For the first time, Amherstburg Police Services Board member and candidate Pauline Gemmell answers questions:
1. Toxic Culture At Town Hall
As a result of Bill 168 all employers are required to develop policies relating to workplace harassment and must review these on annual basis. I would recommend that the managers at the town hall provide training to all staff relating to the identification of harassment, the process and requirements to investigate if an employee believes that this is occurring and to ensure that managers deal with ALL complaints of harassment. The policies need to be in writing and posted in an area where all employees have access. Reports of harassment must be submitted in writing and the policies regarding reporting and investigation must then be followed. The employees must be trained in order to identify what harassment is and is not. This process adds structure and accountability and ultimately an opportunity for the organization to gain some control over a workplace culture that is or has deteriorated to this extent. The Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act ensure the rights of the employees and offer protection against harassment. The head of all organizations have the responsibility of ensuring a safe workplace.
2. Work With Admin to Fix Toxic Culture
I do not know if there is a toxic work culture in the organization. It is not unusual for senior managers to relocate to new positions within an organization or look for opportunities outside the organization. Senior managers who leave an organization following a short stay is an indication of serious problems and is concerning. The CAO is accountable to and required to brief Council on any risk situation and any staff leaving an organization is a potential risk. I am unsure of why the CAO has not addressed and resolved this issue within the organization. The CAO is also responsible to ensure a stable work environment and ensure that the staff at the town are not at risk and as a result of Bill 168 this includes harassment.
Employees should be receiving annual performance appraisals. If many employees are being terminated that is a risk to the organization and council must be made aware of this and reasons why terminations are occurring. Any risk situation must be investigated including frequent terminations. I would want to know how involved the Joint Health and Safety Committee at the town is with this situation.
3. Support Full Independent Audit
Before I would support this I would want to know what we currently have in place to ensure the integrity of the financial systems in place. The 41 recommendations clearly outlined recommended processes needed including long term financial planning and training for council members. A new Council must be elected with management and financial experience in order to determine what the situation at town hall truly is. Once the new Council has reviewed the existing processes a decision can be reached about whether a full historical audit is required and for what period of time.
Annual audits are required to be completed by an independent audit firm for the town, appointed by the Council and reporting back to Council typically within a few months of the end of the fiscal year. I am not clear on what the situation is at the town hall and I’ve heard that from many citizens as I campaign. This is a problem.
I have repeatedly stated that the Town of Amherstburg is a large corporation. Large corporations need skilled directors who are prepared to take on the role and responsibility of directing the operations. They need to have formal post – secondary education, senior management experience, have prepared financial statements, have direct control of large budgets, have worked with various ministries and have capacity to function as directors.
4. Increase Time To Study Agenda
I will request the Council information package by Wednesday in order to allow sufficient time to read the material.
5. Bring Heritage District To Amherstburg
Yes I will work with the Town Administration and the Heritage Committee.
6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause
The current costing model for OPP is changing and as such will be difficult to get a clear cost for OPP at this time. I think that council should always be looking at the cost of all services and be looking to less expensive and equal quality alternatives. We have a great Police service here in Amherstburg and there are many benefits that we enjoy as a result of having a local police service. Our officers are skilled and dedicated to this community.
7. Tourism Role; 1 Million Dollar Budget
I would want to know what the tourism department is currently doing and what outcomes they have produced. Are they increasing traffic to the community? Is tourism a source of revenue to the community? Who is benefitting from this traffic? It’s important to have traffic for retail business as well as hospitality but what other benefits is this department producing?
Businesses bring people to town – people shop for clothes, cars, houses and while they’re here they might even stop for a meal. I would like to know how is this different from what the tourism department is doing.
8. Curtail Spending; Pay Debt; Reduce Budget
Before any jobs or budgets are reduced a review of each department needs to be completed and each department head must outline where they will cut their budget and how that cut will impact service to the community and a long range financial plan needs to be developed including the recommended cuts. This process will take time to implement and needs to have mechanisms for reporting and updating Council and the public on the progress. Our citizens are already engaged in the budget and this is evident in the questions they’re asking and the attendance at Council meetings.
9. Walkable Neighbourhoods, Amenities in All Areas
As a society we have become increasingly concerned about our fitness levels and reliance on motor transportation. I think that our community should have a plan in place to increase the walkable neighbourhoods and promote ‘active transportation’. Most of the areas mentioned have a high ratio of young families with children increasing the need to have sidewalks for walkable neighbourhoods. Parks become increasingly accessible as we provide walkable access for the families.
10. Establish Regional Transit
This is a difficult to answer without having some information about what access is required. I have spoken to some of the young citizens who attend university in Windsor and live here in our town. They rely on family and friends for transportation since a vehicle is not within their budget. This is an area that needs to be developed in collaboration with other municipalities. We need to keep our young residents in our community and facilitating access to other communities encourages them to remain here.
11: Societal and Environmental Issues
Anytime a group of people face economic instability the result is typically fear and uncertainty. The citizens of Amherstburg need to be part of the process to resolve this. They need to have information about the action plan that the new Council will develop to address the recommendations from Deloitte and for ongoing controls that need to be implemented in order to ensure the status of our town.
Life is unaffordable for many families. At a time when we should be looking for solutions to the challenges facing our town we have seen our community and Council divided. This is not how to build a thriving town. The town of Amherstburg needs responsible and responsive government. It’s now time to elect a council that is skilled at directing the affairs of a corporation where all the residents are shareholders. The new council must work to reestablish the confidence of the residents and the business community.
Question 12: Selection Of New CAO For New Council
Yes I believe that the new CAO should have been selected by the new Council.
Question 13: Police Contract Buyout Clause
I believe that our Police provide an excellent service. The buyout clause is outlined in the contract. As with any corporation preparing to lay off large numbers (this would be situation here) the Employment Standards Act prescribes the basic requirements for any payout. Beyond that the town would be required to honor provisions found in the contract.
We have a good and effective police service in our community. The cost factor needs to be discussed once the negotiations but other factors also must be considered along with the cost factor. It’s important that we all know what would be the result of having OPP in our community instead of our own police services. We need to look to other communities who have done this. Where are the officers dispatched from? There is a new costing formula and that also needs to be considered.
Question 14: Flooding Damage
Amherstburg must deal with the flooding issues. Other communities are also experiencing this. Residents won’t stay in our town if we are not able to determine the cause of the flooding and to provide service that will prevent ongoing flooding. The new Council must look at means of resolving this. Our residents must feel that they and their assets are safe in this community.
Question 15: Why are we 67 million in debt?
We need to implement the 41 recommendations and begin the process of structuring the financial accountability processes. We need to ensure the new Council receives financial statements from the CAO every month with a review of the areas of risk. The statements must be shared with residents so that they can also review them. An annual audit must be completed by an independent audit firm selected by Council.
Our community needs: Accountability; Responsibility; Transparency
Question 16: Tourism Or Employment
One newly created full time industrial job because if that person works that person will also be spending in our community, possibly raising a family who will also spend in our community and attract others to do the same. The potential could go on forever for this option because it has more likelihood for sustainability that tourism does. Both are important but without employment people will leave the community and without our town we likely won’t attract tourists. We need to ensure that our citizens have opportunities within our community and job creation is a critical ingredient to ensuring this.
Question 17: Infrastructure and Services For All of Amherstburg
We need a long range financial plan and included in that must be infrastructure requirements for all of our communities. Families and seniors live in these areas and as a community we need to provide sidewalks and trails that allow people to be active and fully participate in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities. The ability of the town to provide these may be compromised or delayed depending on the current financial status of the budget.
Question 18: Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause
Having a costing for alternative services is not dependent on a clause in a contract. The police services is currently beginning to prepare to negotiate a new contract and as such this is something that should be considered during these negotiations.
Question 19: Prioritize/Fund Infrastructure
I spoke at the meeting to discuss the sale with the town Council and spoke against selling the shares.
Infrastructure projects become part of the long range financial plan and need to be prioritized according to need which also requires definition.
Question 20: Town Employee Performance
The CAO must ensure that the managers are completing Performance Appraisals for each employee on an annual basis. Any performance issues must be addressed by the individual managers and reported to the CAO. If there is a risk that an employee will be terminated Council should be informed by the CAO since this presents as a risk situation.
Ongoing training is a critical ingredient to ensuring that employees maintain competence and the individual need for training should be part of the performance appraisal.
All answers to date from those who have answered are on the candidate answers page.