Town Business Should Be Transparent

The River Town Times article on the recent Ombudsman Report mentioned Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said in the three-and-a-half years this council has been in office, it is only the second time that an Ombudsman’s report has found contraventions.

Letter to the editor RTT

Re: Ombudsman finds contravention in how JPAC, council handled meetings.

The article noted Mayor DiCarlo’s comment that during this council’s term, this is only the second contravention found by the Ombudsman.

Mayor DiCarlo referred to the early contravention and how town clerk Paula Parker’s absence resulted in uncertainty about in camera reasons. However, the Ombudsman noted the Chief Administrative Officer and the acting Clerk were present at the meeting.

In its first contravention, the Ombudsman concluded this Council was not permitted to discuss bank signing authorities in closed session at the meeting, and in doing so violated the Act.

The second contravention was of the Municipal Act, 2001 and the municipality’s procedure by-law when this council approved accounts payable over email in December 2014 and January 2015.

The third contravention, and current Ombudsman Report, noted council violated the Municipal Act in closing a meeting under the security of the property and the JPAC failed to comply with its terms of reference in closing several meetings using the security of the property exception.

Mayor DiCarlo made comparisons to the previous council’s violations.

The Ombudsman website lists ten Reports on Amherstburg: of the six during the previous council’s term, three were negative and of the four on this council, three were negative.

Experienced staff and council members should have known the meeting exceptions and in camera criteria, especially if previous Ombudsman recommendations were implemented.

How disappointing that transparency and accountability has to be legislated but can so easily be set aside to conduct business on behalf of ratepayers while excluding them.

Linda Saxon

Ombudsman Reports Of Councils Compared

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo commented on the current council’s record in the Windsor Star article, Amherstburg contravened Municipal Act with closed meetings on policing.

The Ombudsman issued five Reports on the previous council; three were negative: council improperly voted twice and repeatedly contravened the Municipal Act and its own procedure by-law.

The Ombudsman issued five Reports during the current council’s term; one was for the previous council, three were negative: it violated the Municipal Act, contravened the Municipal Act and its procedure by-law and council violated the Municipal Act in closing a meeting under the security of the property exception. Additionally, the Joint Police Advisory Committee’s discussions about the police costing RFP on June 1, June 22, July 6, and December 7, 2017 did not fit within the “security of the property” closed meeting exception.

I don’t know how anyone could conclude this council is doing much better.

Shameful Lack Of Transparency – Amherstburg Police Costing

Shame on council and the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) for indicating a commitment to an open and transparent process but instead meeting in camera.

As the Ombudsman concluded, there was no exception that would have allowed council or the JPAC to hold these discussions in closed session.

CAO Miceli initially informed Council the JPAC should be formed as a first step to ensure an open and transparent process for the review of policing options. (emphasis added)

Miceli presented to council the OACP Process Guidebook – Critical Success Factors flow chart indicating public consultation prior to issuing an RFP. The JPAC discussed public consultation for determination of preferred services, bringing the results of the public consultation back to Council for consideration and direction on the development of the RFP.

The RTT reported Miceli said he wanted to solicit information from the public before an RFP is issued, “That, to me, is the critical driver.”

CAO Miceli would not confirm if any Ministry Advisors, as mentioned in the OACP Guidebook, were involved in the police costing process. If a consultant was to be hired, an RFP for Consulting services should have been issued. MPM Consulting attended the inaugural JPAC meeting and was subsequently hired.

The MPM Consulting Proposal to the JPAC noted, “the Committee has determined that the first phase of the project must begin with the community consultations identified in section 6.4 of the mandate.”

Section 6.4: “To conduct community consultations to solicit feedback,             identifying community needs & expectations and to inform Council of the identified needs and expectations as collected during the process”

MPM Consulting also advised the JPAC he would like to prepare a rough draft of the RFP to present to the committee before public consultation.

Instead of adhering to the OACP Guidebook and soliciting public consultation, the JPAC and Council excluded the public to discuss the RFP in camera.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo’s three July 10, 2017 letters to the Minister, Windsor and LaSalle, attached to the RFP, stated a commitment “to ensure the process we follow is fair, transparent, and comprehensive.” (emphasis added)

Ultimately, public consultation was held after the decision that the Windsor Proposal was viable. Residents were limited to subjective and emotional input because, to this day, the Windsor Proposal has not been disclosed as promised.

Mayor DiCarlo advised me the OPP and Windsor responses would be made public after the consultant and steering committee reviewed the responses and council received the reports.

However, Paula Parker, Town Clerk advised it was not posted publicly as it contained a confidentiality clause. But, as the Ombudsman noted, there was no closed meeting exception that generally allowed a municipality to proceed in camera to protect the confidential information of a third party.

Mayor DiCarlo Responds To Questions About OPP Costing

Mayor DiCarlo copied my questions and responded below each of them.

why did council not provide the OPP with an opportunity to schedule an information session?

The OPP were given the opportunity to provide a costing under Council’s agreed upon process of an RFP to ensure equivalent service levels.  An information session that did not meet Council’s direction of an RFP would not have been appropriate.

Editor’s Note: An information session should have been deemed appropriate in response to council’s motions to obtain an OPP costing, work with the OPP and Mayor DiCarlo’s statement to the Ministry: “I will be pleased to provide any additional information that your Ministry may require. We look forward to working collaboratively with OPP staff members and representatives from nearby municipalities to ensure the process we follow is fair, transparent, and comprehensive.” Instead of relying on hearsay from other municipalities, the OPP would have provided factual information and clarification if anyone was uninformed.

why was the September 14, 2017 letter from the OPP to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo not presented to council until five months later at its February 26, 2018 meeting?

The meeting of February 26th was when the letter was made public to the residents.  Council was aware of the OPP’s position prior to that date.

Editor’s Note: my FOI request to the town, because the mayor would not respond re my request for the letter, was for “the town council meeting agenda and minutes wherein the letter was presented and discussed.” How did council become aware of the OPP’s position before the February 26, 2018 meeting if it was not presented or discussed at any other meeting? Was there an in-camera meeting I was not advised of?

and why did council not submit a resolution to the OPP by the September 30, 2017 deadline?

As stated above, the OPP were given a resolution from council that requested a costing based on the Town’s RFP model.  There was no need or direction to provide any other resolutions.

Editor’s Note: council’s motions to obtain an OPP costing and work with the OPP were never rescinded to the best of my knowledge. CAO Miceli never answered my question about it.

DiCarlo: To be clear, to date, I have only heard from 2 residents that I recall on the preference to consider the OPP costing model.  Perhaps the other members of council have heard from more, that is for them to share.  The majority of the residents of Amherstburg that I’ve heard from have made it clear that they were not interested in the OPP’s model of policing.  Should that change, the issue can always be revisited.  In the meanwhile, I believe a reasonable amount of time has been spent in answering the questions you posed, but there is a considerable amount of other business that also needs attention.

Editor’s Note: I did not ask about any residents’ preferences however, the original motion to obtain an OPP costing in December 2014 was the result of an election issue, which Mayor DiCarlo addressed during the campaign when he stated, in part, RE OPP costing, “What I can say, what I know, is that the current board didn’t do their due diligence in acquiring the information for us to make an educated decision on what would be best for the town…information that would have been ‘free’. I would definitely acquire this information, if given the chance, and then work with the appropriate parties to achieve what’s best for the Town, or more importantly, what the Town feels is best for them.”

The majority of residents expressed an interest to maintain the Amherstburg Police Service, but Mayor DiCarlo voted in favour of Windsor’s proposal.

Responding to media requests is part of the position and time commitment Mayor DiCarlo campaigned for: that’s what accountability and transparency is.

Update: Shortly after Council’s 2014 motion to obtain an OPP costing, the Windsor Star reported, “We’ve had plenty of residents say, why don’t we have OPP? And in the long run, the answer might be, well here’s why and we’re not going to.” DiCarlo said. “But up to now, because no one’s asked for the costing, (we haven’t) been able to say the difference between these two.”

February 2016, the RTT reported, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said they are working on bringing a representative of the OPP to council to explain the process. Lavigne added they hope to bring police services board representatives from OPP jurisdictions to Amherstburg to speak to council on their experiences.

Questions For Council: OPP Costing Process Not Followed

Members of council have been asked the following questions:

why did council not provide the OPP with an opportunity to schedule an information session?

why was the September 14, 2017 letter from the OPP to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo not presented to council until five months later at its February 26, 2018 meeting?

and why did council not submit a resolution to the OPP by the September 30, 2017 deadline?

Access To Letter: Town Did Not Follow OPP Costing Process

As mentioned in this post, I submitted a FOI request for the letter referenced by the mayor in a November 14, 2017 RTT article since he did not respond to my two emails regarding my request for the letter.

The town has disclosed the letter, along with the fact that it is publicly available so no FOI request was required.

The article, OPP does not give police costing to Amherstburg, quoted Mayor DiCarlo:

“Instead of getting a costing from the OPP, we got a letter saying they are not going to follow our guidelines.”

The OPP “basically said no” when asked for the details the town wanted, said DiCarlo. He said it was “incredibly disappointing” the OPP didn’t want to work with the town’s guidelines, adding it was also “very frustrating” that while Windsor was willing the OPP “couldn’t be bothered.”

The September 14, 2017 letter from the OPP is addressed to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Rather than indicate an unwillingness to follow the town’s guidelines, the OPP reiterated “the OPP utilizes the Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process for all contract proposals” and explained, “the process prescribed in your Request for Proposal differs in significant ways from the process described in our manual. As a result, the OPP cannot participate in your Request for Proposal.”

The OPP also stated, “we have made several attempts to schedule an information session to explain to your Council the OPP contract proposal process. Since we have not been provided with the opportunity to do so, we recommend that you and your Council familiarize yourself with the Information manual, as it outlines all the steps involved in the contract proposal process.”

The OPP required a council resolution by September 30, 2017 if it wished to proceed.

The town confirmed that the September 14, 2017 letter to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was presented five months later to council at its February 26, 2018 meeting.

Therefore, I disagree with the mayor’s position and submit the town did not follow the OPP costing process. How incredibly disappointing.

What Is Adequate And Effective Policing?

In the November 14, 2017 RTT article, mentioned in this post regarding an FOI request for the letter referenced by Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, the mayor said he didn’t understand their costing model. According to the article, he said while the town understands it would get “adequate and effective” policing from the OPP, “they won’t tell us exactly what that means.”

Well how are we supposed to know exactly what it means if the Windsor Police proposal requires a Freedom of Information request?

FOI Request For Letter Referenced by Mayor

In addition to the FOI request to Windsor Police, I have submitted an FOI request to the town of Amherstburg for a letter referenced by Mayor Aldo DiCarlo in the RTT.

Mayor DiCarlo was quoted in a November 14, 2017 RTT article, “Instead of getting a costing from the OPP, we got a letter saying they are not going to follow our guidelines.”

In a June 9, 2018 email to Mayor DiCarlo, I requested a copy of the letter he referenced and the council meeting minutes wherein it was presented and discussed.

On June 11, I let the mayor know that I am awaiting his response.

DiCarlo’s Objectives For Second Term

The River Town Times started reporting on the candidates that have registered so far. Current Mayor Aldo DiCarlo’s write up mentions some objectives, along with the controversial 20 year policing contract with Windsor Police.

The article concludes with this quote, “My simple message is if you like what you’ve seen the last three-and-a-half years, expect more of the same,” he said. “If not, don’t vote for me because plan to continue with what I’ve been doing.”

How Then-Candidate Aldo DiCarlo Answered About OPP Costing

For the first time in an election campaign, the burg watch provided a forum for Amherstburg residents to submit questions to council candidates in 2014.

As a result, questions were raised about police costings, a hot topic given the amount of debt the municipality burdened its ratepayers with.

Of those that were elected, here’s how they answered:

Question 6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause

Q. If elected, will you commit to council obtaining an OPP costing and if appointed to the police services board, will you commit to removing the OPP takeover clause in the police contract? If running for re- election, why did you not consider doing the above?

A. With my labour background, and expertise in contract negotiations, this question is not difficult. For the record, I have negotiated 4 major contracts and facilitate workshops, related to bargaining preparation and successfully negotiating contracts. That said, I spoke with the major stakeholders related to this issue. The information I received was both confusing and frustrating. The current board has had 4 years, at least related to this contract, to request and obtain a costing to switch to OPP services. To my knowledge, no such costing has been requested to this date. Further, such costing has been free of charge to the municipality, but may actually require costs in the future. As a tax paying citizen, this particular point downright infuriates me. Why would the board not acquire something free that could help the Town decide what’s in their best interests. They might tell you that doing so could cause morale problems. However, I now know that they never bothered to even ask the Police Association, so this is just a speculative position. Now the final logic. For those who look at the current demographics of our current Police Force, they’ll notice that the average age is on the young side. Since there is a grandfather date in the contract, this clause wouldn’t apply to most of them. If you see where I’m going, now is the time to successfully remove the takeover clause. I’m sure there would be a minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause, but that’s why it’s called negotiations. There has to be give and take. I can’t honestly say which I’d prefer, municipal or provincial policing. What I can say, what I know, is that the current board didn’t do their due diligence in acquiring the information for us to make an educated decision on what would be best for the town…information that would have been ‘free’. I would definitely acquire this information, if given the chance, and then work with the appropriate parties to achieve what’s best for the Town, or more importantly, what the Town feels is best for them.

Question 13. Police Contract Buyout Clause

Q. The Town now is in the process of negotiating a new contract with our local police force. Within this contract (expires Dec 2014) is a clause which if activated could cost our town dearly! What is your knowledge of this buyout clause? what is your understanding of the rational behind the inclusion of it in our contract? What and how many officers would be involved? What would be the cost to our town if enforced one day? From my understanding, we are talking anywhere from 8-10 million dollars would be paid out to officers changing uniforms, not losing jobs? Your thoughts please!

A. Here’s what I know: The buyout clause was inserted sometime in the 1990’s during amalgamation of Essex County. At the time, pensions were not transferable from municipal policing to provincial policing plans. The clause was meant to compensate, or rather not penalize, officers who might be forced to switch. Since that time, municipal pension plans can be transferred to provincial for the officers who choose to go to the OPP. There would be a shortfall for the officers, as their current pension plans aren’t quite equal to the provincial plans. This could likely be negotiated at minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause as is. Approximately half of the current officers would be affected by the pre‐hire date of October 2001, that is, the officers hired prior to this date would receive the maximum 3 months’ pay for every year of service. The others would receive 3 weeks’ pay, I believe. I can’t tell you the exact figure for the cost if enforced today, but I’ve been told it is in the millions? Please see my answer to question 6 for more. As a matter of clarification for those that might think the Police Association has some control over the costing from OPP, they do not. The costing for OPP services must be done by the Board. Please look up who is currently on the Board and ask them why they have never bothered to cost out the OPP services or ask the Association for their position?…at least not to my knowledge.

Edited in original document: I have recently been corrected on who is required to request the costing for OPP. I am told that the OPP costing must be requested by Council, not the Police Board. The rest of my position remains the same. There has been numerous years to request OPP costing by Council, of which there was no cost to the Town.

Question 18. Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause

Q. Do you believe the Poison Pill Clause should be eliminated in the Police Contract in order to get an OPP costing to compare the costs of policing of OPP versus Amherstburg Police.

A. Please see my answers to questions 6 and 13. No offence to the author of the question, but I would not refer to the clause as the ‘Poison Pill’. It is a clause that had legitimate compensation when it was first introduced. It may not be in the best interests of the Town today, but I believe it can be addressed appropriately.

Amherstburg Police Services Board Decided On Cheap Silver Badge

Commentary by Linda Saxon

You might recall the March 14, 2015 post, Amherstburg Police – A Cheap And Shameful Sendoff regarding Sgt. Jim Saxon’s differential treatment and how, unlike other retiring police officers, he received a cheap silver badge instead of the traditional gold.

At that time, I stated, “To treat one of their own officers with such disdain instigates nothing but disrespect and disgust from me.”

At that time I was unaware of some information, for example, who made the decision. I recently learned from a reputable source that two sets of badges were ordered – one in silver for all retiring officers in 2013/2014 and another in gold for everyone but Sgt. Saxon.

I emailed Mayor DiCarlo today to express my disgust; that it’s a disgraceful send off and, in my opinion, illustrates a lack of professionalism and enmity by the decision maker.

Mayor DiCarlo confirmed that it was a Board decision and he did anticipate it might be an issue.

A more detailed history can be found at bullyinginpolicing.com.

The Amherstburg Police Services Board members, as listed on the town’s website were:

as of November 18, 2014
Councillor John Sutton
Frank Cleminson
Pauline Gemmell
Wayne Hurst

as of December 16, 2014
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, successful municipal candidate
Councillor Jason Lavigne, successful municipal candidate
Pauline Gemmell, Chair, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
Frank Cleminson, unsuccessful muncipal candidate

as of January 20, 2015
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo

Councillor Jason Lavigne
Pauline Gemmell
Frank Cleminson
Patricia Simone

as of March 17, 2015
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo
Councillor Jason Lavigne 
Pauline Gemmell
Patricia Simone
Robert Rozankovic

I remember some campaign promises to be responsible, accountable, transparent, etc. Wayne Hurst did not run.

The following quotes were published in the River Town Times during the 2014 campaign:

John Sutton “At the end of the day, we’ve had enough negativity,” he said. “For every challenge we have, let’s turn it into opportunity, put our best foot forward so we are in the paper for all the right reasons.”

Aldo DiCarlo A need for greater transparency, accountability and fixing the town’s finances are among the top priority for Aldo DiCarlo. “Why aren’t we discussing everything openly?” he said. “In any decisions being made, I’ll make them for the people who elected me as mayor,” he pledged. “If people are telling me something is wrong, I will address it. Period,” he said.

Jason Lavigne “I tried to educate myself on how things run and how you do things properly. I learned a great deal over the last four years.”

Pauline Gemmell “You have to be open-minded and listen to positions others have as well,” said Gemmell.

Frank Cleminson “I want to bring a team approach to council. I want transparency, accountability and a good dialogue on all the issues that come before us.” While it is fine to debate and disagree on issues, he said that animosity must not occur.

Robert Rozankovic “I see a lot of petty bickering,” said Rozankovic, who questions if council members vote with their colleagues and personal agendas. “Once the road is decided upon, you leave all the pettiness behind. You can’t continue with the bickering because you don’t agree with the decision.”

Not surprisingly, some of the board minutes are not posted and it is unknown when the decision was made.

New Amherstburg Police Services Board Tight-Lipped About Legal Fees

In a previous post, I set out a chronology of my ignored request to the previous Amherstburg Police Services Board for the legal cost to the board/taxpayer for the Board’s defence of an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Application for age discrimination by Sgt. J. Saxon; he was denied life insurance, short and long term disability benefits when he reached 60, contrary to the Code and despite there being no cost.

The Amherstburg Police Services Board considered my request at its March 17, 2015 meeting and decided that “legal costs relative to specific matters are privileged information. The only information available to the public is overall legal costs.”

To quote the fictional Blackadder, “utter crap!”

The Amherstburg Police Services Board, as of the 2014 municipal election, consists of:

  • Pauline Gemmell, Chair, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
  • Frank Cleminson, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
  • Robert Rozankovic, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
  • Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, successful municipal candidate
  • Councillor Jason Lavigne, successful municipal candidate

What happened to accountability and transparency?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

More Comments on $12,000.00 Poll From Members of Council

Members of Amherstburg Town Council were advised of the Poll results that indicated 75% felt council should not have spent $12,000.00 on the law firm.

Additionally, I offered my personal opinion: “has council established a precedent whereby it acts on someone’s suggestion and/or offer? an RFP should have been issued. regardless, if we can afford to spend $12,000.00 on what might prove to be a duplicate process, then there is money to spend on improved accessibility at the town hall, truly making the town’s website accessible, and offering increased accessibility through internet voting.”

In addition to Councillor Leo Meloche’s response, the following replied.

Councillor Rick Fryer: Thank you.

Councillor Diane Pouget did not comment on accessibility improvements, but responded: Thanks Linda.  I stand by my decision. Please feel free to call if you wish to discuss.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo:  Since my voting position has been covered by all of the area’s media outlets, I don’t think I need to get into it again.  Council has made a democratic decision and I am obligated, as the Mayor, to move that decision forward.

This voting process does not provide for any precedent that I am aware of.  Council is still bound by the procedural by-law in place.

The Town continues to work towards a fully accessible website.  It remains a priority that will require funding to accomplish.

Although I know these comments don’t explicitly answer your questions, I hope it provides some more clarity of Council’s actions.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Aldo DiCarlo Elected Mayor

Congratulations to our new Mayor, Aldo DiCarlo, elected according to CTV news.

AMHERSTBURG MAYOR

CANDIDATE VOTES VOTE % STATUS
DiCarlo, Aldo 3,396 52.9 Elected
Sutherland, Ron 1,673 26.1
Sutton, John 907 14.1
Adler, Marty 445 6.9
VOTES: 6,421 / 16,276 = 39.5%     POLLS: 84.6%