New Amherstburg Police Tools Questioned

Not surprisingly, council approved another annual Amherstburg Police Services Board budget without much debate.

According to the River Town Times budget article, “Meloche asked about the necessity of the new non-lethal beanbag guns, stating he didn’t want the municipality to spend money it didn’t have to.”

A lofty principle but, historically, Amherstburg taxpayers have supported Amherstburg Police wish lists thanks to council’s commitment to maintaining a local police service whatever the costs.

The RTT article continued, “Berthiaume stated “It’s just another tool in the toolbox.” Lavigne, who is also chair of the police services board, complimented the service and Berthiaume stating that being first to do something puts Amherstburg ahead of others.”

So now being first is a priority?

Well it was important enough for Amherstburg taxpayers to be the first in Ontario to bear the expense of the controversial police body worn cameras and storage despite large police services not being able to find the money to purchase them.

And, for decades Amherstburg taxpayers have borne the cost of a five member Amherstburg Police Services Board when three members were recommended for a municipality under 25,000 as per the Police Services Act. Only by a council resolution can the composition increase to that of a large municipality so council must believe a large board in our small municipality is required.

Rather than switch to the more taxpayer friendly OPP during the 1998 amalgamation, or since, we taxpayers have paid for a top-heavy hierarchical police service that one might also find in a large city.

Following the amalgamation and local policing option, both the Amherstburg Police Services Board and Amherstburg Police Association agreed to a collective agreement with a hefty OPP buyout clause that effectively stifled more than a passing thought of switching to the cost saving OPP.

We taxpayers have also easily handled all the Amherstburg Police litigation costs, which, on one occasion, the Amherstburg Police Services Board considered ‘privileged information; the only information available to the public is overall legal costs’ which was all that was ever requested – never a line by line justification of legal fees.

I agree that the bean bag guns are an unnecessary purchase. Elected officials’ spending on behalf of taxpayers needs to reflect the fact that we live in a small town in trying economic times where taxpayers can ill afford big city big ticket items for ‘what if’ policing scenarios.

Commentary Linda Saxon

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What Do Amherstburg And LaSalle Have In Common?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In yesterday’s Windsor Star, Columnist Anne Jarvis promoted the benefits of regional government and proposed, “How about one regional police force, cutting administration costs and providing all special services, from tactical team to canine unit, within minutes.”

Jarvis didn’t mention any studies that show there were no benefits from amalgamation nor the Auditor General’s Report documenting the cost savings to OPP policed communities.

Jarvis critiqued “politicians like LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya, who snarled recently, “What do we have in common with the City of Windsor? We share a border. That’s about it.”

What Do Amherstburg And LaSalle Have In Common? Besides sharing a border, both Amherstburg and LaSalle Police Services Boards were sued by one of their own police officers.

Ian Russell was a defendant in Praskey v. Toronto Police Services Board, retired from Toronto Police in 1995, then resigned from the Ontario Parole Board to become Chief of LaSalle Police Service in April, 1997.

Russell was a defendant in Renaud vs. LaSalle Police Services Board; he retired in 2000 amid controversy.

In Saxon vs. Wilfred Fryer and Amherstburg Police Services Board, the local news reported that Fryer was named as chief and that the motion was rescinded.

Policing options are contentious in any community and debate is sometimes clouded by the perpetuation of myths, fear mongering and misinformation.

OPP Payout Clause Remains In Amherstburg Police Contract

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Ron Giofu, River Town Times, reports that Amherstburg police, APSB agree on two-year contract.

Whether or not negotiations were underway has been written about multiple times, including referencing an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Decision regarding Sgt. Jim Saxon’s discrimination because of age complaint.

The Board requested the application be dismissed, suggesting the matter was appropriately dealt with at Conciliation and alternatively, requested it be deferred, pending the 2015 collective agreement negotiations, although no documentation was submitted indicating negotiations were ongoing. An Interim Decision was issued on June 23, 2014 by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal; “the Board’s requests to dismiss or defer the Application are denied.”

The police services board negotiates the contract and, since council has opted to have a five member board, typically for the size of a municipality with a population of 25,000 and more, two members of council are also members of the board: in this case, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Councillor Jason Lavigne. Otherwise, for a municipality the size of Amherstburg, a three member board would suffice and there would be one council rep on the board, pursuant to the Police Services Act.

Readers of the burg watch were concerned enough to have submitted three questions to candidates regarding the OPP poison pill clause during the 2014 municipal election campaign. Rightfully so.

The OPP provides policing services to the majority of the province’s municipalities, 324, that enjoy savings of approximately $1 million dollars annually; that equals about $17 million dollars in savings since amalgamation that, according to a CBC News report in May 2015, didn’t help smaller communitiesThe study finds significant increases in property taxes, compensation for municipal employees, and long term debt between 2000 and 2012; Amherstburg’s debt was another hot topic during the election campaign.

According to the RTT article, “While there still would be a $1 million payout to officers if town council were to agree to switch to OPP, DiCarlo said that would be made up in infrastructure costs. Wages and benefits would still likely remain at roughly the same level but the savings for the town would be in infrastructure costs of about $1 million per year.”

I would suggest that the $1 million dollar savings would not be in infrastructure, but rather wages and benefits as a result of not having an unnecessary top heavy hierarchical policing structure.

As previously noted, the 2012 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario included a Cost Comparison of Municipal Police Services, 2011; the estimated per capita cost of police services for a population between 15,000 and 49,999 was:

  • Municipal Police Service $284.00
  • OPP – with contract $150.00
  • OPP – no contract $131.00

Members of the board and the police association should recognize that it is in the community’s and ratepayers’ best interests for policing options to provide for optimal cost savings and, in my opinion, should not be limited based on a self serving clause in a collective agreement.

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

Amherstburg Police – A Cheap And Shameful Sendoff

It has been a long standing tradition for police officers to receive a gold badge upon retirement; that is until Sgt. Saxon retired and received a cheap silver badge.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Saxon has received differential treatment, but it is the distasteful conclusion of a long history of 28 years and 8 months, a summary of which can be found at bullyinginpolicing.com, but in a nutshell:

  • he didn’t get promoted, despite being qualified
  • he was excluded from a succession plan
  • his personal medical information and that of his family’s was breached
  • fellow officers surreptitiously followed and reported on his and his family’s activities
  • i was surreptitiously investigated for an alleged criticism of the police
  • procedures were not followed for medals routinely given to others
  • police reported to great west life, “both him and his wife are activists and are always on about something, they have a website, etc.”
  • the board dismissed my subsequent complaint about Berthiaume following a one-sided investigation
  • he was denied benefits once he turned 60, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

I can understand how entrenched the local attitude is, coming from local residents who want to keep the local cops, despite the estimated extra million or million and half cost to the taxpayer every year.

However, no one will ever convince me that the local police are somehow worth keeping, a sentiment shared by others I’ve had conversations with, including ‘locals.’

To treat one of their own officers with such disdain instigates nothing but disrespect and disgust from me.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Discriminatory Language In Amherstburg Police Service Contract

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The Amherstburg Police Services Board and the Amherstburg Police Association negotiated contracts that include retirement at age 60, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, advised all Chiefs of Police on January 15, 2007 of the proclamation of the Ending Mandatory Retirement Statute Act.

On March 5, 2012, Chief Tim Berthiaume advised then-Sgt. Saxon that he had no benefits since he just turned 60, that the town hall staff advised him. The town switched from Great West Life to Sun Life in February 2012 to save an approximate $52,000.00 annually. The town hall staff handles payroll/benefits for the police service and AON Hewitt, a benefits management company, was under contract as the named broker of record for the town.

Health Benefits cease at 60 in the collective agreement, but the Board arbitrarily amended it by deleting the age 60 reference in that section.

Chief Berthiaume provided the Board with 2012 proposed rate increases for discussion of life, AD&D, short and long term disability coverage. Life insurance was secured to age 65; there is no reference to age in the collective agreement with respect to that benefit.

The Association and Board never met to discuss this matter; they ‘negotiated’ through correspondence and no record of a formal grievance was disclosed. The Board’s position was that the appropriate time for discussion would be during the 2015 contract negotiations.

An unsuccessful Conciliation Hearing was held on December 5, 2012.

The Association did not pursue Arbitration; Saxon was told it was a human rights matter, although Arbitrators can interpret and apply Human Rights legislation and there is no fee for a Rights Arbitrator.

The Association had previously been involved in two Interest Arbitrations; in 1990 when it obtained historical parity with Windsor Police (unlike Windsor, retention pay has not been negotiated in Amherstburg) and in 2008 for a 2.5% rate increase for one officer’s position.

Saxon filed a Human Rights Tribunal Application; the Association hired a lawyer to defend its position while the Board relied on the town lawyer. The Board requested dismissal, suggesting the matter was appropriately dealt with at Conciliation and alternatively, requested deferral, pending the 2015 collective agreement negotiations. No documentation was filed indicating negotiations were ongoing. An Interim Decision was issued on June 23, 2014 by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal; “the Board’s requests to dismiss or defer the Application are denied.”

In January 2014, Chief Tim Berthiaume inquired about rates for long term disability and referenced the 2015 collective agreement. Despite a 0% rate increase to extend short and long term disability benefits for officers above age 60, no change was made.

A new request has been submitted to the Board for the cost to the taxpayer to defend itself against the age discrimination complaint because, as posted previously, Amherstburg Police Services Board Ignored Question About Legal Fees.

Shame on the Board and the Association for not changing the collective agreement to reflect legislative changes to mandatory retirement and the human rights code regarding age, but negotiating the OPP takeover clause from 1998 to the current collective agreement and negotiating protection from discrimination because of Association membership.

Toronto can’t afford another sweetheart deal with its police union

According to The Star’s editorial on policing costs in Toronto, “The base salary for a first-class constable is now more than $90,000. But there’s more. Officers enjoy perks exceedingly rare in the private sector, including permission to bank up to 18 sick days a year and cash them out for tens of thousands of dollars; lavish “retention pay” bonuses; city-funded massages, and even having taxpayers cover the cost of doing their laundry.

Salaries and benefits gobble up 90 per cent of Toronto’s $1.15-billion police budget. And they’ve frankly become unaffordable, especially in light of falling crime rates across North America.”

Comment by Linda Saxon: fortunately, Amherstburg Police Service is one of those rare services in Ontario that did not negotiate ‘retention pay;’ it would have cost the taxpayers more, but nowhere near what the feared OPP takeover clause has cost us – an estimated million dollars a year to ‘keep it local.’

Double Dare Issued Regarding Police Contract – OPP takeover clause

I dare the Amherstburg Police Association to remove this clause in the collective agreement and go to Arbitration on the matter. The members should recognize that it is the community, its ratepayers and council that decide what policing option is chosen.

Likewise, I dare the Amherstburg Police Services Board to remove this clause in the collective agreement and go to Arbitration on the matter. The members should recognize that in the best interests of the community and its ratepayers, policing options that may provide for optimal cost savings should not be limited based on a clause in a collective agreement.

I do not believe an Arbitrator would decide in favour of such a payout, considering the economy and established severance practices.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Amherstburg police continue to test body-worn video cameras

Amherstburg Police was scheduled to conclude its study by the end of 2014 and select a body worn camera for patrol officers or shelve the project if not feasible for APS needs.
Now Berthiaume says, “I’m happy with the results so far but we’re still evaluating.”

Human Rights Tribunal Ontario Hearing Reminder

A countdown calendar has been added to the right sidebar regarding the hearing of an Application by James Saxon v. Amherstburg Police Service Board and Amherstburg Police Association and an allegation of discrimination because of age.

The hearing is open to the public and it would be a good opportunity to see taxpayer dollars at work.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Tribunal denied the Amherstburg Police Services Board’s request to dismiss or defer the Application. The Board requested that the Tribunal defer consideration of the Application pending the outcome of collective bargaining between it and the union representing the applicant.

The Tribunal decided, “In my view, deferral is not appropriate in this case since there are no parallel proceedings between the parties. In my view, the fact that the Board and the union representing the applicant will commence their next round of bargaining sometime in 2014 is not a reason to defer consideration of this Application. The Application concerns the failure to pay disability benefits after the applicant turned 60 years old. There is no parallel proceeding in this case that is underway that would cause the Tribunal to defer consideration of the Application.”

Amherstburg Police Services Board Ignored Question About Legal Fees

The October 21, 2014 Amherstburg Police Services Board Minutes, attached to the December 15, 2014 Council Agenda, do not include my October 4 request to the Board to place my correspondence on its meeting agenda.

I followed up on Sutton’s September 17 letter and requested, “the date(s) of scheduled negotiation meetings and also to request if a decision has been made to hire a consultant and if so, if there was a competitive process and if there was, i’d like an electronic copy of the notice/advertisement for a consultant.

i would also like to know the legal cost to the board/taxpayer with regard to the human rights tribunal of ontario discrimination application by j. saxon.”

I emailed again on October 28, “as you will note from the email below of october 5, i requested my correspondence be placed on the board’s agenda for the next meeting.

i understand the board held a meeting on october 21 and therefore i’m writing to request what the board’s action was regarding my requests.”

No response was received; no surprise and no accountability?

Instead of ratepayers receiving correspondence from staff advising of outcomes, like in the good old days before we became an amalgamated metropolis, citizens are forced to search information via inaccessible web sites and lengthy 300+ page documents with no links to individual reports.

Enough already! Essex County can do it, why can’t Amherstburg?

Commentary by Linda Saxon