On May 9, 2014, Mary Caton reported in The Windsor Star that Amherstburg CAO Mike Phipps confirmed Friday that he intends to leave his position before reaching the end of his two-year contract with the town. “I am meeting with council shortly because we’ve got to get a plan in place,” he said. Phipps said he intends to see the town through the impending municipal election and municipal review. “I feel an obligation to hang in there,” he said. “To see that the election is run properly and legally.”
The town advertised for a new CAO and invited applicants to submit a resume by June 30.
In a July 16 Windsor Star article, Phipps said he’s staying put. Candidates for the position are undergoing a council approved vetting process that includes a five-member panel made up of Phipps, human resources manager Michelle Rose, another county CAO that Phipps wouldn’t identify, a “fairly senior” local business leader and a resident.
Why was a panel needed? How was the panel selected? What are the members’ qualifications? Was there an Information and Privacy Commissioner privacy assessment, considering residents are panel members who will access personal information?
The article ends with a quote from Phipps: “So we thought, if we can get the right person that at least this council is satisfied with … I have faith we’ll get the right person,” he said.
Who is “we?” Has Council agreed to rescind his notice to leave plus hire a new CAO?
Commentary by Linda Saxon
In a November 20, 2013 Windsor Star article, Julie Kotsis reported Hurst cast the deciding vote to oppose the motion to request an independent audit and called it the beginning of the “silly season” noting that an election was coming up next year.
At its January 20, 2014 town council meeting, a unanimous motion was carried to ask the ministry for an audit. According to The Windsor Star, Councillor Diane Pouget said she called the ministry as well and was told “it is council’s responsibility to request this audit.”
Phipps’ March 21, 2014 Report To Council included a recommendation that, “Council approve, in principle, moving forward with the Financial Management and Practices Review for the Town of Amherstburg with the costs of the Review being borne by the municipality. Council unanimously agreed.
According to a July 17, 2014 Windsor Star article, Pouget said, “We need an in depth investigation of what happened to that money (that was moved from reserve and other dedicated accounts) and how it got moved and who moved it. We need answers and I would have never agreed to spend $100,000 just to review policies and procedures and to tell us how to do something better.”
During 2014 budget deliberations, council considered closing the north end tourist booth and redirecting tourists to the Gordon House, an idea that had been considered in the past. However, council subsequently agreed to $8000.00 from TWEPI (Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island) to cover seasonal staffing for a one-year pilot project.
Who will step in and save the booth next year, or the following years if the next council decides taxpayers can ill afford to keep it open?
Residents watched the tourist booth transform from a utilitarian centre to one that included a new fountain, gazebo, stonework planters, trees and the ridiculous two approaches to its entrance – could universal access, or one approach, have saved $8000.00?
Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) Program
As announced on January 27, 2009 as part of the government’s Economic Action Plan, the Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) is providing $1 billion across the country to help create jobs and employment opportunities in communities affected by the global recession.
According to Jeff Watson’s facebook page, “Amherstburg’s $11.265 million CAF grant was the largest in Canada and has helped the town re-invent itself after major industrial closures over the past decade. Amherstburg’s contribution was only $585,000.
We cut the ribbon on the completely reconstructed Laird Avenue in front of Wigle Park. Project components also included bus lay-by’s for General Amherst HS and new crosswalk for pedestrian and student safety, and a completely new North gateway entrance at the community’s tourism information booth.”
according to the November 20, 2013 Windsor Star, Julie Kotsis reported Amherstburg Town Council was split over the need for further financial auditing. Councillor DiPasquale’s motion to request an independent audit of the town’s financials was defeated as follows-
AGAINST: Councillors John Sutton, Carolyn Davies and Bob Pillon
FOR: Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland, Councillors DiPasquale and Pouget
Hurst cast the deciding vote to oppose and called it the beginning of the “silly season” noting that an election was coming up next year.
At its January 20, 2014 town council meeting, a unanimous motion was carried to ask the ministry for an audit. Sutton is quoted in The Windsor Star, “I agree wholeheartedly that a more thorough investigation should be done … I totally agree that has to be 100 per cent public. “There can’t be anything hidden.”
At the April 18, 2011 Council Meeting, Council directed Administration to proceed with installation of the hand railings in Rink A of the United Communities Credit Union for a cost of no more than $4,000.00.
However, rails will not be installed; The Amherstburg Echo quoted Rick Daly, “Installing these railings as directed would put the town in violation of the Ontario Building Code as well as the Ontario Fire Code.”
Amherstburg town council reversed its decision to allow a man convicted of sex crimes to purchase naming rights at the town’s new arena. Read more CBC News.