Town of Amherstburg Joined The ‘Banned’ Wagon

The Town of Amherstburg may have set a precedent in its own community when it banned Graham Hobbs from all municipal facilities, but it isn’t the first municipality to issue a ban that judges have ruled unconstitutional.

June 2006 Russell Township banned a persistent council critic.
Jacques Aube, 75, attended Russell Township municipal meetings about four times a month. He was notified last November he was barred from the municipal offices after he asked the township clerk a number of pointed questions about a Ministry of the Environment report on the township’s master plan during an October council meeting.

March 2009 Windsor Edy Haddad
Three years after being banned from city hall and other municipal offices, political and social activist Edy Haddad is now welcome to return. Windsor activist Edy Haddad allowed back at city hall

February 2010 Petrolia Trespass ban partly lifted

February 2012 Niagara Falls council bans resident from City Hall Fred Bracken
In an unprecedented move, Niagara Falls council has gone behind close doors to ban a former city employee from attending meetings.

July 2012 Windsor A leader of last year’s Occupy Windsor movement and outspoken critic of disgraced Coun. Al Maghnieh is no longer banned from city hall.

May 2013 Critics decry “draconian” measures in proposed Windsor no-trespass policy
Cross said the city has still not explained why her client Robert Mittag was banned from municipal property last summer after being ejected while protesting outside city hall. It was the no-trespass order against Mittag that triggered work on the new policy which council will be asked to adopt next week.

November 2013 Town urged to lift Gammie ban by CCLA

October 2014 now elected to council.

December 2014 Judge finds resolutions “violated” Gammie’s rights.

June 2015 Owen Sound Gammie insists town legal costs aren’t his fault.

August 2015 McNab-Braeside Township resident faces lifetime ban from municipal properties

Oshawa ban – Civil liberties organization upset with City.

November 2015 Niagara Region Fred Bracken A one-year trespass notice that barred a Fort Erie man from attending regional council meetings violated his Charter rights, a judge has ruled.

November 2015 – Graham Hobbs banned from Amherstburg town hall and all municipal facilities for one year.

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Amherstburg Fire Department Audit Recommendations

CKLW AM 800 News reports today that, “Following an audit of the Amherstburg Fire Department, the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management has come up with 27 recommendations that address everything from level of service and risk assessment to records management and public education.

Resident Is Suing the Town of Amherstburg

CKLW AM 800 News reports today that Graham Hobbs is “suing for $100,000 after the town banned him from all town facilities.” A statement of claim says the actions of the town were “oppressive, arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

Amherstburg CAO, John Miceli, says the town has filed its ‘Statement of Defence’ and is prepared to defend the allegations.

OACP Guidebook for the Review of Policing Options

CAO Miceli references a portion and attaches a page of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
 A Process Guidebook for the Review of Policing Options in his Report to Council at tonight’s meeting.

The Guidebook dispels some of the myths about hiring of municipal officers, transfers, etc.

Amherstburg To Request An OPP Costing

In anticipation of tonight’s council meeting, the CBC reports on Amherstburg’s request to the Minister of Community Safety for an OPP costing.

Did you notice any posturing?

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said, “For us, OPP has been a tremendous fit.”

Mayor DiCarlo is quoted as saying, “We have talked to other municipalities who have switched and they did also mention there is a disconnection. For example, Amherstburg police are very involved in their community and you do see them in local events,” DiCarlo said. “I understand that when you switch to OPP, that’s something you might not notice. The OPP likely won’t be sending officers to go hang out at your sidewalk sale or Mardi Gras or whatever it is that you’re having, right? It’s just another thing you might notice different.”

In my opinion, Mayor DiCarlo should put his question to the OPP so that he could facilitate factual information to the public through the media, rather than speculation and possible fear-mongering.

In his March 7, 2016 Report To Council, CAO Miceli provides a background of the request, including council’s December 2014 motion, “Administration BE DIRECTED to contact the OPP to obtain police costing for our municipality.” I have been unable to obtain any correspondence from Administration regarding that motion.

Miceli’s Report also contains a recommendation to form a Police Advisory Committee (transition board) to further establish a mutually acceptable framework for review of policing options, consisting of :
The Police Chief
The Chief Administrative Officer
Two Members of Council
Two Members of the Police Services Board
One member of the Police Association.

Miceli’s Report also includes a RISK ANALYSIS that mentions the safe community designation and “There is a very high likelihood that a decision to move toward OPP service delivery will have significant political risk. It is also likely that the morale of police department may be negatively impacted until a decision is finalized.”

Police Costing Facts & Myths

The choice of a police service delivery model in any municipality is contentious.

During the costing phase, posturing takes place and Amherstburg is not unique: ratepayers have a vested interest in the municipality’s highest budget item and politicians may mention loss of control.

However, unlike other municipalities, the Amherstburg Police Association and the Amherstburg Police Services Board agreed to hefty buyouts that inhibited the possibility of costing options.

A new tab is being added to the burg watch called Police Costing Facts & Myths.

New Enhanced Accessible Parking Permit (APP) and Enforcement-Related Supports

Commentary by Linda Saxon

All Chiefs of Police, Ontario’s municipalities, and the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers Association have been advised about the new enhanced Accessible Parking Permit (APP) and enforcement-related supports.

Enforcement of accessible parking infractions in Amherstburg in the past, verified by former Police Chief Roger Hollingworth, was minimal; he confirmed that Amherstburg did not have new tickets for bylaw enforcement until January 30, 2009.

In 2009, the Amherstburg Police Service issued one accessible parking infraction and one more by the spring of 2010; Hollingworth advised the town By-Law Officer may also have issued some but he did not have that information or specific information relative to the number that were contested and/or proceeded to trial and/or convictions, if any.

Since the Town of Amherstburg 2015 Public Events Manual contains outdated terminology, for example, “disabled persons parking spaces and Designated Disabled Parking spaces;” it needs to be updated to reflect the fact that the Accessible Parking Permit (APP) was renamed years ago.

And, although the manual mentions barrier free, there is no reference regarding what barrier free standard, if any, is to be implemented.

Not one member of the current council responded to my suggestions to improve and update the town’s Public Events Manual.

Taxpayers Pay For Private Firms To Obtain Public Input

Last fall, the Wynne Government announced a controversial decision to hire the Deloitte firm for $415,000. to consult the public on the Government’s problem-ridden idea of a private accessibility certification process being established. The AODA Alliance reports that the Government is not having its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation.

Amherstburg has hired MDB Insight to create a community based strategic plan for just over $36,000. According to MDB Insight’s website, ‘We have grown into Canada’s largest specialist economic development consultancy and continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients.’

In its January 31, 2016 article, the River Town Times reported that ‘Miceli said the matter has not yet gone to the town’s economic development committee, and told town council it is in the preliminary stages. The next step will be how to engage stakeholders such as the economic development committee and the community as a whole.’

Maybe council should put the unused money budgeted for the strategic plan consultant toward hiring an expert accessible web designer to ensure, finally, that the town of Amherstburg website is accessible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Privacy Concerns Regarding Downtown Survey Founded

In a December 20, 2015 post, I mentioned privacy concerns about the study given that the town and Amherstburg police have breached my personal information.

I emailed members of council that I would participate as long as the collection was in compliance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). There should have been a notice pursuant to Act that addressed the collection, use, access and disclosure of personal information by the town.

Not one elected official responded to my privacy concerns.

Following a formal complaint, the Information and Privacy Commissioner Ontario confirmed that the Town of Amherstburg’s advertisement regarding the downtown use survey did not satisfy all of the notice requirements in section 29(2) of the Act.

Specifically, it did not notify residents of the legal authority for the collection of their personal information or provide information about whom to contact with any questions about the collection.

The Information and Privacy Commission advised that town clerk Paula Parker acknowledged that, in this case, the town did not use its usual personal information collection disclaimer and that the advertisement and online survey was not vetted through the Clerk’s department before publication. Ms. Parker confirmed that the Town will put a procedure in place that requires the Clerk’s department to vet the collection of personal information before publication.

I subsequently emailed Ms. Parker, copied to council, to notify her that an address was missing from the strategic plan survey notice per the Act.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Budget officially passed, tax rate increases 2.3 per cent

Ron Giofu, River Town Times reported that the 2016 budget has now been passed and taxes are on the rise 2.3 per cent.

Town council made it official Monday night after approving the budget at that level seven days earlier. The budget passed on a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Jason Lavigne and Leo Meloche voting in favor. Councillors Rick Fryer and Diane Pouget were opposed.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Joan Courtney were absent from Monday night’s meeting.

Officially, it was hearsay

Commentary by Linda Saxon

I previously posted about Another Freedom of Information Appeal Against The Town of Amherstburg Won following Amherstburg Deputy Clerk, Tammy Fowkes’ not processing my FOI request until I submitted the ‘appropriate documentation.’

In October 2015, I requested “reports and minutes of closed meetings pertaining to the fire department changeover that were released to members of the public.”

Paula Parker, Municipal Clerk, on December 17, 2015 advised, “I hereby confirm that there are no records that respond to this request. To my knowledge the alleged release of information was hearsay and not specific records.” (emphasis by P. Parker)

Privacy Concerns With Citizen Engagement Survey – Use of the Downtown Core

Commentary by Linda Saxon

According to the Town of Amherstburg website, “A Citizen Engagement Session For Use Of The Downtown Core (Mardi Gras)” was held at the Legion on Dalhousie Street, Amherstburg on December 3.

The Town of Amherstburg then placed an ad in the December 16 River Town Times advertising “A Citizen Engagement Survey For Use Of The Downtown Core” and directing residents to the recent news section of the town’s website, which is still difficult to navigate and lacks some very basic accessibility features.

I don’t know why it’s necessary for the town to know the name and address of the person providing input; however, given that the town and amherstburg police have breached my personal information, I would have preferred a Notice as set out in section 29 (b) of the MFIPPA (Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) which states:

Notice to individual

(2) If personal information is collected on behalf of an institution, the head shall inform the individual to whom the information relates of,

(a) the legal authority for the collection;

(b) the principal purpose or purposes for which the personal information is intended to be used; and

(c) the title, business address and business telephone number of an officer or employee of the institution who can answer the individual’s questions about the collection.  R.S.O. 1990, c. M.56, s. 29 (2).

There was also no information pertaining to the access, retention, or disposal of the personal information, no place to give informed consent or notice that permission would be sought prior to anyone else requesting access.

Seeking input from residents is a great proactive and democratic approach by decision makers; I would just like to ensure that personal information is protected in the process.

Accessing Information In Amherstburg

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The purpose of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1991, is:

a) To provide a right of access to information under the control of government organizations in accordance with the following principles:

information should be available to the public;

exemptions to the right of access should be limited and specific;

decisions on the disclosure of government information may be reviewed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

b) To protect personal information held by government organizations and to provide individuals with a right of access to their own personal information.

Given the number of appeals and breaches of information I have endured, I would like to hear from other residents.

How open is government in Amherstburg? How are informal requests for information handled? What about Freedom of Information requests – are they routinely denied?