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the first to create a record of amherstburg town council's performance

Amherstburg’s CAO and 2 officials were dismissed, mayor confirms

CBC reports,Three officials from the Town of Amherstburg, including its former chief administrative officer (CAO), were officially dismissed, according to the mayor.

As of Thursday, former CAO John Miceli, director of planning and development service Nicole Rubuli, and director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin were no longer employed by the southwestern Ontario town, according to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Mayor DiCarlo Questions Media Request, Again

On Friday, August 13, theburgwatch emailed Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, as a member of the media, and requested:
1. the press release you issued regarding staff being escorted out of town hall
2. that this email address be added to media lists for the issuing of notices to the media
3. a copy of the notice of cancellation of the August 9, 2021 council meeting.

Mayor DiCarlo questioned theburgwatch’s credentials, to which the reply confirmed that we already had this discussion in October 2020.

On today’s date, Mayor DiCarlo provided the media release as a public document, not as a media request.

A link to the cancelled council meeting was provided: https://calendar.amherstburg.ca/council/Detail/2021-08-09-1800-Regular-Council-Meeting-Public-Participation-via-L

As for being included in the media, the Mayor’s understanding appears to pertain to ‘media outlet,’ a traditional, or old media, definition.  My understanding of ‘member of the media,’ includes new media.

If press releases were posted on the town’s website, one might conclude there is a willingness to embrace open government.

NOTE: In February 2020, I requested council establish a protocol to respond to inquiries from taxpayers and the media.

related:

Refrain From Contacting Members Of Council For Information?

I’m researching obtaining information from the Town of Amherstburg.

Has anyone been asked to refrain from contacting members of council for information and rely on the MFIPPA process?

Open government is of interest to me and has been since the 1990s when Amherstburg Police FOI Coordinator Bart DiPasquale routinely denied my requests for information.

Windsor police escort several Amherstburg senior managers out of town hall

Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star reports, in part, “Mayor Aldo DiCarlo confirmed Wednesday that three employees were escorted off town property on Monday. He would not confirm their names or why they were shown the door, but said town lawyer Susan Hirota has been “temporarily assigned” Miceli’s work.”

DiCarlo told the Star that the cancellation of Monday’s council meeting was a coincidence and unrelated to the turmoil.

“There were some report issues in the agenda,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge agenda. But unfortunately, one or two of the more important ones actually had some last minute questions that came up. Without being able to deal with that that night, we just felt like there wasn’t a point to have a meeting that night.”

Wants vs. Needs

Commentary by Linda Saxon submitted to the River Town Times in response to the article “Local business owners adding new building to portfolio.”

While I appreciate Richard Peddie’s enthusiasm for ‘what historic Amherstburg once looked like,’ I disagree that ‘the town is not investing enough in heritage.’

The town was so committed to heritage that it remained silent throughout my ten-year campaign to make the Carnegie library accessible. The library retrofit cost continued to rise over a decade, as did legal fees for the town to resist any library changes. The Ontario Human Rights Commission highlighted the case in its Annual Report and the town credited others with my accomplishment.

In addition to ignoring my requests, the town disregarded funding initiatives that prioritized accessibility. When I questioned the marina, instead of changing the priority project to the library, the town withdrew its application.

In 2001, I requested that council include accessibility in the tender for library repairs; Instead, the town donated $710,000 for a replica of the HMS Detroit, for which taxpayers incurred a 9% tax hike over a two-year period.

The town attracted negative attention when it circulated its council resolution throughout the province to request an extension to the accessible website deadline that it knew about for several years. I had been requesting the town make its website accessible since 2001, along with other items that would have increased accessibility, but they were received, noted and filed.

Shamefully, only one person with a disability was consulted about the Open Air weekends and the town placed accessible parking in an unsafe location.

More recently, administration recommended an over-expenditure of salary and benefits expenses in the Clerks Budget Centre for additional staff overtime to deal with advisory committee commitments and AODA compliance. There were no details in the report so I can only wonder why AODA compliance was not routinely incorporated without overtime.

Too often heritage takes precedence over accessibility; sometimes accessibility is not even incorporated in the initial planning stages, all of which is contrary to the human rights code. Not everyone is aware that heritage buildings can be made accessible.

I do not believe that heritage should be ‘referenced in the budget.’ Elected officials have human rights obligations and must consider the health, safety and well-being of the community they serve, and provide services and things that the municipality is authorized to provide.

Reporter’s And Individual’s Requests For Information Compared

How does a reporter’s experience compare to the average residential taxpayer where there may not be an incentive to quickly comply with requests for information?

Julie Kotsis, the Windsor Star, reported that Amherstburg CAO John Miceli responded to her email on Day 2.

My experience requesting information from the Town of Amherstburg and Windsor Police differs.

For example, information that should have been readily available required an almost two-year formal appeal process and an Order for the town to search for more records. Windsor Police objected to the disclosure of its Amherstburg policing proposal which resulted in a two-year wait for an Information and Privacy Commission Order to disclose all but two pages of the 131- page document.

Mayor DiCarlo advised the appropriate avenue was through a written inquiry sent to Windsor Police for information pertaining to the utilization of specialty units in the town of Amherstburg since the take-over.

Windsor Police referred me to the company that conducted its telephone survey, which did not respond. Back to Windsor Police who directed me to submit a Freedom of Information request.

Most recently, the town of Amherstburg insists it is fair to impose an $892.50 fee to complete a request for detailed information that the clerk and CAO publicly stated during a council meeting.

Over a year ago, I requested councillors consider creating a protocol to answer taxpayers’ and media inquiries. In response, the CAO advised the town is in the process of creating a Routine Disclosure and Active Dissemination Policy and, until adopted, requested that all information I seek be made through the formal process.

I repeated my request in April this year for council to adopt the Information and Privacy Commissioner recommended Routine Disclosure and Active Dissemination Policy, revised in 1998.

The town clerk advised COVID impacted services and only Councillor Prue supported it and reminded members of council that during the last election, they all said we need more openness and citizen involvement.

I wonder which will come first; a policy or more campaign promises to be open, transparent and accountable.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Municipal Information Request Response Tested by Windsor Star Reporter

Julie Kotsis, Windsor Star reports the results of requests for information to municipalities.

Emails were sent to every municipal chief administrative officer in Windsor and Essex County, requesting basic information that should be readily available to the public.

Taxes, development fees, number of staff employees, operating budgets and Integrity Commissioners were subjects of inquiries. Kotsis reports that response times varied widely, from one day to several.

What about Amherstburg?

More to follow.

Leamington Can’t, Amherstburg Can Afford Windsor Police

CBC reports, Windsor police proposal too pricey for Leamington council; OPP service to continue.

“At Monday’s meeting, council discussed a report from administration that looked at the WPS proposal. It showed that it would cost $9.4 million dollars to begin using WPS through 2022, which is more than $3 million dollars over the $6.1 million it would pay to continue using the OPP for the same period.

Administration said that would mean a 13 per cent raise in municipal taxes for property owners and it would equate to an average of a an average raise of $232 dollars per household.”

New Lobby Group In Amherstburg

The Windsor Star reports, New lobby group aims at bettering Amherstburg and is co-chaired by Richard Peddie and Lauri Brouyette.

The article includes a couple of quotes from Peddie:

“We need both council and residents to quit listening to the misinformation that’s put out there,” Peddie said.

He’s hoping some residents who get “sucked in” by the “negative naysayers” will change their perspective once presented with the facts.

“We’ve told council we will be before them many times,” Peddie said. “We’re going to push them.”

Committees, Consultation and COVID: Council Agenda item

Members of council were asked two simple questions two weeks ago re accessibility concerns of Open Air weekends:

  1. why was accessibility not considered during the decision making process?
  2. why was the accessibility advisory committee not consulted for input?

This post addresses the second question and the answer that followed, in part, by Mayor DiCarlo, the only member of council to respond:

“The AAAC was not consulted with respect to Open Air Weekends because the AAAC and many other committees were and still are not functioning due to COVID.”

Paula Parker, in a memo on council’s April 26 Agenda states, “Council continues to be advised on matters of accessibility, equality and inclusivity by the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee.”

Now a new committee is being recommended: a special purpose Ad-hoc Committee, the Inclusive Community Program (ICP) Advisory Steering Committee to “help Amherstburg to become an age-friendly community by ensuring that the needs of the residents of all ages and abilities are considered in every stage of community planning and development.”

There are plans to hire a consultant: “approval is requested for an over-expenditure in the CAO’s Office budget centre professional fees expense account for up to $60,000 including net HST to fund consulting services for development of the Needs Assessment and Action Plan; this cost would be funded by the ICGP.” 

The report’s RISK ANALYSIS section includes, “Administration is of the opinion that all advisory meetings should resume through the Town’s zoom meeting platform” and “Should Council wish not move forward with this engagement solution for advisory committees, it may result in political criticism.” (report’s typo)

Should administration include consideration of political risk when it provides advice or recommendations to council?

A request for the grant application was submitted.

More to follow.