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Lack of leadership defines mayor’s legacy

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In Candidates / Election 2014
Sep 17th, 2014
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Orillia Packet and Times editorial

Last week, developer cum Mayor Angelo Orsi announced he would not seek re-election, opting instead to focus his attention on his young family and his business interests. It’s an intelligent decision; it’s unlikely he could have been re-elected.

While Orsi worked hard and undoubtedly had good intentions, his tenure as mayor will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The tone for his reign was set early when he ordered an investigation of a harmless staff Christmas party after complaints a skit poked fun at certain elements of the community.

Not long after, Craig Metcalf, who headed the city’s culture department and was one of the guys behind the Christmas skit, found himself out of a job and, over time, the culture department was eviscerated.

Orsi and his council colleagues then relieved Ian Brown of his duties as CAO, a move that took a respected, experienced hand off the helm — and cost taxpayers a fortune as part of a secret settlement. To make matters worse, Orsi convinced council to hire the infamous “candidate C” — who The Packet & Times later discovered to be Glenn Fernandes, a friend of the mayor who worked on his election campaign — as Brown’s replacement.

Many called for Orsi’s resignation when Fernandes’s identity was revealed; Orsi cast the deciding vote when council opted to hire Fernandes. Under pressure, council later suspended the hiring process, though Orsi never publicly apologized, saying instead a “dark cloud” hung over the process. Indeed.

Early in his term, Orsi also suggested moving some municipal administration functions into the new library, claiming the facility was too big for the city’s needs — despite the careful work that went into building and designing the downtown landmark. Earlier, he and Coun. Patrick Kehoe tried to derail the project, saying the former Woolworth’s store across the street was a better location.

Among other questionable decisions were an attempt to neuter the local branch of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a decision to abandon plans for a new OPP detachment, even though the past council purchased property and had drawings for a new Colborne Street facility, the bungled attempt to wrest more money out of the townships to use the library, and the list goes on.

But worse was the lack of leadership from the mayor’s chair that led to infighting, petty politicking and fireworks at city council meetings — a leadership void that meant almost zero progress on the issues that matter most to Orillians — and perhaps worse than that, the dispiriting effect that had on city staff, caught in the crossfire, determined to keep their heads down until the smoke cleared.

The smoke has cleared.

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