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

Lack Of Transparency Part 1 – Police Advisor Updated

The Lack Of Transparency Part 1 – Police Advisor has been updated to reflect the fact that in addition to Midland, The Town Of Hanover And Municipality Of West Grey Also Issued A Request For Proposal – Study And Analysis Of The Feasibility Of The Amalgamation Of The Hanover And West Grey Police Services.

Michael Mitchell of MPM Consulting was the successful respondent and undertook the project beginning on March 21, 2016.

Lack Of Transparency Part 1 – Police Advisor

Ratepayers expect promises of accountability and transparency to be fulfilled. A series of posts will examine the lack of transparency when this council was to examine and compare policing costs.

A committee was established to review all the options and naturally, one would expect such committee members to possess the necessary expertise to advise council.

CAO Miceli initially informed Council the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) should be formed as a first step to ensure an open and transparent process for the review of policing options. Mayor DiCarlo stated, “we realized we need to get the committee in place and look at all the options.”

CAO Miceli’s recommendation to form a committee was based on the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) A Process Guidebook for the Review of Policing Options 2012′ he relied on.

If the committee requested assistance, Ministry Police Advisors were referred to and their role was explained in the Guidebook on page 6:

During any consideration of policing options, the initial responsibility of the advisor is to outline for the Board and Council their options and responsibilities under the Act and the potential implications of each. During a review of Policing Options, the advisor is available upon request to provide information and advice to participants in the process. Their advice is based on the legislation contained in the PSA, its regulations, and Ministry guidelines, as well as best practices that arise from other similar restructuring experiences.

Miceli would not confirm if any Ministry Advisors were involved in the police costing process here in Amherstburg.

Mike Mitchell, MPM Consulting, attended the inaugural July 2016 JPAC meeting wherein policing options were discussed: the OPP, Windsor and LaSalle.

MPM Consulting was to provide its proposal for consulting services through Miceli; Mitchell’s July 2016 Proposal was received at the January 16, 2017 JPAC meeting.

Council received Miceli’s report an the JPAC recommendation and agreed to hire MPM Consulting at its January 23, 2017 meeting.

The Town of Midland issued an RFP FOR THE PROVISION OF THE STUDY AND ANALYSIS OF POLICING SERVICES – MIDLAND POLICE SERVICE AND OPP.

The OPP commenced policing of Midland on February 8, 2018.

Edited: The Town Of Hanover And Municipality Of West Grey Also Issued A Request For Proposal – Study And Analysis Of The Feasibility Of The Amalgamation Of The Hanover And West Grey Police Services.

Michael Mitchell of MPM Consulting was the successful respondent and undertook the project beginning on March 21, 2016.

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.

Ombudsman: Council And Joint Police Advisory Committee Wrong To Discuss RFP In Camera

The Ombudsman has issued its Report into complaints about meetings of council and the Joint Police Advisory Committee for the Town of Amherstburg in 2017 and 2018.

The Ombudsman’s opinion included:

At the time of these meetings, there was no exception that would have allowed council or the JPAC to hold these discussions in closed session.

The JPAC violated the town’s Local Boards/Committees – Terms of Reference when it discussed the police costing RFP in closed session on June 1, June 22, July 6 and December 7, 2017. Failing to comply with these terms of reference was wrong under s. 21(1)(d) of the Ombudsman Act. The discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the “security of the property” exception or any of the exceptions provided in the Local Boards/Committees – Terms of Reference.

Council for the Town of Amherstburg contravened the Municipal Act when it discussed the police costing RFP in closed session on July 10, 2017. 

Province-Wide Parties Debate on Accessibility and Disability Issues

Accessibility is not exactly a buzz word during any election campaign, but we are all governed by the provincial accessibility legislation and its regulations, as well as the Human Rights Code.

And, if senior is a buzz word during the Amherstburg election campaign, the sector is directly affected by elected officials’ decisions to strengthen a commitment to people with disabilities or not.

The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) Inc., organizer of Province-Wide Parties Debate on Accessibility and Disability Issues, invite people with disabilities and their allies from across Ontario to ask questions to each party regarding: Accessible/Subsidized/Supportive Housing, Employment, Poverty Reduction Strategies, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Education and other disability issues.

May 16, 2018, from 6 to 8.30 pm Debate Livestream Webcast: https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/72/live/1807.aspx.

Public Meeting Re Windsor Police Takeover in Amherstburg

The Windsor Star reported, “The commission deciding the fate of Amherstburg police wants to meet with residents.”

According to the article, CAO Miceli said, “Public consultation is part of the OCPC’s process,” adding the public meetings are not meant to seek community approval.

The ONTARIO CIVILIAN POLICE COMMISSION (OCPC) is not required to hold a public meeting; in fact it did not hold one in St. Marys, the model often referred to. The OCPC asked the City of St. Marys to provide a written submission setting out the proposed policing arrangement and approved it.

However, OCPC will consult with Amherstburg residents regarding council’s decision to have Windsor Police take over policing in Amherstburg.

Police Costing – The Best Deal?

As mentioned in the post, Meloche Wants Deputy Mayor Seat, Meloche referenced the deal with Windsor Police to take over policing Amherstburg.

According to the RTT article, Meloche said Essex had $3.9 million in policing costs in 2018 compared to Amherstburg’s $5.8 million.

The article continued, “Overall, we thought it’s a good deal for Amherstburg as a whole,” he said, noting there are $14 million in potential savings over the next 20 years.

Here’s my math:

Essex paid $1.9 million less on policing than Amherstburg.

Amherstburg’s $5.8 million minus $700,000.00 potential annual savings for 20 years will cost taxpayers $102 million.

Essex’s $3.9 million will cost taxpayers $78 million in 20 years.

While Amherstburg is expected to save $14 million, Essex taxpayers will spend $24 million less than us over the same time period.

I maintain that because Amherstburg did not obtain an OPP costing, despite carrying two motions to do so, Amherstburg taxpayers missed the opportunity to know if more savings were possible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Amherstburg Taxpayers Losers In Policing Decision

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Council’s motivation to compare policing costs was the level of municipal debt and it was committed to obtaining an OPP costing; it carried two motions to do so.

There were also other cost-saving options to reduce the police budget’s share of municipal taxes.

Council could have established the police budget and maybe taxpayers wouldn’t have been burdened with items like body worn cameras that large police services couldn’t afford because of data storage.

Despite claims over the years that the board was autonomous, according to the Police Services Act: Upon reviewing the estimates, the council shall establish an overall budget for the board for the purposes described in clauses (1) (a) and (b) and, in doing so, the council is not bound to adopt the estimates submitted by the board.

Council could have decided the taxpayers should only pay for a three member Police Services Board instead of the five recommended for a large police service.

Had council elected the OPP in 1998, when the OPP communication system was province wide, taxpayers might have realized $1 million savings annually, or $20 million by now, that could have been put toward infrastructure.

Instead, Amherstburg depended on others for dispatching and switched services a number of times from LaSalle, to Leamington, back to LaSalle, then to Windsor.

The proposed benefits of the 1998 amalgamation were identified as follows:

  1. operating costs would be stabilized through efficiencies;
  2. human resources would be deployed more efficiently;
  3. specialized police units would become financially viable due to the economics of scale;
  4. labour relations matters would be simplified;
  5. larger pool of human resources available to deal with major incidents;
  6. communications and computer systems would be enhanced; and
  7. several other benefits both to the service and to the public.

Amherstburg had access to the OPP specialized units and did require them on occasion, but will taxpayers now pay for specialized Windsor units 365 days a year whether they are needed or not?

The OPP’s mandate is to patrol the waterways so how necessary was an Amherstburg Police marine unit? Will a Windsor Police marine unit continue to be an unnecessary municipal expenditure?

The Police Services Board could have put an end to the OPP ‘poison pill’ clause in the police contract that seemed to inhibit the town obtaining an OPP costing.

The Windsor Star reported that Taxpayers in Windsor pay more per capita for policing than all other parts of Essex county, sometimes double that of its county neighbours policed by the OPP.

Given those verified figures, and because Amherstburg did not obtain an OPP costing as it was committed to doing, twice, Amherstburg taxpayers lost an opportunity to know if a better cost saving option was possible.

Consequently, no one can claim we got the best bang for our buck, despite that being the goal.

For the past twenty years I have maintained the Amherstburg Police hierarchical structure was costly and unnecessary; after all these years Windsor Police’s proposal to save money will see the hierarchy change.

No Answers Equals No Transparency Or Accountability

Commentary by Linda Saxon

On February 27, 2018, I requested CAO John Miceli answer three questions for me to post to theburgwatch.

  1. Were any Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services Police Service Advisors involved in the police costing process?
  2. Would you provide me with a copy of Berthiaume’s Completed Form as requested by the OPP?
  3. Would you confirm whether or not Council’s two motions to obtain an OPP costing were rescinded?

On March 1, I emailed Miceli, cc council, that if he was unavailable to respond to my media questions, if he would please forward them to someone who can.

Eight minutes later, Miceli responded:

“All of the questions that you are asking are in relation to an OPP costing process. As you may or may not know the Town did not request an OPP costing instead the Town developed an RFP dictating the minimum level of service requested from proponents. Council approved this method of procurement of services and the OPP was invited to participate in the process. The OPP elected not to respond to the Town’s RFP. All of this was disclosed in public reports. With that being the case I do not believe I can offer you any further information.”

Unsure that there had been any investigation into obtaining the requested documentation, I emailed Miceli back:

“If you review my questions, the first involves Ministry Advisors, as mentioned in the OACP Guidebook you relied on and i’m merely asking if any were involved in the police costing process, in other words, the costing process the town undertook.

i conclude from your response that Berthiaume never did complete the form for the OPP; did he complete an equivalent form for Windsor?

The third question, if you refer to it again, relates to council’s two motions to obtain an OPP costing and whether or not they were rescinded; council’s motions are not part of the OPP costing process, as you well know. “

Police Costing Process – Transparent and Accountable?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

I emailed members of council the following:

As happy as I would be to be rid of Berthiaume, the Amherstburg police service and board, I fail to see how a contract with Windsor police will benefit the ratepayers, never mind entrenching a 20 year contract.

I wonder what all of you would say about such a contract if you were campaigning against a current council right now.

In my opinion, this costing process has not been transparent and it lacked accountability and responsibility.

Shortly after being elected, council was committed to obtaining all police costing comparisons.

The media reported that a committee was established to discuss costings. 

The JPAC recommended that administration be directed to hire MPM Consulting and the media reported in January 2017 a consultant was hired to “weigh the benefits of keeping its own police force, amalgamating with another force or hiring the OPP.”

At the same time, the JPAC recommended that administration be directed to, in part, develop an RFP for Windsor and LaSalle to respond to and work with the OPP on the OPP costing.

It appeared the OPP would still be an option and that council was committed to its two motions to obtain an OPP costing despite the committee determining earlier the OPP costing was not feasible.

Council should have held administration and the JPAC accountable for not implementing council’s motions.

The River Town Times reported Town council wants to make the decision once and doesn’t want to accept or reject any proposal without knowing all the details, DiCarlo said. “It was always council’s position to look at all of the options at the same time,” he said. “The goal is to have all of the information in front of us.” (emphasis added).

In the end, taxpayers were denied an opportunity to provide input on a comparison of all policing costs and options and instead were reduced to submitting subjective and emotional responses to a limited choice.

AMENDMENTS TO THE MUNICIPAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT

Effective March 1, 2019, The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is amended by adding the following section:

Principles

1.1 The Province of Ontario endorses the following principles in relation to the duties of members of councils and of local boards under this Act:

1. The importance of integrity, independence and accountability in local government decision-making. (emphasis added).

2. The importance of certainty in reconciling the public duties and pecuniary interests of members.

3. Members are expected to perform their duties of office with integrity and impartiality in a manner that will bear the closest scrutiny.

4. There is a benefit to municipalities and local boards when members have a broad range of knowledge and continue to be active in their own communities, whether in business, in the practice of a profession, in community associations, and otherwise.