Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg's wife Doris is no longer involved in the town's beautification efforts, the Mayor said in response to a question at the town's Oct. 5 council meeting.
There have been posts by a Facebook group called Free Hampstead this year calling for a probe into what was alleged were "considerable financial disbursements being made for beautification and flowers in Hampstead without a budget and proper financial control." The posting said an Access to Informaton request was made, and after not receiving information, a complaint was filed with the Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec.
Also, in recent months, The Suburban has received e-mails about the issue from Hampstead mayoral candidate Jeremy Levi. They indicate resident Morton Grostern made an Access to Documents request of the town.
As part of one e-mail chain this past August, Councillor Jack Edery told the two that their questions about beautification "prompted me to ask questions of my own. The end result is that council has authorized me to initiate and head up an audit of the entire beautification file. To that end, the town has engaged our regular external auditors. They are mandated to review the last three years of all beautification-related spending, and to give us a report on what we need to do to ensure this area is managed properly going forward....Thanks for asking probing questions."
During the Oct. 5 meeting, an anonymous resident asked: "I understand Doris Steinberg and her personal friend Mala [Mellor] are no longer involved with the flower and beautification efforts. A very good first step to improve the management of the function. When will the residents be able to see the investigation report that was done by the accountants?"
Steinberg said Mellor, chief designer for beautification, is not a personal friend of Doris Steinberg's.
"They are friendly, but she is not a personal friend," the Mayor added. "That gives the impression Mala was hired for the wrong reasons. As all the councillors know, or should know, Mala was hired because she had the best price and the best quality work at a time when numerous possible landscape architects were being considered several years ago."
Steinberg said the town's beautification efforts have been recognized.
"Hampstead has achieved the highest possible ranking from Cinq Fleurons. There are only 11 towns in the entire province that have Cinq Fleurons, and there are none on the island of Montreal other than Hampstead. That is a credit to my wife, who is the chief architect of all the beautification efforts, starting in 2008 when Councillor Abe Gonshor started saying 'we have to make Hampstead more beautiful.' My wife took some of the councillors on a drive to look at some of the other town on the island of Montreal.'"
The Mayor said it was realized at that time Hampstead suffered in comparison to other municipalities in terms of beautification.
"The town's been transformed like one can't believe."
Steinberg then announced that his wife has stepped back from those efforts "for reasons I won't reveal tonight, but I may write something to the whole town.
"That was her choice," the Mayor explained. "She resigned following a very obnoxious and quite possibly actionable e-mail that was sent by one councillor that I'm not going to name tonight. She said 'enough!' Residents come up to her all the time and thank her for what she's done."
Steinberg said he may make what he called the "possibly actionable" e-mail public.
"But the bottom line is, my wife has stepped down from her volunteer job — she doesn't get paid a penny. She gets no benefits whatsoever from these years and years of hard work.
"It's shameful things were done, as well as the lack of support from some councillors. Maybe I can convince her to come back at some future time if things change."
Following the meeting, we asked Edery for reaction to what the Mayor said. The councillor had "no response at this time."
We now await Steinberg's public message to residents.