UPDATE: Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search

On August 10, 2020, the compliance date for Information and Privacy Commission ORDER MO-3934-I, the Town of Amherstburg requested an extension until September 30 to complete further searches and provide affidavits and representations about the additional searches in satisfaction of Order Provisions 1- 3.

As posted in Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search). the first three Order provisions are:

  1. I order the town to conduct a further electronic search in response to the appellant’s request using the email addresses of the EA and any other staff in the CAO’s office.
  2. I order the town to conduct a further search of its electronic and paper record holdings for records that may flow from the May 8, 2017 email referred to in paragraph 24 of this order.
  3. I order the town to provide me with an affidavit sworn by the individual(s) who conduct(s) the further searches by August 10, 2020 describing its search efforts. The affidavit(s) should include the following information:
    1. the names and positions of the individuals who conducted the searches;
    2. information about the types of files searched, the nature and location of the search(es) and the steps taken in conducting the search(es);
    3. the results of the search(es); and,
    4. if the search described in order provision 2 does not yield any further results, an explanation.

The Adjudicator understood from the town’s letter that the Town of Amherstburg has commenced the additional searches, which have yielded a large volume of records that require review; and that there have been some delays in completing the additional searches due to demands on staff time because of emergency declarations for COVID-19 and flooding.

In response, the Adjudicator amended the compliance date in Order Provision 3 to be September 30, 2020.

Any further requests for extension must be made before September 15 and the appellant will be given an opportunity to make representations. Requests for additional time for compliance with Order Provisions 1-3 beyond September 30 that are received after September 15 will not be granted, unless extraordinary circumstances are present.

The Adjudicator clarified that the order was issued by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, which is an Office of the Legislative Assembly and independent from the provincial government.

Town of Amherstburg Ordered to Conduct Further Records Search

The Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario issued 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.

ORDER:

  1. I order the town to conduct a further electronic search in response to the appellant’s request using the email addresses of the EA and any other staff in the CAO’s office.
  2. I order the town to conduct a further search of its electronic and paper record holdings for records that may flow from the May 8, 2017 email referred to in paragraph 24 of this order.
  3. I order the town to provide me with an affidavit sworn by the individual(s) who conduct(s) the further searches by August 10, 2020 describing its search efforts. The affidavit(s) should include the following information:
    1. the names and positions of the individuals who conducted the searches;
    2. information about the types of files searched, the nature and location of the search(es) and the steps taken in conducting the search(es);
    3. the results of the search(es); and,
    4. if the search described in order provision 2 does not yield any further results, an explanation.
  4. The information should be provided by way of representations with the affidavit that may be shared with the appellant unless there is an overriding confidentiality concern.
  5. If the town locates additional responsive records as a result of its further search, I order it to issue an access decision to the appellant in accordance with the requirements of this Act , treating the date of this order as the date of the request.
  6. I reserve the right to require the town to provide me with a copy of the information it discloses to the appellant in accordance with this order.
  7. I remain seized of this appeal to deal with: any outstanding issues arising from order provisions 1 to 3; and, if the parties are unable to resolve them, any additional time that may be required by the town to comply with the order due to the current COVID-19 situation.

Police Costing Comparison Amherstburg And Orangeville Part 3 Council Motions Requesting OPP Costing

Any municipality wishing to request a contract proposal for the provision of policing services by the OPP must submit a council resolution requesting a proposal for the cost of OPP policing to the Ministry.

Orangeville
First request:
January 2014 Council Resolution to request costing proposal from OPP.
April 2017 OPP Costing Analysis presentation to Council.

Second request:
December 2018 Council Resolution to request a costing proposal from OPP.
January 2019 Town’s request approved and an initial meeting with OPP was held.

Amherstburg
December 2014 Resolution to obtain an OPP Costing.
January 2017 Resolution, in part, to work with the OPP on the OPP costing.
No initial meeting with OPP was held.
Fall 2017 cancelled.

Police Officers’ Breach of Information Violation of Employee Code of Conduct?

Council members have been asked: regarding the town hall employee’s disclosure of Amherstburg police officers’ personal information, including 40 names, addresses, telephone numbers, cell phone numbers, next of kin, spouses’ cell phone numbers, start dates and birthdays, was any violation of the employee code of conduct, section 15, below, addressed?

Section 15 of the outdated 2007 CODE OF CONDUCT POLICY FOR STAFF/EMPLOYEES:

15.0 Confidential Information

The following information must not be used or disclosed, except in accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“MFIPPA”):

  • information which is personal,
  • information that constitutes the proprietary information of a third party, individual or group,
  • might reasonably be regarded as having been disclosed to the Employee in confidence,
  • is of a sensitive nature, or imparts to the person in possession of such information anadvantage not available to the public generally.

No Employee shall benefit, either directly or indirectly, from the use of information acquired during the course of official duties that is not generally available to the public.

Personal information controlled by the Town must be used or disclosed in compliance with the MFIPPA.

Employees must protect the following examples of information regarding the Town and others from illegal and unauthorized use:

  • client records,
  • information contained in business strategies and plans,
  • pending proposals or contracts,
  • estimates prior to tender openings,
  • unannounced services,
  • research results,
  • financial data and projections,
  • proposed acquisitions and divestitures,
  • computer programs and software,
  • professional expertise, or
  • inventions.

the burg watch is 7 years old

Seven years ago, the burg watch was the first site to create a permanent record of the performance of council members and staff.

Some of the burg watch’s posts were about council’s contravention of the Municipal Act following the Ombudsman Review Of Closed Meeting, council’s flip flops and a lack of commitment to accessibility.

In 2014, the burg watch was the first to provide residents with an opportunity to question the candidates. Despite being threatened with legal action by a candidate, I feel it was a worthwhile endeavour although not everyone responded.

Since then, posts referenced Ombudsman’s Reports of council’s contravention of the Municipal Act along with the JPAC’s in camera meetings on the Policing RFP, council’s decision to choose Windsor Police Service without obtaining an OPP costing as promised and still, a lack of commitment to accessibility.

In 2018, a new council was elected but time will tell what, if any, patterns will be repeated.

Thank you to those who support the burg watch.

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