Ombudsman meeting fails to draw Scarborough residents

As the ombudsman of Toronto, Fiona Crean was looking forward to having a meeting in Scarborough where residents could voice their concerns.

Instead only two residents, along with Councillors Michael Thompson, Paul Ainslie, Chin Lee and Glenn De Baeremaeker showed up at Scarborough Civic Centre for the Sept. 29 meeting.

“I think the reason for the lack of people here is that people are tired of all the election stuff going on,” Crean said. “It’s the luck of the game.”

However, she says she is optimistic that despite this year’s dismal attendance, more people will turn out next year.

Counc. Chin Lee said residents are too busy with their own lives to come out to these events.

“My question is how do we engage people?” Lee said.

Just as Crean was about to close the meeting, a Scarborough resident said he came to have his voice heard and wanted to talk about his concerns.

The Ward 25  resident, who referred to himself as Mr. Antonucci,  said he has been filing a complaint for two years about a diesel-run school bus that stops near his house to pick up the underprivileged children who live next door.

“It stinks to hell of diesel 10 metres in front of my front door. It’s an environmental issue,” Antonucci said.

Antonucci said he sent Coun. Michelle Berardinetti five faxes, an email and called her 10 times, but still hasn’t received a response.

“I want to know what control she [Crean] has over the councillors to get them to answer a phone call or schedule a meeting,” Antonucci said.

Later, Coun. Berardinetti told the Observer Antonucci’s story is wrong.

In an email on Oct. 5, Berardinetti said she has documented evidence of Antonucci having had 38 contacts with city officials in 2011 alone, including “22 occasions [on] which myself or my staff have spoken or met with Mr. Antonucci” about his concerns.

Coun. Thompson said Antonucci’s resources are not limited to what Berardinetti could do for him and suggested he engage other councillors on the issue.

“I sent a letter to Mayor Ford and to every councillor but the issue has not been solved,” Antonucci said. “Don’t they [councillors] have the responsibility to inform those that elect them?”

Berardinetti said in her Oct. 4 email to the Observer action was in fact taken on Antonucci’s complaint.

“I have also referred him to the Toronto Office of the ombudsman, Fiona Crean,”  she wrote.

City officials and her office “ have taken every avenue to resolve his concerns,” Berardinetti added.

“Collectively the councillors are my boss,” Crean said at the meeting.

Crean described her job as an ombudsman as looking into a resident’s complaint once all else has failed. In office since 2009, Crean referred to her office as one of last resort.

“I am outside the city. I have no vested interest in the outcome of a complaint except that a citizen has been treated unfairly,” Crean said.