Amherstburg Discloses Further Records Following IPC Ordered Search

The Town of Amherstburg has disclosed further records following the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario ORDER MO-3934-I regarding the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request to the town for correspondence regarding the police costing from the town’s CAO and his staff to the OPP.

The IPC Adjudicator’s Analysis and Finding were:

(27)  I find that the town’s search was not reasonable, and I will order it to conduct a new search.

(28). I am persuaded by the appellant’s argument that the electronic search was too narrow and that it ought to have included the EA’s email address. The town does not dispute that the scope of the request included the CAO’s staff and it has explained that the CAO has only one staff member. While I acknowledge that the town stands by the reasonableness of the search, it has not provided a sufficient explanation for why no electronic search was undertaken of the EA’s email.

(29). I further acknowledge that the town takes the position that the electronic search was only complementary to the paper-based search. However, the town has also emphasized that both components of the search are important. To that end, in this case, I have concluded that it is in fact because the town itself relies on the electronic component of the search that the omission of the EA’s email from the search renders the search incomplete.

(30)  I am also persuaded that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that there ought to be additional records. Using the content of the records that were disclosed to her in this appeal, the appellant has established a reasonable basis that additional records ought to exist. Further, the appellant has possession of responsive records that have not been disclosed by the town in this appeal. Although it had the opportunity to do so, the town has not provided an explanation for this fact.

The town requested an extension of the August 10, 2020 deadline as it had commenced the additional searches, which yielded a large volume of records that required review; and there had been some delays in completing the additional searches due to demands on staff time because of emergency declarations for COVID-19 and flooding.

Nicholas Renaud’s affidavit states, in part, he conducted the search and provided 24,223 records for review. Kevin Fox’s affidavit states, in part, the IT Division provided 24,223 emails for review that he manually reviewed.

Paula Parker, the town’s FOI Coordinator, states three further records were disclosed: M-2018-16 Decision theburgwatch.com copy.  note: format originated from the town.

An Order will be issued.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search

the burg watch is 9 years old

Nine years ago, the burg watch premiered to create a permanent record of Amherstburg town council’s performance and to remind voters about some of the actions elected officials undertook on behalf of taxpayers.

In 2014, the burg watch created another historic first when it facilitated ratepayers’ questions to the then-candidates for municipal election and re-election. Hot topics emerged like policing costs, tourism and the town’s financial situation.

It also became noticeable how informed/uninformed the candidates were, depending on answers or if answers were even provided.

Early posts noted council’s Municipal Act contravention following the Ombudsman Review Of Closed Meetings, flip flops and a lack of commitment to accessibility.

In 2018, posts once again referenced an Ombudsman’s Report of council’s and the JPAC’s contravention regarding in camera meetings on the Policing RFP and council’s decision to choose Windsor Police Service without obtaining an OPP costing as promised.

In 2020, posts mentioned a lack of transparency and accountability, a lack of commitment to accessibility and what seems to be an ongoing issue, requests for information – informal and formal, all of which encompasses transparency.

Thank you to those who support the burg watch.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Background Byte

In response to the RTT article, ‘County will not endorse Amherstburg’s request for AODA website compliance’ letter by Linda Saxon as published on November 4, 2020.

I appreciate Essex County Council not endorsing the town’s request.

Is COVID a convenient excuse?

For eighteen years, since September 2002, I appeared before town council and the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, emailed the town’s IT Department, wrote letters to the editor and appeared before the provincial Standing Committee on Justice Policy regarding the need for an accessible town website. The Manager of Information Technology assured me twice that a new website was being launched and would comply with web accessibility standards and informed council the site was standard compliant in July 2007. I provided site check results indicating the site failed minimum standards in June 2008 and in January 2009 after the launch of the newly designed site.

I served on the Essex County Website Redesign Committee when the county launched its redesigned site in 2014.  Why did Amherstburg wait until 2016 to hire the same web design company? And, in the four years since, what is the town’s excuse for non-compliance? Obviously, it isn’t COVID.

The Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee should have also ‘vehemently’ opposed the town’s resolution that was distributed to all other municipalities in the province.

Most disappointing was that council members placated administration when the question on behalf of the community they serve should have been, why are we not compliant by now?

Although the report to council claims COVID is the reason, administration explained at the council meeting that it was due to third parties. I guess no one on council realized the town is also responsible for third party vendors because no one commented.

From the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, nothing in the legislation prevents a community from implementing accessibility earlier than deadlines that were carefully considered and allowed for plenty of time to comply. It is shameful that the town requested an extension when it was aware of the compliance deadline for years; certainly, for longer than COVID has existed.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Essex County Council Does Not Endorse It

Amherstburg requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Third Party Vendors

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Third Party Vendors

Councillor Patricia Simone asked if it was possible to get assistance from a third party that deals specifically with websites; if it was possible to potentially get a quote and then weigh that against the time staff would need to be in compliance. (September 14, 2020 council meeting discussion).

The Town of Amherstburg’s website is already designed by a third party, eSolutions (stated at the bottom of the town’s site).

Other third parties:

Wired Solutions

Next ideas

Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc.

Bang the Table Pty Ltd. for the Town of Amherstburg’s TALK THE BURG.

CAO Miceli and town clerk, Paula Parker, also referred to third party vendors during council’s discussion regarding non-compliance. Miceli referenced third party vendors that the town hosts on its own website; Parker mentioned the town has some third party vendors who are responsible for such things as the tourism website, the fire website is another one that is third party.

Email request for information

Ms. Parker’s response to my request for information regarding third party vendors for the town’s website was:

There are a number of third party vendors providing services to the Town in a variety of manners and a review by Town staff is ongoing as to redundancy, duplication and contract terms/conditions.  While this review is underway and not yet complete, I cannot at this time provide a thorough list.  A report is expected to be available in 2021 with suggestions from Administration for efficiencies in service delivery and a streamlined approach to web content delivery.

FOI request for information

  1. The names of all third-party vendors that the Town of Amherstburg hosted on the Town of Amherstburg’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
  2. Copies of all Requests for Proposals, Requests for Quotes and Tenders for the redesign of the town’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
  3. Copies of each individual contract for the third-party vendors with the Town of Amherstburg website from January 1, 2012 to present.
  4. All the costs of each individual purchase of the third parties’ services for the Town of Amherstburg’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
  5. All the cost of hosting each of the third parties’ services for the Town of Amherstburg’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.

Ms. Parker sought clarification. Ms. Parker was advised, the wording was based on the wording CAO Miceli and she used at the September 14, 2020 town council meeting when both referred to the town’s website non-compliance of the accessibility standard due to third party vendors.

Ms. Parker then issued two decision letters:

  1. the Town of Amherstburg requires an additional 30 days to December 4, 2020.
  2. a fee estimate of $967.50, exclusive of photocopies.

more to follow.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Essex County Council Does Not Endorse It

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Essex County Council Does Not Endorse It

The River Town Times reports that on Wednesday October 21, Essex County council voted to not endorse the town of Amherstburg’s Resolution.

In a letter to county council, the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee (ECAAC) stated, “The ECAAC does not support the resolution from the Town of Amherstburg, but also vehemently opposes any extensions to this deadline for compliance.”

The members of the ECAAC noted that “fifteen years is long enough to take the necessary steps in achieving website compliance” and “not only does this request undermine the legislation as it stands, but also sends a message that meeting accessibility standards is not important”.

Kingsville Deputy Mayor Good Queen spoke against the resolution and Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, in the absence of Mayor DiCarlo, offered an explanation.

View the discussion at county council meeting.

More to follow.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution

The town of Amherstburg circulated its September 14, 2020 Resolution to The Right Honourable Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and cc: The Right Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, The Association of Municipalities of Ontario and All Ontario Municipalities.

As of this writing, five of the other 443 municipalities endorsed and supported The Town of Amherstburg’s resolution related to the website compliance deadline extension.

The letter as it appeared on the Town of Essex Agenda: CORRESPONDENCE – Town of Amherstburg Resolution RE AODA Website Compliance Extension Request.

More to follow.

Related postsTown of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Members of Amherstburg town council were asked to provide the reasons for voting in favour of the Resolution on September 14, 2020.

The following responded.

Councillor Michael Prue: Please view the tape or the video. I was very passionate about why this should not be done. If this is not possible call me.

Councillor Patricia Simone: After reading the report provided in the agenda, discussion with administration and staff and research I conducted before the meeting.

Follow up question: What kind of research did you conduct and would you cite the sources you relied on to reach your decision?

No response.

Councillor Donald McArthur: I voted the way I did because I believe the extension request was earnest and made in good faith by staff, who are diligent, dedicated and hard-working.

As the report to Council makes clear, the Town’s robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on operations and established work plans.

“The work plan to address website accessibility did not anticipate the interruptions and redeployments caused by the declared pandemic, COVID-19,” said the report. “The demands of addressing the emergency declaration have devoted key resources away from other projects to ensure the safety of the community and staff, continued operations and new procedural changes to how the municipality ensures the provision of its services during a pandemic.”

Follow up question: regarding your comment at the meeting that amherstburg is not the only one of the 444 municipalities asking for this extension: would you know the numbers or names of those other municipalities?

McArthur: I based my comments off the report: ‘The Town of Amherstburg is not alone in finding it difficult to meet this timeline. Other municipalities have stated that they understand they may not be able to meet this target, especially given that there have been no funding announcements from the provincial government.’

Related postsTown of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

More to follow.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

On September 14, 2020, the following members of Amherstburg town council voted in favour of the Resolution to request the province to extend the compliance deadline ‘to meet the compliance standards, by a minimum of one (1) year to at least January 1, 2022.’

  • Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche and
    Councillors
  • Michael Prue
  • Peter Courtney
  • Patricia Simone
  • Marc Renaud
  • Donald McArthur.

A discussion was held and is summarized below; disclaimer – this is not an official transcript.

Councillor Michael Prue spoke first and recalled his involvement with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) enacted in 2005. Prue wondered if they were doing the right thing to attempt to delay the website when the town has known since 2005 it had to be done and since the 2011 schedule saying it had to be done in 2020. He didn’t think they were doing a service to persons with disabilities or that it was in the municipality’s best interest.

Paula Parker, town clerk, agreed they were aware of the deadline for some time but COVID became a priority and they requested the extension to prevent the order or fines if they are non-compliant.

Councillor Michael Prue responded to Paula Parker: he didn’t understand why they would need a year extension when they only lost 5 months.

Councillor Donald McArthur disagreed and thought it was a bit of a cry for help from staff and that they should listen; that they’re not the only one of the 444 municipalities asking for this extension and he thought it was reasonable in light of COVID.

Councillor Patricia Simone asked about the possibility of a third party that deals specifically with websites and weigh that against staff time needed to be in compliance.

CAO MICELI mentioned Kevin Fox advised they can’t comply because of third party vendors and their information and those parties don’t follow the same rules.

Councillor Peter Courtney would support the extension on advice of administration and hope they have some compassion for them and hope the town doesn’t face any consequence.

Councillor Michael Prue asked if the matter went before the disability committee and wondered what people think of the town not meeting the deadline.

Councillor Marc Renaud, council’s representative on the Accessibility Advisory Committee, remained silent.

Paula Parker responded that it had been dealt with by the committee on a number of occasions and believed most recently at the end of last year. Parker responded to Courtney’s comments and pointed out the town’s website does meet the WCAG level 2.0 not only single A but double A. Parker mentioned the problem is with PDFs and some third party vendors who are responsible for such things as the tourism website and the fire website.

Councillor Michael Prue acknowledged the consensus but wasn’t sure if politically it was wise.

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche agreed they need to get this done and mentioned part of the problem for years is administration puts in requests for help and council denies and they all just have two hands and can’t do the work of 4.

More to follow.

Related postsTown of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

The following was included in the report to council for its September 14, 2020 meeting:

It is recommended that:

  1. WHEREAS Section 14(4) of O.Reg 191/11 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires designated public sector organizations to conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA by January 1, 2021;
  2. AND WHEREAS the municipality remains committed to the provision of accessible goods and services;
  3. AND WHEREAS the municipality provides accommodations to meet any stated accessibility need, where possible;
  4. AND WHEREAS the declared pandemic, COVID-19, has impacted the finances and other resources of the municipality;
  5. AND WHEREAS the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act contemplates the need to consider the technical or economic considerations in the implementation of Accessibility Standards;
  6. BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the municipality requests that the Province of Ontario extend the compliance deadline stated in Section 14(4) of O.Reg 191/11 to require designated public sector organizations to meet the compliance standards, by a minimum of one (1) year to at least January 1, 2022;
    AND,
  7. BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the municipality requests that the Province of Ontario consider providing funding support and training resources to meet these compliance standards.

More to follow.

RelatedTown of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation

What was recommended?

That the municipality requests the province of Ontario to extend the website compliance deadline to at least January 1, 2022 and that the province of Ontario consider providing funding support and training resources to meet these compliance standards.

The report for council’s September 24 meeting is not a status update; it is a request, 3 months in advance of the compliance deadline, for an extension to 15 months from now.

COVID-19/the pandemic is the most obvious reason for the recommendation and it is referenced nine times in the report:

  1. RECOMMENDATION: AND WHEREAS the declared pandemic, COVID-19, has impacted the finances and other resources;
  2. BACKGROUND:
    1. enhanced monitoring of declared pandemic, COVID-19;
    2. has been consumed by its response to COVID-19;
  3. DISCUSSION:
    1. did not anticipate the interruptions and redeployments caused by the declared pandemic, COVID-19.
    2. how the municipality ensures the provision of its services during a pandemic
    3. a number of staff were on unpaid leave during the pandemic,
    4. Due to the impact of the pandemic emergency on municipal operations
  4. FINANCIAL MATTERSsuggests that it cannot comply by January 1, 2021 due to COVID-19;
  5. CONCLUSION: extend the compliance deadline from January 1, 2021 to at least January 1, 2022 due to the impacts of the pandemic (COVID-19).

RISK ANALYSIS did not acknowledge the historical disadvantage of persons with disabilities. While the report mentioned administration will continue in its efforts to comply, the risk was relative to hypothetical consequences to the town: If non-compliant; can require; If this is the case; suggests that it cannot comply; may still enforce its timelines; there may be financial implications.

FINANCIAL MATTERS did not specify a dollar amount of hardship, given the reliance on how “COVID-19 has impacted the finances and other resources of the municipality.” Instead, it was noted the town might face financial implications in the form of administrative penalties or increased expenses in trying to meet the required standards after an order to comply. There was no mention of the AODA procedure relative to an Order.

CONSULTATIONS listed three staff; there was no mention of public consultations of ratepayers that pay for the town’s website or their thoughts on financial priorities for the community.

Council voted in favour of the resolution.

More to follow.

RelatedTown of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension.

Accessing the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee Meeting

Difficulties arose when I tried to tune in to today’s meeting of the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAAC).

The September 24, 2020 AAAC meeting was advertised on the last page of this week’s River Town Times along with other meetings. A notation at the bottom includes text under the heading, Electronic Meeting Link http://www.amherstburg.ca/livestream.

I copied and pasted it but the link was invalid, as verified by a google search:

Your search – http://www.amherstburg.ca/livestreamRecycleYardWasteNorthZone519-736-0012http://www.www.amherstburg.ca 271 Sandwich St. South, Amherstburg, Ontario did not match any documents.

It would be so much easier for everyone to access the meetings on the town’s website if the video link was placed right next to the meeting, which it wasn’t. After navigating through a couple of links too many, I emailed  Kevin Fox, Committee Co-ordinator, who advised, The livestream for all town meetings is unchanged and remains http://www.amherstburg.ca/livestream.

It turns out the meeting was on zoom and there were technical difficulties with audio cutting out for several minutes and video disappearing.

Most annoying was the sound as though someone was constantly tapping on a microphone.

Most disappointing was that one member used the outdated “handicap accessible signs.”

Most frustrating was that members did not identify themselves prior to speaking when only audio was available. Also, I couldn’t find any listed accommodations for persons who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.

Urge Premier Ford To Take Action Re COVID-19

The three Independent Reviewers of the AODA demand immediate government action on the serious hardships facing people with disabilities in yesterday’s landmark guest column in the Toronto Star.

From the AODA Alliance: Please email Premier Doug Ford today. Write him at premier@ontario.ca Urge him to immediately act on the recommendations in this guest column. Tell him that Ontario desperately needs his government to announce and implement an effective plan to meet the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I did.

I also urged him to not honour the forthcoming request from the Town of Amherstburg that the Province of Ontario extend the website compliance deadline to January 1, 2022 along with a request for funding; council was cc’d.

A more detailed background can be found at aoda.ca.

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

In a Report to Council by Kevin Fox for the September 14, 2020 council meeting, Administration recommends that Council request that the Province of Ontario extend the compliance deadline from January 1, 2021 to at least January 1, 2022 due to the impacts of the pandemic (COVID-19) emergency and the impacts it has had both on the finances and resources of municipalities such as the Town of Amherstburg.

And town council voted in favour.

SHAMEFUL.

COVID-19 has only existed for the past several months compared to provincial legislation that was enacted in 2005: the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). Provincial Standards included deadlines for compliance but, suddenly, in September 2020, the town needs more time? 15 months more time?

More to follow.

Questioning Accessibility

This opinion was written in response to a River Town Times article, Grand Opening of River Bookshop.

The article mentioned building owner Richard Peddie’s observation that “Right now, within 150 yards of where we are standing, there are 11 other retail entrances that could become accessible if they too used StopGap ramps.”

Entrances would not necessarily become accessible just by utilizing a StopGap ramp which, as the name implies, is a temporary measure. In fact, in order to participate in the ramp project, the StopGap organization requires business owners to agree to and sign a waiver acknowledging, in part, “I know that this ramp is not intended to be a permanent ramp to my storefront and that the ramp should only be used when needed. When in use, the ramp should be level and flush against the step with no gaps present. When the ramp is not in use, it should be stored in a safe location. I understand that the use or storage of the ramp could cause injury to persons or property.”

A small window sign is supposed to advertise the availability of the ramp so customers can request it if required. In my opinion, this access method does not meet the core principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity.

Accessibility requires more than a ramp. A commitment to accessibility would include the removal of attitudinal barriers, the installation of automated doors, signage for people who are blind or have low vision, training on the human rights code including the accommodation of people with disabilities, and a public statement.

The bookshop’s website has some accessibility issues and provides no accessibility statement and no phone number or email or alternate methods of communication for potential customers. And, if the upper level will hold events, will it be accessible?

After a decade-long conflict with the town and my human rights complaint to ensure accessibility at the library, my observation is that there is greater emphasis on heritage preservation than barrier removal.

Linda Saxon

Face Masks Made Mandatory

CTV News reports Amherstburg makes masks mandatory for all indoor public spaces.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said May 20 that non-medical masks should be worn when physical distancing cannot be achieved. On June 10, the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health unit became the first in the province to make masks mandatory.

Other Ontario municipalities enacted by-laws;  Toronto’s fine:

“Upon conviction of an offence under this By-law, a person or operator shall be liable to a fine in accordance with section 429 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as follows:

    • A minimum of $500 and a maximum fine of $100,000.00
    • In the case of a continuing offence, for each day or part of a day that the offence continues, a minimum of $500 and a maximum fine of $10,000.00, and the total of all daily fines for the offence is not limited to $100,000.00.
    • In the case of a multiple offence, for each offence included in the multiple offence, a minimum fine of $500, and a maximum fine of $10,000.00, and the total of all fines for each included offence is not limited to $100,000.00.”

Enforcement is necessary, like seat belt wearing; despite education campaigns, there will always be those who refuse to comply even if it is in their, or their community’s, best interest.