Reader asks for public inquiry into PUC donation to Algoma UThursday, September 06, 2012 by: SooToday.com Staff
Loyal SooToday reader Tom Brason sent us a copy of a letter he sent to the Mayor and Councillors of Sault Ste. Marie. in reference to news that there would be no public inquiry into Sault Ste. Marie PUC's decision to donate funds to Algoma University.
Re: PUC donations
Dear Mayor Amarosa,
Last December there was a public outcry regarding the Sault Ste Marie PUC donating $100,000 to Algoma University, monies collected from Sault home owners under the pretext of dues required for PUC services.
Not only were customers paying their PUC bills on the basis ‘all monies’ collected were earmarked for services rendered but we’ve also the distinct possibility of a gross conflict of interest as the President and CEO of ‘PUC Distribution Inc.’ was also on the receiving end as well, being chair of Algoma University’s Essential Elements Campaign responsible for fundraising.
City Council has taken the extraordinary position of ignoring the call for a public inquiry even though one should be a requirement under these circumstances.
Mayor Ford of Toronto has landed himself in hot water by using a staff member’s time and his councillor letterhead to solicit donations for the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which raises money to buy equipment for underprivileged high schools.
The $3,150 in donations came from lobbyists and corporations doing business with the city, not the city itself and they wanted the money returned.
Now Mr Ford is up on conflict of interest charges and may lose his job for participating when council decided to vote on showing some leniency based on circumstances.
Integrity Commissioner Leiper says she warned him years before about the ‘dangers’ inherent in his fundraising activities.
Regardless of how Mayor Ford fares, the situation with the Sault Ste Marie PUC on the other hand has all the appearances of being much more deliberate with approximately $140,000 donated directly from city coffers.
Besides the likelihood of a conflict of interest there was also a flagrant disregard for monies collected thru’ monthly PUC bills ‘which provide customers a very detailed summary of where every cent is to go’ and why.
The PUC accordingly has no authority to use this money other than intended in their course of duties as public servants, much less give it away ‘to a private entity’ at their discretion.
The PUC encourages us to conserve and save; forces smart meters on us, then blatantly gives our savings away.
Mayor Amarosa, I’m requesting a complete public inquiry into this entire affair.
The PUC is responsible to the citizens of Sault Ste Marie thru’ our elected representatives, they have no immunity that may insulate them from accountability.
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Mr. Boboliona 9/6/2012 8:29:13 AM Report
I'm sure that $140,000.00 couldn't have gone towards renovations, instead of a whole new office building.
SuzyyQ 9/6/2012 8:29:15 AM Report
Bravo ! Excellent letter !
OMGWTF 9/6/2012 8:29:41 AM Report
I support this and so should all Soo residents. What brass the PUC is displaying here. Time for the Mayor and Council to show so brass too. While you're at it how about getting them to cancel the upcharges to pay off OUR debt via surcharges etc on THEIR new building!
Andie 9/6/2012 8:36:16 AM Report
This is an obvious misappropriation of funds. If our city council does not want to address the issue, then maybe we need to escalate it to the provincial level and request an inquiry there.
TUGBOATANNIE 9/6/2012 8:38:23 AM Report
I agree with this letter. The P.U.C.'s mandate is to supply electricity and water. If they have surplus funds they should go to updating these services.
sinikka 9/6/2012 8:51:28 AM Report
This letter is simply nonsense. The money went to an educational institution located in the city. Perhaps the puc should ask the public when they want to purchase toilet paper, office equipment , etc. I have never heard of a bank asking their shareholders if they should make a donation to the united way, or any other charitable organization.Also the city has on many an occasion also given money to various groups which is obviously public money. Some people just have too much time to waste on such nonsense.
CADUCEUS 9/6/2012 8:57:46 AM Report
If P.U.C has extra money for a new building and a $140000 donation why am I still paying for their debt retirement every month on my bill?
Truck 9/6/2012 9:05:07 AM Report
Luca_3 9/6/2012 9:06:14 AM Report
Banks are private organizations and can do whatever they please with their profits. The PUC is a public company which is different. They cannot do whatever they want with their profits.
Please do some research before making comments on here.
dogi 9/6/2012 9:09:48 AM Report
could have spent this money on making my water drinkable. Still tastes like .... and smells like the John Rhodes Pool. No more donations
mike321 9/6/2012 9:11:09 AM Report
The "Debt Retirement Charge" is on your bill to pay down the debt that was acquired by the former Ontario Hydro, not PUC.
Pink Peony 9/6/2012 9:11:43 AM Report
Excellent!! I look forward to seeing the response. PUC also gave $100,000 to Sault College.
3rd times a charm 9/6/2012 9:15:25 AM Report
I am tired of paying their 'debt' retirement too...someone please take this letter farther to someone who may do something about the situation.
trainor 9/6/2012 9:16:53 AM Report
Smart meters where not forced on us by the PUC, smart meters were forced on the entire province of Ontario by the Provincial Government - Thank the previous liberal party for that one.
Dept retirement charge is again not PUC, this is a charge paying for the previous Ontario Hydro debt- again out of PUC's hands.
PUC is not a public servant, or any public organization. PUC is a PRIVATE company, owned by the city of Sault Ste Marie, and this would be no different if the city owned any other business...PUC is for profit company. If you don't like that, feel free to buy your power elsewhere. Also PUC has the second lowest rates of power in Ontario...so be thankful you pay what you pay.
The donation may not be appropriate, and I understand and agree that portion of the letter, but stop using ignorance taking about smart meters, and rates, and new building PUC is forcing us to pay for, and taking about public responsibility. If PUC was owned by anyone other company, other than the City of Sault Ste Marie, the Citizens of this city would have no input whatsoever in their actions.
Nanax5 9/6/2012 9:21:30 AM Report
City council will back the PUC, wait and see
Grace 9/6/2012 9:27:58 AM Report
I suggest that each and everyone of you write your councillors that you support a public inquiry. Bring a printed copy to the clerks office for submition.
Don't email. Make it part of public record!
pruden 9/6/2012 9:28:03 AM Report
Excellent letter Tom B.
We pay our City Taxes don't we to the City so even if the City of SSM is only part owner doesn't that mean that we the people also have a stake in the PUC???
sinikka 9/6/2012 9:37:52 AM Report
No luca the puc is a private company. Perhaps you should do some research before posting on here. As well you neglected to add that i did mention the city of sault ste. marie being public and they give money to different organizations each year. Lets suppose the city decides to waste some money on a public inquiry and then if it finds that the money should not have gone to algoma university what do we do ask for the money back, lol.
Alfie 9/6/2012 9:44:33 AM Report
After living in the Soo and area for 40 years, this kind of thing no longer surprises me. As always, council, Puc and every other department at city hall will do whatever they want and whenever they want. And they will all cover each other to justify whatever decision or direction they choose to make. Despite what the public perception may be. Then play the "blame game" come election time.
right wing 9/6/2012 9:52:06 AM Report
Great attempt with the facts but trust me, I have tried facts on some of these cement heads for a long time, it makes no difference.
Andie 9/6/2012 9:54:22 AM Report
The PUC is owned by the city of Sault Ste. Marie; but being that the city is funded by the taxpayers, any profit that is distributed should come from the city and not one of it's subsidiary companies.
The reason is that city funds are alotted by an elected group according to some pre-established criteria. The PUC should not be distributing taxpayer dollars to other organizations.
This is why we need an inquiry! To examine whether this guy should have had the authority to make this contribution of what should have been the taxpayer's profits.
(Maybe the inquiry will find that it was reasonable.... but the research should still be done considering his apparent conflict of interest)
T-pot 9/6/2012 9:54:34 AM Report
Algoma U and Sault College were not the only recipients of generous donations by PUC. the PEO Classic golf tournament, PUC is a GOLD sponsor at that.
PUC is a private company and can do what they wish with their monies. Complaining about what they do with their monies is as meaningless as complaining about what your waiter/waitress does with their pay cheque.
In my mind they can take that donation money and use it for debt retirement or upgrades, etc. But in the end it is not up to us.
Alfie 9/6/2012 10:04:59 AM Report
It would appear as though the PUC's motto of "Community Based, Community Owned, Community Minded" could easily be misinterpreted and appear to many as being somewhat misleading at least in part.
Kevin5069 9/6/2012 10:16:26 AM Report
So the PUC raises rates and donates those funds when there is a conflict of interest. And despite the fact the President of the PUC is also chair of the fundraising campaign for where the funds are being handed to, our incompetent City Council decides no further investigation is required?
Sounds like yet another example of public funds/taxes being squandered and covered up. If our City Council doesn’t want to investigate, they are likely involved in some manner. Maybe they also need to be investigated.
euroman 9/6/2012 10:27:45 AM Report
I would like to have seen the money spent on improving the crap that comes out of my faucet so that it was useful for more than just flushing a toilet. If I could buy my water from someone else, I would.
And yes, they may be a private company, but they are also a monopoly which changes things.
The fact they are the only game in town is evident when you complain to them. Their arrogance knows no bounds.
sunshine100 9/6/2012 10:28:00 AM Report
I agree with Andie, we should start a petition and send it to the provice if the city is not willing to look into it.
JustMe1234567 9/6/2012 10:38:02 AM Report
Frank Manzo, are you listening? He's been representing the city long enough to know the score. I wonder what he thinks of the matter?
Pink Peony 9/6/2012 10:39:18 AM Report
If we ALL took a stand, things would change despite PUC being a monopoly. We could sign a petition or we could simply stop paying our bills. If we all did that, what are they going to do? Cut us all off? I don't think so. I think drastic measures are what's needed because communicating to them through words gets us nowhere.
Of course, there would be some cement heads (rw) that wouldn't participate but I'd be willing to bet those kind of people are in the minority.
RLE 9/6/2012 10:55:30 AM Report
The PUC is a private company with one shareholder--the City of SSM. As with any other private company the shareholders get to direct the company or at least have a significant say in how the company operate. The question is who does the city represent.--the taxpayers or Curran and his sycophants?
jimbobdog1 9/6/2012 11:08:30 AM Report
I am perpetually peeved by the arrogance of our PUC. If they had spent the 25 million that the "Curran Cathedral" is costing on improving infrastructure, we would not have nearly the power outages we now have. The city should take back the PUC as a department and cancel this whole crappy notion that a private company would better serve us.
JustMe1234567 9/6/2012 11:17:50 AM Report
I lived in Toronto for a few years, and you would think that overloading etc would cause power outages a lot. Never did tho.
Back in good ole SSM it happens far more than I have ever seen for a city of this size.
Because of this any surplus monies should go toward upgrading our systems and serving the people that pay for an inferior infrastructure, not to donations.
If there is never any issues with power or water I don't know if I'd mind about donating, but since there are CONSTANT unrelenting issues, yep I do mind.
OMGWTF 9/6/2012 11:20:03 AM Report
Maybe this is why the PUC is searching for a new CEO?
PUC is owned by SSM and we are SSM so don't tell me it's private. They should be looking for ways to save money to LOWER our bills not give us cow patties.
inferno 9/6/2012 11:27:31 AM Report
What a shame, people out of work, utilities at an all time high and the PUC decides to make an irresponsible decision like this. Someone should be held accountable!!!!!!
tonka 9/6/2012 11:30:30 AM Report
I laugh at how worked up everyone gets on here! We all have to pay for Hydro wheather you do it here or down south they have guidlines that they have to follow too and we are second lowest rate it could be worse!
BigDaddy 9/6/2012 12:04:38 PM Report
Thank you for the effort! I've brought this up several times to various councillors and no one responded.
No only is this a conflict, I believe it is a misuse of taxpayers funding. I'm saying it is, period. I'm not interested in some obsecure legal babble or some sleazy backdoor method to try and justify this. Conflict of interest can be either actual or perceived. This is a very shameful act.
learningaswego 9/6/2012 12:12:48 PM Report
I would rather donate directly to Algoma U, than it being extorted through the PUC's fees.
Then, I could get the tax benefit.
habfan 9/6/2012 12:28:19 PM Report
This is an excellent letter and I am glad to see we are finally standing up and taking notice on how "OUR" money is being handled.
good4now 9/6/2012 1:01:25 PM Report
A very excellent letter.
If the PUC is flush with cash from overcharging its customers then an immediate and perhaps retroactive 20% rate rebate should be applied.
Don't forget that most overcharges go directly to the "only shareholder" the city of SSM. This amounts to a hidden property tax, in that it replaces or supplements property based tax funding for the city of SSM. I understand this hidden taxation amounts to about $2 Million per year, although I expect much less with construction of the new glamour-torium.
The PUC CEO (H. J. Brian Curran )and directors should reimburse the PUC customers for money disbursed.
daddy frank 9/6/2012 1:12:12 PM Report
very good letter
when people complained about the water taste, council said they could not intervene as it was a private company. Now they say they have the right to giveaway our money, they caanot have it both ways. Also they fail to tell people they have another service charge buried in the price of the sewage charge. Add your water consumption charge and the service charge showen on your bill and u will see it amounts to the cost shown as sewer charge. What other company do you know that bills service charge twice. Daddy Frank
Stugatzu 9/6/2012 1:12:42 PM Report
Her name is Debbie Amaroso, not Amarosa. Twice you cited her name incorrectly. Nice attempt at trying to get your point across about the PUC.... to bad that your comments mean nothing if you can't address your audience correctly.... by their given name.
T-pot 9/6/2012 1:15:15 PM Report
PUC Overcharging or the OEB? Google it. The fact is that PUC is a private company. PUC can spend their profits any which way they want. If they want to ignore failing infrastructure, then it's their right to do so.
The real battle should be the people lobbying against PUC and getting the City involved to use its' power to get PUC to spend this money in upgrades.
Also, check out www.ssmpuc.com. Mainly, the 'ABOUT' section. It make clear up some ignorance getting thrown around here.
Justin Tetreault 9/6/2012 1:28:29 PM Report
Do you even know what a public inquiry is?
Why does Soo Today print this garbage?
BigDaddy 9/6/2012 3:01:17 PM Report
T-Pot, you are totally incorrect. The PUC is a wholly owned incorporated subsidy of the City of Sault Ste Marie. SSM is the single shareholder, ergo, the citizens of Sault Ste Marie. This does not mean it can do whatever it wants to with the funding it generates. The Soo is a incorporated entity...did you know that? You think therefore they can do whatever THEY want with tax payers dollars?
trainor 9/6/2012 3:38:31 PM Report
PUC again is a private business owned by the City of Sault Ste Marie. By the logic on here, if the city owned a Tim Hortons franchise, the citizens of Sault Ste Marie should be in-titled to free coffee? or an opinion on how coffee is made?
T-pot 9/6/2012 4:12:47 PM Report
www.ssmpuc.com (Click About)
"The shareholder, the Corporation of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, approved a change in the governance structure of PUC Inc. and its subsidiaries in 2001. The change consolidated the decision-making powers for the subsidiary companies with the PUC Inc. Board resulting in a more effective reporting relationship between management staff and the Board of Directors. The current governance structure complies with the requirements of the Ontario Electricity Act of 1998 that requires that the distribution of electricity by municipally owned companies be the exclusive business of one separate organization. Any affiliated businesses must be conducted by other incorporated entities."
geterdun 9/6/2012 4:19:41 PM Report
What a joke.they will steal our money and do what ever they want with it get it!!!!!!!someone should call the police in on this one.......their all a bunch of crooks.......just look what they pay themselves....no inquiry needed????? no thats because they would all be punished for stealing our money.you dont think they would call the cops on themselves do you???????? municipal money stealing thiefs.......and what did you expect from politicians and CEO'S
???????? hope they enjoy spending the 100,000 on new furniture and kuerigs for their offices...remember their are those among us who are starving and have no were to live....but hey what the hell gotta have that french onion soup with your lunch right.......
Notperfect 9/6/2012 4:35:04 PM Report
I applaud the writer for his courage!!!! I was very resentful of this donation and thought the extra funds could be used to lower our bills. (My PUC bill is over $4900.) However, I really don't believe that anything will be done, unfortunately! What about the Sault Ratepayers Association taking this on??? Guess it it too late for action; however, I am glad that many are voicing their anger over this.
Notperfect 9/6/2012 4:35:58 PM Report
I applaud the writer for his courage!!!! I was very resentful of this donation and thought the extra funds could be used to lower our bills. (My PUC bill is over $4900.) However, I really don't believe that anything will be done, unfortunately! What about the Sault Ratepayers Association taking this on??? Guess it it too late for action; however, I am glad that many are voicing their anger over this.Too many of us remain silent when we know that there is an injustice.
Point Blank 9/6/2012 4:36:04 PM Report
I agree with your letter entirely. Regardless of the fact that the donation is to an educational organization, the funds should have been used for something far more productive, like improvements to our infastructure. Maybe we might have less power outages.
The PUC should be operated as a "not for profit" organization. Any surplus funds should be directed back to the ratepayers, by way of rebate, or, re-invested in equipment upgrades, etc.
They should not be used to make the CEO look good!
Thim 9/6/2012 5:12:15 PM Report
The City of Sault Ste Marie must retain the right to rein in any rogue situations within the PUC to protect the taxpayers who ultimately own it.
Apparently there are two additional individuals potentially in a conflict of interest according to another contributor, both sitting on the PUC board of directors and both are or were in high positions with Algoma University. If true, Algoma had three pretty influential people on the PUC's board of directors, enough for an investigation to clear the air.
BlackHelix 9/6/2012 5:12:35 PM Report
"PUC again is a private business owned by the City of Sault Ste Marie. By the logic on here, if the city owned a Tim Hortons franchise, the citizens of Sault Ste Marie should be in-titled to free coffee? or an opinion on how coffee is made?"
So who's opinion is it up to then? By your own logic, someone has to OWN the right to make decisions, appropriate funds, etc and I'm just asking who that person/people are? If the City owned Tim Hortons (your example), and the "City" decided that it wants to give everybody free coffee then of course it can do that!!.....but ultimately who get's to make those decisions? The answer is - every citizen of SSM, and we make those decisions by choosing who we elect to council.
When you say that the PUC is owned by the City of Sault Ste. Marie, your in essence saying that YOU own part of PUC, because you do. The "City Of Sault Ste. Marie" is not some esoteric enterprise owned by a special elite few. It is an incorporation of all it's members and we all have one vote/say (i.e. yes, we would have an opinion on how the coffee is made - if that's an important enough issue for people to vote on).
The idea here is that saying the PUC is "Privately Owned by the City" is the same as saying the LCBO is "Privately owned by the Province of Ontario". It's the very definition of an oxymoron....
AndyCap 9/6/2012 6:28:07 PM Report
Black Helix's comment is bang on. Anyone who thinks PUC can legally do whatever it wants should read his comment. PUC is legally responsible to work for the city of sault ste marie. Guess who the city of sault ste marie works for.
JediMindTrick 9/7/2012 7:23:34 AM Report
This letter is ridiculous.
Trainor has it bang on. May not have gone through proper channels on donations and what not, but are you that upset with some profits going towards donations to educational facilities in the community.
Thim 9/7/2012 8:04:50 AM Report
JediMindtrick if it is illegal then it doesn't matter about personal opinions.
Three influential people from Algoma University sit on the PUC board of directors including the retired President of Algoma University, no wonder they had such influential powers to try and pull this off.
cityhallguy 9/7/2012 9:25:07 AM Report
I agree that the donation was inappropriate and a complete conflict of interest! Some things, you should just say no and stay away!!!
On the other hand, the posters who think that the taxpayers own everything, and have all the rights??? Give your head a shake! Maybe we should head to PWT and take a plow truck to do our driveways this winter!!! I mean, they belong to us don't they!!?!?
Like it's been said many times...The PUC is a private company! They can donate how they want! But they definitely should have stayed away from this one!
Thim 9/7/2012 10:13:10 AM Report
Some of you just don't get it with your references to Tim Hortons etc.
The taxpayers are simply asking their PUC dues be handled as their bills indicate, that every cent go where intended.
Our PUC bills are different from general taxation, they're itemized when we get them and as such we expect every cent be treated accordingly. By all appearances we're either being charged inappropriately so funding can be arranged for these donations to the likes of Algoma University or else the savings derived at the taxpayers expense are being used for that purpose.
No matter how you cut it we've both a potential conflict of interest and a possible misappropriation of customers money. With three board members with affiliation to Algoma University it certainly looks bad...so does council.
With Councils lack of resolve to broach the subject when the original complaint was lodged I think there should be an independent investigation.
Andie 9/7/2012 10:50:33 AM Report
Someone should call the W5 "investigative reporting" show and detail the confict of interest issue and the councillors who refused to investigate.
Might make for some interesting interviews with the council members and the president of PUC.
pruden 9/7/2012 11:17:57 AM Report
Andie re: why doesn't someone call W5..why don't you do that????? It's certainly an avenue worth investigating...might make us as famours as the "French Language" issue.
67Tanger 9/7/2012 11:19:23 AM Report
Great letter Tom....
The PUC should be held responsible for their actions. This is our money and should be used to upgrade or given back to the residents who have obviously been over charged.
I hope all this negative response will open the eyes of our city reps and follow up with an inquiry.
Mermaid 9/7/2012 11:34:28 AM Report
I've been checking in on this story since it was posted. I have a strong opinion that most who have posted have not done much research to warrant their comments. The PUC has many selective endeavours which they earn money from and that is the money that is used for donations, sponsorships for programs and events. The money for these does not come from money PUC customers have paid on their bills. The PUC only retains 20% of the customer's bill in the form of the "Delivery" charge. The remaining 80% of each customer's bill is paid back to government regulatory agencies, such as the OEB, IESO, Debt of the former Ontario Hydro. The Delivery charge that is collected goes towards infrastructure repairs and also re-coups the cost of installing and maintaining new services as well as Smart Meters and all the cost that goes along with them - which was a Government Mandate that they be installed, and beyond local utilities control all over Ontario. The rates are set by the government as well. The PUC or any other Utility hasn't any say in the rates that they must charge. I am personally not upset about any donation that any organization makes to educational institiutions in our city. I had no choice but to go away to University, but these days I am happy to see that there are so many choices for our hometown kids, as well as bringing students from other cities. If 100K from PUC's generosity helps in any way - great!
Thim 9/7/2012 11:48:05 AM Report
Someone here has made reference to the fact that city hall is getting roughly $2 million from the PUC.
I've been told this is actually the case, when I brought it up to the Mayor and several councilors in a meeting last spring a retired and respected municipal employee (past supervisor) spoke up, explained whats happening, calling it a back door tax the public is unaware of.
It's hearsay to me but from a couple excellant sources, another example of something that should be looked at whereby our PUC bills may be paying for things other than stated.
Thim 9/7/2012 12:06:07 PM Report
Mermaid, you haven't checked it close enough then.
We're talking about PUC customers paying for services rendered and people they trusted to serve them in that capacity.
Money paid by these homeowners which was in the care and control of these individuals was not used for purposes intended, instead it was redirected to outside interests of three board members.
I'd encourage anyone who supports donating to Algoma University to do so on their own and get a tax receipt as a bonus, however many PUC customers are retired and just scraping by.
Mermaid 9/7/2012 12:46:22 PM Report
The public need not be unaware that interest payments in the 1.5-2 million dollar range are paid to the City, as a shareholder. It's on the PUC website in black and white;
PUC Inc. has provided the following interest payments to the City of Sault Ste. Marie: