By Ian Paulson,
(WINDSOR, ON) – The word is out and damage control has started. But the excuses and initial explanations are falling apart, changing, and being spun faster than Al Maghnieh has been left to twist in the wind. Pretty soon, that’s all that will be said about Maghnieh; has been.
Let’s face it, these admitted allegations could point to something more serious, something Library administration discovered. It really doesn’t matter if it was $3,000 or $30,000, the details that have become known speak to a larger issue.
According to the CBC, “Maghnieh, who is also a city councillor, has paid back more than $3,000 he racked up on the card. Maghnieh used the credit card to pay for such things as a meal — with alcohol — when he was trying to attract new investment to the library. He also charged the purchase of a case for his iPhone. “
“Even though it was repaid back and the library was made whole, the policies and the processes speak that it’s not allowed and that’s something I wasn’t in full compliance with and, obviously, I feel bad about it and would never repeat that,” Maghnieh said. (CBC, 20 April 2012)
But repeat the trespass he did; over and over again. But that’s not the only story going around. Have you heard something different?
The credit card bill instead went to the library, which automatically paid it. Administrators notified Maghnieh in January that he should come to the office and pay the library back for personal expenses. (M Wolfson, Windsor Star, 21 April 2012)
What’s coming to light now is much different than what Maghnieh first said.
Al Maghnieh, who’s also a Ward 10 councillor, admitted to the expenses at yesterday’s board meeting. Maghnieh says he wanted to be proactive in rectifying the situation instead of looking like he was trying to hide something.
At the end of the month he says he went through the expenses on the card and noticed the discrepancy. (M James, Blackburn News, 20 April 2012)
So did Library auditors bring it to the attention of Maghnieh or did he “proactively” declare the improper charging? In less than 24 hours, the Windsor Councilor’s explanation started to fall apart.
So how long was this going on? Monica Wolfson reported that Maghnieh had originally said he, “may have charged the occasional sandwich for himself to the card, but nothing major.” How long does it take to charge $3,000 to $6,000 in occasional sandwiches? This, apparently, had been going on for a very long while, and only when instructed to repay the missing dollars (or when news of the improper credit card use was about to be made public), did Maghnieh come forward. Although it’s been reported that Maghnieh has repaid the $3,000, what about the further 2 or 3 grand that is being bandied about? Have all the monies been paid back, or is there still some missing from the books?
And that brings us to the real issue facing Windsorites. How can we trust this elected official in light of the severe lack of common judgment and absence of integrity?
Because it is not only the issue of using the Windsor Library credit card to rack up personal purchases (not withstanding how hungry Maghnieh was). The deeper issue revolves around integrity.
The Windsor Public Library board is calling on the city’s new auditor general to investigate “serious irregularities” discovered in the finances of the previous library board – irregularities that involved a specific person.
“There is an identifiable individual,” said current library board chairman Al Maghnieh. “I will not and cannot speak to the identity of that person, but what I will say is that it is a former board member.”
Asked to elaborate on what’s been found, Maghnieh said it’s too early to disclose details, but the allegations involve planned transactions with Windsor Public Library money.
“We have protocols and policies in this place when it comes to how you go about a transaction or you go about procuring something.”
According to Maghnieh, the rules were not followed. (D Chen, Windsor Star, 30 June 2011)
The protocols were in place when Maghnieh and the new Library Board were intent on having the City’s Auditor General, Todd Langlois, investigate alleged irregularities with the Library finances. Maghnieh indicated he was aware of the policies when the witch hunt was on, even though Councilor Hilary Payne said Maghnieh should be cut some slack because he’s new on the scene.
- Al Maghnieh continuously used the Windsor Library credit card to make personal purchases over an extended period of time.
- Al Maghnieh said he “proactively” came forward to pay back the improperly charged monies, but sources say he was called on the carpet by Library officials and ordered to repay the funds.
- Maghnieh and apologists say we must go easy on the young councilor since he is new to public service, but he was well aware of the policies and protocols involving public funds when calling for the AG to audit the previous Library Board.
For me, it is a clear indictment of Al Maghnieh with only one possible solution.
Robert Coates was a Member of Parliament from Nova Scotia and Minister of National Defense in 1984. While on a trip to visit Canadian troops in West Germany, he made a visit to a “night club” one evening. While there, apparently he spoke with one of the entertainers. Unbeknownst to him, she happened to have been born in East Germany – at the time a member of the Warsaw Pact countries under the direction of Moscow. He resigned from his post as Defense Minister.
Coates resigned over an incident not of his making, however avoidable. Maghnieh continuously made a cognizant decision to use public funds for personal purchases and then tried to downplay the situation.
You tell me if he should resign.