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Mayor Mel Lastman
March 10, 2000
Dear Mayor Lastman:
In my many years dealing with the City of Toronto (including as a member of the former Toronto Mayor's Committee on Aging, Housing Working Group, and now with the city's Rooming House Working Group for three years,) this is the first time I have ever written a letter of complaint about any employee of the city.
The vast majority of employees of the city are conscientious and competent, but when one is acting in such a way as to put the reputation of the city in disrepute, I felt it was necessary to bring it to your attention. John Schaffter's escalating abuses of his position of authority should be carefully reviewed.
The Parkdale Tenants' Association and I were invited to participate on March 8, 2000, in the first meeting of the city's Parkdale Housing Committee (something approved by City Council on February 1, 2000). We faxed John Schaffter, a city staffer in charge of the first meeting, to let him know that at this point, due to the lack of information being provided, we would be observers only at the meeting, and would hold a meeting of our group's Board to decide if we would want to be members and if so who would be our representative(s). Three of our members, including myself, attended this meeting as observers.
I have never before felt I had to tape record a meeting, but due to the long history of improprieties committed by Mr. Schaffter, I felt obliged to do so, knowing that it is perfectly legal under federal Canadian law to tape record any conversation to which I am a party (and me being on the tape proves I was a party,) even without the other party's (parties') knowledge of the taping.
Mr. Schaffter who in my experiences uses this tactic often, tried the divide and conquer technique, and put Paul Rodgers, (one of our members,) on the spot and asked him to decide if he would take one of the tenant member positions on the new Committee on behalf of the Parkdale Tenants' Association. It took me a couple of minutes to get my objection in, and reminded Mr. Schaffter of the conditions of which we were attending and that he had a fax to confirm it, at which time he admitted it was a breach of protocols and withdrew his request.
In the meeting an issue came out that I had alerted Schaffter to over a year ago which he chose to ignore. It came out, the "Bachelorette Tenants' Association" which the city has been using to represent tenants in Parkdale, was only comprised of 3 SUPERINTENDENTS, John (Jack) Davies (the super at 40 Beaty Ave.,) Allan Griffiths (the super at 20 Maynard Ave.,) and Patrick Bosch (formerly a tenant at 40 Beaty Ave. and now the superintendent at 26 Maynard Ave.,) and has only one real tenant, Satkumar Kanagaratnam ("Kumar", who lives at 203 Dunn Avenue). As an association they have not held any public meetings, unlike us who have held many which we have documentation on.
After the meeting was over, since I was generally not allowed to speak as other participants said I did not have the right to do so as an "observer", I asked John Schaffter a question. I asked him, "which of the present and previous tenant laws would the Parkdale Housing Committee would use as a basis: the present Tenant Protection Act, or the old, Rent Control Act, the Residential Rent Regulation Act, or the Residential Tenancies Act?" When Mr. Schaffter asked why, I responded that under all of these acts that superintendents are recognized as agents of the landlord and that though they have a tenancy agreement, as employees of the landlord or management they are not recognized as tenants. Mr. Schaffter then called over Patrick Bosch to the conversation, who had been hovering nearby all this time, and Schaffter told him that his group (the Bachelorette Tenants' Association) "needed to find a tenant to represent them in the committee to improve their credibility". Patrick Bosch responded by saying that Kumar was their only tenant and they had already decided that he would never be their representative. Schaffter then said they needed to find a tenant to be "credible" and Bosch responded that "Murray can find us one". This seemed to satisfy Schaffter as that was the end of the conversation. Murray presumably is Murray Lowe, of the Bachelorette Owners' Association, and Bosch's employer!
It was a severe abuse by the city, and the city is responsible since John Schaffter is the representative sent by the city, to help in assisting in the perpetration of this misrepresentation of superintendents as a tenant organization. Schaffter was told of this over a year ago and chose to ignore this the whole time, and now assisting in covering it up proves the whole Conflict Resolution Process created by the city was a sham. This makes a mockery of the term "impartial mediator" and as shown in the history outlined below, and of other terms the city uses such as "public meeting", and it is actions such as these that have left the public cynical about the city and its politicians.
In October of 1998, the city created the "Parkdale Conflict Resolution Process" to look into the issues of bachelorette buildings and rooming houses, and appointed an "impartial mediator", John Schaffter, already an employee of the city.
I was invited to attend these meetings as a representative of the Parkdale Tenants' Association. This group has existed in the community for three decades and was even one of the founders' of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Association in 1974.
Right from the beginning there were problems with Mr. Schaffter. He repeatedly ignored the input from me and other members of the Parkdale Tenants' Association, but the other groups did not appear to have this problem. Sometime in January of 1999, we received a photocopied list of telephone and facsimile numbers, which was part of a 9 page fax dated Dec. 15, 1998, 5:35 p.m. from the City of Toronto Planning and Development department, (with the originating facsimile number of 416-392-1330). I brought it to John Schaffter's attention that John (Jack) Davies, who was there as a "tenant representative" for the "Bachelorette Tenants' Association" was in fact a superintendent. He gave his fax number as being the same as his landlord, Murray Lowe (who is the Secretary of the Bachelorette Owners' Association). Mr. Schaffter smiled and told me that proved nothing, and as far as he was concerned John Davies was a tenant representative.
There was also a (Parkdale) Citizens' Assembly meeting on the issue of the bachelorettes, during which meeting the subject of the city closing down a building came up. John Schaffter said the Parkdale Conflict Resolution Process supported the closure, and then after a pregnant pause said the Parkdale Tenants' Association was a part of that process, which clearly implied we supported the closure. When I finally was able to get a word in edgewise many minutes later, I pointed out that the tenants association was clearly against the closure. Mr. Schaffter responded that he never claimed we were.
Mr. Schaffter, a resident of the Ward, was involved in the creation of the West Enders' for Local Democracy (WELD,) many of whose founding members, if not most, were members of the Roncesvalles-MacDonnell Ratepayers Association (RMRA) who were also involved in the Conflict Resolution Process. The RMRA created the Citizens' Assembly that continues to hold occasional forums on local issues.
We withdrew from the Parkdale Conflict Resolution Process as a result of the treatment we were receiving and the activities of the city.
The report coming out of that "process" were reviewed at the January 18, 2000, Toronto Community Council meeting. The issue then went to the full City Council on February 1, which I found out though someone Mr. Schaffter had told about it. Schaffter was contacting people to attend the February 1 council meeting, but neglected to call any member of the Parkdale Tenants' Association, including myself.
Our response was a letter to council regarding "Clause 27, Report 2, from Toronto Community Council," and a press release. And one of the items highlighted because I have heard very similar complaints from other people I know throughout the city, was a complaint about the "public meeting" organized by the city for Dec. 16, 1999, which was not public. This meeting had been mandated by Toronto Community Council. Even two landlords, supported us in saying this meeting was not public. There were no public notices placed in the media, and though there are at least 600, and probably over 800, bachelorette units that would be affected, the city report boasted about directly mailing to over 120 addresses. It was also claimed that posters were put up, and that the "Citizen's Assembly" informed the public! I can bring you tenants in the affected units who never received any notice of this "public meeting." This was never a public meeting in spite of John Schaffter claiming it was at the January 18, 2000, Toronto Community Council. I made a Freedom of Information request with the city for that list of "over 120 addresses" mentioned in the city report of December 22, 1999. In a conversation with John Schaffter, he asked me to withdraw the request. When I asked him why, he said we "would only abuse that information". An "impartial mediator" from the city has no place making such a request, and it is just another example from a long list of abuses proving his lack of impartiality in these matters.
The list finally did come under my request #00-0105, with all residential names and addresses deleted. It indicates that there are in fact 152 addresses on this mailing list but that 92 of the addresses were for city staffers, the media and agencies, and another 3 were for outside of the affected area of Parkdale (one address from Etobicoke and two for Mississauga). This leaves 57 addresses which might be tenants, but just as, if not more likely, is that the majority are home owners (some may also be the landlords and superintendents). Even if the extremely unlikely case that all 57 addresses were for affected tenants, this is less than 10% of the area's units who had a right to be informed but were not.
This is just a short list of some of the many abuses by the City. If you need copies of any of the documents mentioned (even fliers from any of the meetings of the Parkdale Tenants' Association over the past few years) please let me know, but I am writing this as a constituent and not on their behalf.
I have encountered many people who have expressed to me that they find the city since amalgamation has lost its accessibility and accountability to the public. People are becoming extremely cynical about the city and the "public meetings" it holds, its committees and the whole political process.
Everybody knows our Mayor is a "people person" so I hope you will thoroughly investigate this matter and take the appropriate action to protect the reputation of the city we all love.
Thank you for your time and assistance, and please keep me informed.
cc: John Schaffter