidlandCommunity.ca. You also appointed Mike Ross who was also publicly critical of the Police suggesting any inability to meet budget targets was insubordination. He also came into conflict with me when he tried to pressure myself and Town Staff directly, to reduce security requirements for a major licensed event. He was angry when I advised this was not appropriate and as a person who sold alcohol for a living, he had a conflict. You, as Council, knowingly created a hostile work environment.
The Midland Police Services Board led by your appointees Dixon, Strathearn and Ross repeatedly and knowingly breached the Police Services Act (PSA). You appointed them knowing they had an axe to grind. They failed to negotiate the Collective Agreements of both Police Associations contrary to the PSA and despite reminders and failed to negotiate my contract and evaluate me annually as the Chief as required by both the PSA and their own policies. They stonewalled negotiations, neglected to relay requests for information from the Town staff to me, failed to correct errors in my employee benefits, failed to respond appropriately to requests under MFIPPA, used their power to advance complaints against a political rival, pressured me to impose unwarranted discipline against this rival and made patently false complaints against me. To avoid actual or perceived political interference in police services, Police Boards are not permitted to be involved in police discipline matters.
Despite this, your Board would regularly comment on the validity of their complaints or those of others they were aligned with in relation to staff that opposed their ideas and would even suggest penalties including dismissal. In one instance Dixon demanded specific details of a complaint against a political rival. When I would not provide it, he said the Board required it to properly evaluate me. The Board had not done this with complaints against other staff and I took this as intimidation; provide the details or you will receive a poor evaluation. Funny part is, as mentioned, the Board never evaluated me from their appointment in 2014 to disbandment in 2018, despite the requirement to do so annually. Their unwarranted pressures forced me to obtain legal advice that indicated their complaints were not worthy of discipline, never mind dismissal. Their appointment also triggered the resignation of the only provincial appointee to the Board leaving only the 3 municipal appointees and removing provincial oversight of their day-to-day activities. Subsequent provincial appointees recognized and commented on the inappropriate behaviour of your appointees but were always outnumbered and snubbed verbally during meetings, in email and through the creation of committees comprised solely of Strathearn and Dixon. The Midland Police Service succeeded in spite of your appointees. There are countless examples of misinformation and inappropriate behaviour, but I will add just a few for your consideration.
In the lead up to the costing, an article was written in a local newspaper that showed the Midland Police Services percentage of the Towns budget was rising at an alarming rate. I knew this was inaccurate and confirmed this with Town staff. I then contacted the author who assured me the quote came from Mayor McKay. I then contacted Mayor McKay who denied any knowledge of this. Later, during the costing process the same misinformation was posted on the Town’s website. I contacted the Mayor and CAO inquiring how this information, that the Mayor denied any knowledge of, was posted publicly. I was eventually told that since it had been released as justification for the process, they could not re-write history and were posting the inaccurate information again. This was ridiculous but consistent with the behaviour.
Prior to the OPP releasing their budget estimate for Midland, I asked the Board to complete our budget so we could release our numbers and avoid any suggestion that we adjusted our budget to meet the OPP estimate. The Board agreed and a final budget was prepared. I talked about those numbers publicly in my blog, and with several councillors, media, and members of the community. No concerns were raised and it was only logical that both numbers were required to make a comparison. However, when the OPP numbers came in higher, I believe members of the Board and Council were shocked. I believe they anticipated significant savings day one, and this would eliminate the need for much discussion. I do not think they understood that we were efficient and in the words of KPMG, “lean”. We had taken advantage of civilianization, partnered with private businesses and developed crime analysis tools internally to enhance our investigative abilities without cost. We had right sized our staffing levels, effectively managed fleet and equipment, and our team was dedicated with relatively low sick levels and excellent work performance. I believe they then changed gears and began focusing more on discrediting the Police Service and myself as its leader. An article was then written by Strathearn and Dixon’s community group alleging that the Midland Police budget was in-camera information thereby suggesting I had committed some misconduct. I was confronted about this at a Board meeting by Strathearn. I denied the allegation and recounted our discussion about releasing our numbers before OPP and that this was the final budget so no revisions were going to be made. I also requested that they make a formal complaint so their allegation could be examined by an outside agency, but they declined. Ironically, the Board had breached legislation themselves by holding those budget discussions in camera when there was no exception for doing so.
The Town had stated that both the OPP and Midland Police were effective and therefore the costing process was limited to a comparison of budgets. Neither the OPP, Midland Police or the Consultant hired by the Town were permitted to provide any other efficiency measures. Despite this, and after recognizing there were no savings at least in the first few years, the Town of Midland began suggesting that going OPP made communities safer. In particular, they mentioned Pembroke that compares well to Midland in size and demographics. In August of 2017 the Town posted this Performance Indicators table for Pembroke that can still be found on your Town of Midland website.
The table fails to indicate what the numbers represent or their source and conflicts with Crime Severity data from Statistics Canada, and the City of Pembroke’s Website. According to Pembroke’s website, they transitioned to the OPP on July 6, 2013, not January 2012 as suggested, rendering this table meaningless. When this table was published, the Town should have known Pembroke’s CSI had risen from 62.78 in 2013 when the Pembroke Police Service disbanded, to 99.49 in 2017; a 65% increase over Midland that was 60.41 by this time. It was disingenuous to then suggest that Pembroke suddenly became safer, or Midland would become safer without municipal police. From 2010 to 2017, my tenure as Chief, Pembroke’s overall Crime Severity rose 42.5% while Midland’s Crime Severity dropped 53.3%. See Statistics Canada tables for Pembroke and Midland below.
In a November 27, 2019 Midland Mirror article titled, “Believe it or not, crime is declining in Midland”, George Dixon is quoted as saying,
“Continuing declines in violent crime and crime severity are an ongoing trend, both in Midland and provincewide,” said George Dixon, chair of the Midland Police Services Board. “We are, in fact, becoming safer all the time,” said Dixon, who addressed Midland Council on Nov. 20”.
Crime Severity is a measurement prepared by Statistics Canada that your experienced Board must be intimately aware of. Dixon’s comments to Council about crime severity on behalf of the Board, in the presence of fellow Board members Strathearn and Ross, are misleading and in my opinion nothing more than an attempt to discredit the work of the Midland Police and justify your decision to transition to the OPP. I will comment later, but you don’t need to justify the decision. You felt it would be cheaper and still effective and made a decision; move on. Following the disbandment of Midland Police, the overall crime severity and violent crime severity indexes in Midland had risen for approximately 19 straight months when the comments were made by your Board, led by Strathearn, Dixon and Ross (Feb 8, 2018 – Nov 27, 2019). Crime also rose provincially contrary to their submission. You can’t cherry pick individual months of success to suggest Midland is safer without Midland Police. It just isn’t true.
In another example while Midland Police were operational, I presented the Police Services Board with the opportunity to sever two employees. All members of your Board supported the idea in email and approved the move. My suggestion and subsequent negotiation with these members saved hundreds of thousands in wages, lower severance than would have been given in the disbandment, and legal fees. A year later, the Chair was upset over another matter and stated the severances were not approved by the Board. The Board later agreed the severances were approved and that I carried out their wishes. This is all captured in email and audio recordings of Board meetings. Despite the Board agreeing this was proper and the hundreds of thousands in savings, the Board led by Dixon, Strathearn and Ross introduced this allegation again in advance of arbitration as an example of poor performance. This further delayed matters as Town staff were forced to provide audio recordings that supported my position. This is a good time to mention that the matter incurring the bulk of the legal fees that have been subject to much litigation and debate, could have been significantly offset by saved wages and reduced legal fees, if the Board had negotiated a severance or permitted me to do so when given the opportunity. Dixon, Strathearn and Ross would not even consider a discussion with the member despite a request from the Provincial appointee that they at least consider it, and my comments that for the right price this could save considerable money and reduce internal stresses on staff.
Dixon also suggested that the appointment of a staff member to a budgeted position was not approved by the Board. What occurred is another example of the Board not doing its job. Despite my request that they negotiate this position before the appointment if they wished to do so, the negotiating committee of Dixon and Strathearn failed to negotiate at all. They then tried to strong arm the Association into reducing the persons wage after they were already in the position. They stated they wouldn’t ask payroll to process the increase unless the Association accepted less than what was agreed to in the collective agreement. This led to a grievance and significant wasted time and effort. The Board eventually agreed that they had approved the appointment and that I had acted appropriately. The Provincial appointee questioned how an individual member of the Board could stall the appointment that was so clearly approved by the Board. Despite the Board agreeing this was proper and approved, and this captured in email and audio recordings, the Board led by Dixon, Strathearn and Ross introduced this too as an example of poor performance for arbitration. They were desperate to discredit me in any way possible but were without ammunition.
Misleading information was also provided in a Police Act Hearing. Strathearn was required to attend on behalf of the Board to provide the hearing officer a document that was needed to bring an end to the hearing. Strathearn said he had spoken to Chair Dixon and didn’t know why the Chief wouldn’t have provided the document thereby discrediting me in this public hearing. However, the document was part of an agreement between the Board and a member of staff and despite several requests Dixon stated verbally and in at least two email that I could not provide it. This resulted in an unnecessary day of hearing and added costs for Midland taxpayers.
The Board also suggested that I had failed to prepare inventories and left the station in a mess upon disbandment. However, inventories were prepared by staff in every area requested. I later shared some of these when questioned by a Board Member. We even volunteered to prepare additional inventories but were told they were not required. Some of the inventories, including the firearms inventory, were highly detailed including photographs, descriptions, original and potential values, and much more. Any mess left behind was created by your Board / Councils decisions. The transition required Midland Police to operate a fully functional police service up to the minute of disbandment.
Despite numerous requests to give MPS the weekend to conduct last minute clean-up, the Town insisted on the OPP station going live immediately upon disbandment. This meant we had officers working and others on standby with all of their equipment and clothing until 6:00 pm and the OPP taking over at 6:00 pm. There were zero minutes to conduct last minute clean up. Needless to say, many people dropped their clothing and equipment off at 6:00 pm and a mess was created. A few of us stayed to transfer ammunition and equipment to police services that had purchased them, but we did not have time to conduct a final cleaning. OPP also had contractors working in the building and town staff were removing furniture that was left in place until we were finished. All of this activity contributed to any “mess” that was created. This was poor planning on your part.
It was also suggested that my contract requests were too high, and this delayed any agreement. However, I hired the same negotiator as the SOA and he was asking for the same improvements. I also don’t apologize for any of my requests, that is what negotiations are for. The negotiator eventually threw his hands up as the Board would not negotiate despite the legislated requirement to do so and made surrendering of documents a requirement of contract discussions. The Board also breached the SOA’s collective agreement by negotiating personal contracts rather than a new collective agreement. Negotiating personal contracts allowed them to avoid mandatory disclosure of the police association contract, subsequent public scrutiny and the ability to determine how my requests compared to theirs.
The Board argued that they required my email for MFIPPA purposes. For clarity, I had no issue if the OPP took the email and subjected it to MFIPPA and other legislation. It had been their past practice to do so until just before the Midland costing and I have recommended to various bodies that all costings should require the new police service to take custody of all documents and subject them to their processes, not leave the Chief arguing with a Board and Town who are demanding he/she give files directly to them.
Interestingly, the Police Board members use private email addresses to conduct business including communication with each other and their legal counsel thereby avoiding MFIPPA because the Town is without access. In most cases, the full Board never even saw communications by some municipal appointed Board members. Further, the Chair had attempted to obtain some of my communications since he joined the Board. He argued with Ministry trainers about this in early 2015 and later attempted to have the Board Secretary use her dual role as Executive Assistant for the Police Service to gain access to my internal communications. This was before the legal fee issue arose and demonstrates his interest didn’t suddenly arise with the legal fee matter.
I was regularly subjected to inappropriate comments. In one instance Chair Dixon suggested that a complaint to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission led to a person’s suicide. MidlandCommunity.ca that Dixon and Strathearn founded and authored articles for, had made disparaging remarks about this complaint before their appointment and Dixon showed an extraordinary interest in it. As the complainant, and someone who has had friends commit suicide, I found this comment by my employer sickening and reprehensible. It did however help me better understand why I was under constant attack; Dixon felt my complaint contributed to the death of his friend.
The end result of these ridiculous delays, false allegations, personal vendettas and failure to ensure the Board carried out its duties has resulted in increased legal fees and a significant waste of Town of Midland staff time with the cost born by Midland taxpayers. Sadly, this has been recognized by members of Council but to my knowledge, only two have questioned these actions publicly or suggested a better way of resolving matters.
In closing, a Police Services Board / Council’s role is to ensure they make an honest assessment of community problems, communicate those problems to their citizens and work with their police service and community partners to ensure the necessary supports and resources are in place to make Midland as safe and healthy as possible.
You cannot fix a problem unless you admit you have one. The ongoing practice of providing misleading information, discrediting Midland Police or myself is not necessary and should not be your focus. Concentrate on getting your budget and house in order. You felt OPP would be less expensive and equally effective and made a choice, move on; I have been trying to for more than 4 ½ years. My comments are not meant to disparage the OPP but reveal how you as a Council and Board continually mislead and attack me personally to justify yourselves. I guess it makes it easier to treat a long serving, dedicated and effective employee terribly when you vilify them. The OPP is a professional organization and is now Midland’s Police Service, we all need to support them. I also recognize that crime will fluctuate and is heavily impacted by challenges in health, wealth and education that are not exclusively a police problem, so this is a community issue. I wish the OPP the greatest success; I was proud to work alongside the OPP for 3 decades and have many friends in their organization and will support them in any way I can. I welcome questions from Council and my comments are supported by email, audio recordings and other forms of communication. Links can be provided on request.