Bin exchange proves costly in Richmond Hill
Councillor left facing $139K bill over his ‘Enviro Days’ event
A Richmond Hill councillor is left holding a $100,000 bag — make that green bin — after an Enviro Days giveaway went awry.
Local citizens, however, worry they may be the ones who will eventually have to pay the bill.
With the country in lockdown and city offices closed for business, regional councillor Carmine Perrelli said he was “fulfilling a need” when he hosted a series of “Enviro Day events” in June where he promised residents he would exchange their broken recycling and compost bins for free if they merely sent him an email.
But this week, residents were surprised to learn the freebie was not exactly as advertised.
At a meeting this week, staff asked council for direction on who should pick up the $139,000 tab — taxpayers or Perrelli — for the promotional event.
The events would have continued, except that staff noticed Perrelli was running them on a deficit — contrary to city guidelines that require sponsorship to cover councillor events.
“There were two formal communications sent to the Regional and Local Councillor indicating the halt on his event account until the deficit is funded, with no response by the Regional and Local Councillor until recently,” the staff report said in clarifying why they had to come to council for this unusual ask.
In an interview, Perrelli said his event “provided a service to over 6,000 residents at a time that the city was closed.” He also said council had voted to exempt his event from the events policy, and that the decision to discuss the report in council was “politically motivated.”
Dysfunction and political jockeying has come to define Richmond Hill council this term, even more so since the long-standing mayor resigned last month.
City hall watchers say behind every move is a political alliance or a rivalry — and it feels like at times, the ultimate motive isn’t the betterment of the city, but who will come out ahead in the polls.
In his promotion materials for the Enviro Day event, Perrelli assured residents that “no tax dollars will be spent for this event.”
He also told fellow councillors at an April council meeting, when the council was passing an updated events policy, that he had “already spent the money, and already raised the money” for this event and asked for an exemption, according to the staff report.
But on Wednesday, there were questions from residents as to where that promised money went, after the staff report stated that Perrelli told staff the revenue in his account, around $55,000, was not for the Enviro Day event.
The staff report also stated that when the city ran the free program, the annual cost was $31,000.
“Now we find out that his sponsorship does NOT cover all of the expenses of exchanging green and blue bins, hence it is not a FREE exchange,” said Pat Pollock, one of 25 residents who wrote into council on the matter urging them to vote for the councillor to bear the costs.
Residents said it was questionable why Perrelli gave away the bins for free, even though in 2020 the majority of councillors — including Perrelli — had voted against removing the city’s $7.50 fee for replacing a bin.
And then once his future events were cancelled by the city, he brought forward a motion last month to eliminate the blue/green bin exchange fee altogether.
“It’s all about politics. They voted to stop the program, but then the councillor decided to create an event to give away ... free bins,” said Richmond Hill resident Sigmund Lee. “And now he brings in a motion to cancel the fees again. What’s really going on here?”
The staff report said without sponsors, the money would be required to come from the city’s tax reserves.
Perrelli then told the councillors their motion was not legal.
“Everyone received a legal letter yesterday from my lawyers ... anytime lawyers get involved there is potential for litigation,” said Perrelli, who participated in the discussion and vote at the council meeting and did not declare an interest. “It is clear the only reason this is brought in open session is for malicious reasons.”
But his comments didn’t seem to deter the others. After an acrimonious term, filled with little consensus, council finally seemed to take decisive action.
Council voted 6-2 for Perrelli to reimburse the city the full amount of $139,623.30.