Issue 1, Volume 85
May 2, 2012
Windsor City Councillor Al Maghneigh has found himself in quite the pickle.
In recent days, we have seen a rather tedious and monotonous story evolve from a few thousand dollars charged to a library credit card to the city councilor stepping down from his role as chair of the Windsor Public Library board and as spokesperson for the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board.
Maghneigh first disclosed that he had spent $3,000 on personal expenses using the library’s corporate credit card. That number soon grew to $5,000 and eventually settled at $8,490. But the story wasn’t finished; not even by a long shot.
The public then found out that Maghneigh had requested the card himself, and that it had been approved by library CEO Barry Holmes. Holmes claimed that Maghneigh was his ‘boss’, and that he felt compelled to follow the orders as dictated to him.
Indeed, library policy prohibits the use of such cards for personal expenses, but Maghneigh claimed that he was unaware of the policy. But, could he truly have not known about the policy?
Magneigh was a top aide to the Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan, and it is this fact which causes many people to roll their eyes at the situation. The notion that he was unaware of proper policies falls apart considering he was very well aware of policies at the provincial level; why would he presume that the library operated any differently than other provincially funded organizations.
Then there is the fact that Maghneigh was the financial officer for the Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal Riding Association in 2010. Finance appears to be where Maghneigh feels most comfortable, and his experience inherently brings up the question, “How could he have not known what he was doing was improper?”
Purchasing food and drink on a company card, while against policy, isn’t in my opinion a career ending mistake. Defending food and drink purchases would have been a relatively easy matter to deal with, and it would have resulted in repayment of the money, and a non-story.
However, when it was revealed that he had spent money at high-end stores in the United States, very expensive dinners around Windsor, and on travel to Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Toronto without board approval, the story
reached a new level.
Public officials are held at a higher standard than those of private citizens; elected officials, even more so. This is because these officials are often in direct control of taxpayer money.
Maghneigh made foolish mistake after foolish mistake. What finally did it in for him was that he kept lying about the chain of events, manufacturing one lie after another; the ever-ballooning figure, the revelation that he had been told to curb his
spending, and that his limit was lowered in an attempt to stop his spending.
Should Maghneigh resign his seat as councillor? I’m not entirely convinced he should.
Maghneigh can regain public trust, however, it will take hard work and dedication; all of the qualities that he has demonstrated in the past.
The best outcome for residents would be for a by-election to be called for Ward 10. Let the residents decide for themselves who the best person to represent them is.
If you’re ever in a situation such as this, try not to repeat the mistakes that Maghneigh has made. Be open, be honest and be transparent. Otherwise, the lie becomes too big and it will implode upon itself.
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.