By Chris Pickup

Mayor Ken Hewitt appeared to be fishing for campaign fodder at the August 28 council in committee meeting August 28, with persistent questions for the county’s auditor following his presentation.

With apologies to relevant Haldimand county staff, the stuff of financial statements is nearly always boring to the average Joe and the audited version excruciatingly so. Especially when nothing shocking shows up.

Thus it was this reporter’s eyelids were drooping ever lower during the meeting while auditor Jeff O’Donnell of Millard, Rouse and Rosebrugh presented the audited statements for 2017, with some explanatory asides for the financially uneducated from general manager of corporate services Karen General.

Haldimand County is apparently doing well financially with an increased investment portfolio, substantial investment in infrastructure, increased reserves/reserve funds, limited increase in net long term debt and a strong credit rating at AA/Stable.

Those who wish to hurt their heads can find the details on the county’s website.

What caught my attention was the way Hewitt badgered O’Donnell after his presentation to get some kind of quote on how Haldimand county compares vis-a-vis other municipalities. 

A visibly uncomfortable O’Donnell was obviously trying to avoid answering the questions, which Hewitt should have known would put O’Donnell into a breach of professional ethics. O’Donnell finally said the county is ‘on track’ and Hewitt desisted.

This brings us back to 2017’s year end review meetings, among others, wherein Hewitt, trying not to look gleeful (he failed), continually compared Haldimand county’s financial success to a neighbouring county which had performed less successfully. 

While entitled to point up Haldimand’s good position, Hewitt’s attitude seemed more along the lines of “nyah, nyah” than a mature, sober reflection. And I would say a breach of professional ethics.

And I suspect he was looking for more of the same last week.

This financial statement was Karen General’s final one before retirement. Because I suspect the county’s financial success is due more to her expertise than anyone’s (she appears to eat financial figures for breakfast) it will be interesting to see what happens down the road.  

Accepting congratulations, General herself (jokingly?) said “I’ll be watching”. Please do.