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.