Aldo DiCarlo

Amherstburg Police Services Board, council take no further position on WPS investigation

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council took no position on an ongoing investigation into the Windsor Police Service and Windsor Police Services Board (WPSB) and the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) took a similar position or lack thereof.

The two hastily-called meetings in Amherstburg Thursday afternoon and evening were due to the investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), the same body that will be holding public hearings June 26 at the Libro Centre over the town’s proposed contracting out of policing services to Windsor.

According to a news release put out by Windsor police last Wednesday, Chief Al Frederick and the WPSB were notified that the OCPC has initiated an investigation under section 25 of the Police Services Act with Frederick and the WPSB advising they “intended to fully co-operate with this investigation.”

“The Ontario Civilian Police Commission initially advised the Windsor Police Service and the Windsor Police Services Board that the investigation should be kept confidential.  However, in view of the upcoming Public Hearing related to contract policing in Amherstburg, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission has now recommended that we disclose the fact that an investigation has been initiated relating to internal policies and promotional matters,” the release stated. “The Commission maintains a strict separation between its investigative and adjudicative functions.  Accordingly, the Windsor Police Service and the Windsor Police Services Board believe the fact that an investigation has been initiated is irrelevant to the Commission’s mandate, which is to determine whether the Windsor Police Service contract policing proposal will ensure the provision of adequate and effective policing services to the residents of Amherstburg.”

It was stated that from January 2018 to April 2018, the OCPC “received multiple complaints from members of the Windsor Police Service” and “these complaints raise serious concerns about the workplace environment of the WPS, the administration of the WPS, and the oversight provided by the Windsor Police Services Board.”

The OCPC decided to conduct an investigation May 4. Items being investigated include whether the promotional processes, particularly to administration rank positions, are fair and transparent and whether the Board exercises appropriate oversight of those promotional processes; whether the hiring processes relating to the potential hiring of relatives are fair

and transparent; whether the Board is appropriately informed about administration issues relating to its mandate, including the promotional processes involving candidates for senior administration; whether there has been improper interference in specific legal proceedings and whether any such interference has been initiated, encouraged, and/or sustained by the current administration of the WPS and/or the Board; whether a poisoned work environment has been created, encouraged, and/or sustained by the current administration of the WPS in relation to workplace policies and/or accommodation requests; whether the WPS has fair and transparent processes to address workplace harassment and human rights complaints; and whether the Board is fulfilling its statutory oversight role in relation to the latter two items.

Councillor Jason Lavigne, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic listen to comments made by the public at last Thursday’s APSB meeting.

Bob Rozankovic, chair of the APSB, said he was tempted to cancel this meeting but decided to keep it scheduled to see if the board wanted to make any sort of resolution.

“The board has no say in the matter,” he said. “We have no say in the decision of council.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne, who joins Mayor Aldo DiCarlo as council representatives on the board, said the council meeting featured Frederick and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins and emphasized there have been allegations laid but no actual findings have been discovered.

“We are not part of Windsor, we are not part of the investigation. These are allegations at this point,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne said the OCPC didn’t want to come to Amherstburg June 26 and have the investigation become an issue if news of it were to leak out and wanted the town to know about it.

“They wanted to make sure no bombshells were dropped at the hearing,” Rozankovic added.

George Kritiotis, one of the residents at the meeting, raised various questions and comments including about body camera’s (“In general, they keep everyone in check.”), where new applicants would apply to and the investigation itself. New applicants, he was told, would apply to the Windsor Police Service, he was told. Questions raised over the investigation were met with the reply that the APSB can’t provide any comment anyway.

“Even if we did have the facts, it’s not up to us to judge the Windsor Police Service or the Windsor Police Services Board,” said Rozankovic.

Kritiotis questioned morale of the officers that would be joining Windsor and further asked whether the Amherstburg officers would be impacted should the OCPC grant the go-ahead for the service to be contracted to the city.

Denise Bondy added she wanted the town to show it cares “about the men and women who serve us” and also wondered about the collective agreements for the officers. The Amherstburg Police Service would officially dissolve Jan. 1, 2019 if contracting out the service is approved provincially and officers would work out of Amherstburg as Windsor police officers.

A number of the questions and concerns raised by members of the public at the APSB meeting dealt with other issues as well, including severance pay for Amherstburg officers, with Amherstburg Chief Tim Berthiaume stating that issue is still being worked on and that it could come up in arbitration if unresolved by Jan. 1, 2019.

Councillor Jason Lavigne speaks during the special Amherstburg Police Services Board meeting held June 14.

Nancy Atkinson questioned DiCarlo as to how he felt when he walked into the mayor’s job in a difficult work environment.

“That is what you are asking our police officers to do and I don’t understand,” said Atkinson.

DiCarlo, emphasizing that there are only allegations at this point against Windsor police, said he chose to enter the fray as mayor four years ago. He said Amherstburg had to endure a similar situation with the fire department and called in the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office to investigate. Recommendations were then adopted by the town and he said the same could hold true in Windsor if any issues are revealed or confirmed by the OCPC.

The town council meeting was made public about 30 minutes before the start of it, the mayor added, as it turned out no additional information was gained prior to the meeting to necessitate council going in-camera.

Rozankovic added there are over 600 employees with the Windsor Police Service and allegations have been raised by anywhere from 2-5 people.

Lavigne added the June 26 hearing is to decide whether Windsor police can provide adequate policing to the town.

“They don’t want to hear that you don’t like it,” he said.

Council gives administration spending authority in “lame duck” period, but not without debate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has authorized administration to have the ability make unbudgeted expenditures over $50,000 and dispose of property valued at over $50,000 during the “lame duck” period.

While many stated this is a common motion passed by municipalities across the province, one member of council voiced concerns over the motion. During debate of the motion at the June 11 meeting, Councillor Diane Pouget believed it would be “foolish” of council to pass it without some sort of safety assurances built in. She said the motion as recommended gave administration “carte blanche” to sell town property or make unbudgeted purchases and wanted to ensure additional safeguards were in place.

“It’s absolutely necessary and the responsible thing to do,” said Pouget. “I’m not speaking against anyone here. I’m trying to protect council and our residents.”

Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney voted against the motion, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne and Rick Fryer voting in favour. Councillor Leo Meloche did not attend the meeting as his wife passed away only a few days earlier.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original version of this article had Councillor Joan Courtney voting in favour. She voted against the motion and the story has now been corrected to reflect that.)

CAO John Miceli said the motion did protect the residents, citing an example that if a fire truck was in an accident and couldn’t be used, administration has the authority to carry out measures to replace the vehicle.

“What you are suggesting is that administration would not go through with the will of council,” said Miceli.

Miceli added his concern was if unbudgeted expenditures were to come up during the lame duck period, which would start July 27 if six members of the current council don’t run in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Pouget countered that other emergency measures, such as borrowing a fire truck from a neighbouring municipality, could be used but DiCarlo pointed out an emergency road repair that is being done in River Canard would have had to wait until a new council if it occurred during a lame duck period and such a motion wasn’t in place.

“This isn’t something unique to Amherstburg,” said director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, of the motion.

Lavigne had similar comments to Galvin, adding an example of if something happened at the water treatment plant, an expenditure couldn’t be approved until a new council was in place unless such a motion was passed.

“I understand (Pouget’s) concern, that’s why I researched it,” said Lavigne, who noted many municipalities in Ontario pass such motions in election years. “This is 100 per cent common in Ontario. Literally hundreds of municipalities in Ontario have the same motion. Why are we different here in Amherstburg?”

Pouget believed council was giving up some of their rights and while she acknowledged council would be notified of any such expenditure in the lame duck period, “we can’t do anything.”

Fryer said “it’s a matter of trust” and didn’t foresee any major issues and no sale of property, including the 12 remaining acres of Centennial Park that the Greater Essex County District School.

“To put fear in residents that they’ll spend money like drunken sailors is bullcrap,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to happen.”

Fryer’s comments prompted code of conduct concerns, and DiCarlo urged council to be respectful of

other people’s opinions.

Minor baseball concerned about immediate future with pending loss of diamonds

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Minor Baseball Association (AMBA) is wondering where their players are going to play next season and took their concerns to town council.

AMBA president Mary Lippert appeared before town council and questioned where the local players plus ones coming to town to play in the multiple tournaments that have been scheduled are going to play. With the sale of 15 acres of Centennial Park to the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB), it means the loss of four diamonds there.

While there is a recommendation to relocate the diamonds to the Libro Centre, a concern with that is the fact no construction has started on those yet.

“Our biggest concern is if something doesn’t get done soon, our kids won’t have any place to play,” said Lippert.

Lippert added there is a fear that if youth start playing elsewhere, they won’t come back to Amherstburg even when new diamonds are built. There were also questions raised over the shape of the diamond and the ability to have the AMBA work on some of the diamonds to ensure they are in good shape.

“Are we going to have input on how they are built?” she also asked.

The premier baseball diamond, already located at the Libro Centre, has seen Amherstburg players “get the leftovers” of the times that are remaining while out-of-town users have received better bookings.

Image courtesy of Amherstburg Minor Baseball’s Twitter account (@AmherstburgBall)

“We live here,” said Lippert. “That’s unacceptable.”

It all comes down to ensuring local kids have a place to play baseball, she added.

“It’s the kids I worry about,” she said. “We want to make sure they have some place to play. What about next year if we’re not starting soon? What do we do for these 400 kids?”

CAO John Miceli said the diamonds at the Libro Centre won’t be ready for next year but the town will have to spend one year working with user groups. He said this year was taken care of through an arrangement with the GECDSB to use Centennial Park but arrangements have to be made for next year.

“We do have a number of diamonds available,” he said.

Work also has to be done if the town and Amherstburg baseball players are to use Co-An Park in McGregor and River Canard Park. The latter is run by the Town of LaSalle, said Lippert, and AMBA received a bill for $8,300 to use it last year.

Councillor Rick Fryer said they are “behind the eight-ball already” with minor baseball and wanted to know why the town was “dropping the ball” in addressing their needs. Miceli said the town “does not want to build anything in haste” and wants to see a “centre of excellence” at the Libro Centre.

“I know it’s an inconvenience but we want to have the best facilities going forward,” he said.

Lippert voiced concerns over user groups at other diamonds and questioned the town over why the issue wasn’t addressed before the 15 acres of Centennial Park was sold.

“Why didn’t this get looked at before we sold this property?” said Lippert.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the sale of the Centennial Park land was an issue of timing and that the town wants to have the best facilities it can even though there will be a year where it will be tougher for local baseball players to get to their games and practices.

“We are going to have a year of inconvenience where we will work this out,” said the mayor.

 

Duffy’s plans spur petition

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A group from the AMA Sportsmen Association have made it clear – they want a fishing wharf, marina and boat ramp at the site of the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn.

The Town of Amherstburg, owners of the property, seem open to keeping at least two of those amenities.

Brian Beattie and Kevin Sprague from the AMA Sportsmen Association appeared before town council Monday night to request input into the design process of the site and to ensure the wharf, marina and boat ramp were included.

Beattie believed more input and consideration was needed. He recalled an amphitheatre being built just south of the Duffy’s lands near the Caldwell Towers area years ago and “residents complained so much they had to tear it down.”

Sprague said he gathered 558 signatures on a petition that states “that a boat launch with an appropriate number of parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers, a wharf and lookout with sufficient space that can be used for shoreline fishing and transient marina slips being incorporated into the final design of the Duffy’s lands.”

The town’s decision to purchase the Duffy’s site was an “awesome” one, Sprague believed.

“It’s a large piece of valuable property in the downtown core with huge potential that will be a popular future public asset,” he said. “Properties like this don’t come around very often and may never come around again anywhere even close to the downtown core.”

The majority of residents he spoke with said they want a boat launch, wharf for shoreline fishing and a small marina, stated Sprague. He said more feedback is needed and that the town’s “Talk the Burg” website, an online questionnaire and a public consultation with 25 people in attendance “is not properly providing anywhere close to an accurate representation of what the community needs and wants.”

“Amherstburg is the only municipality in Essex County with the exception of Tecumseh that has no public boat launch,” he said. “We have a few privately-owned boat launches but what happens when these private boat launches no longer exist, close or are sold for development or other uses? This could easily occur and there is zero guarantee that this won’t become a future reality. Residents who require a boat launch shouldn’t be force to drive to another municipality to launch a boat when our town is surrounded by water. Amherstburg needs an insurance policy to prevent this from ever becoming a reality.”

Sprague added that Amherstburg “has by far” the smallest public place for shoreline fishing in Essex County at “an embarrassing 53-foot long space. It’s sometimes so overcrowded that tourists drive for hours to fish in Amherstburg and leave with tickets because they are fishing outside of the permitted area. When parents, grandparents and children of our town have 53-feet of overcrowded and completely insufficient area to fish from, that’s wrong and the town’s fault for not addressing this problem many years ago.”

Residents don’t want the amphitheatre on the Duffy’s site, he added, and that a parking lot should be built on the site that could be used year-round. He acknowledged that it’s not as nice as trees or grass, but parking could be used by residents and tourists alike. He said the amphitheatre doesn’t have the support the town thinks it does.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the wharf and marina are still part of the concept plan with the boat launch being the only thing in question.

“The issue is really the boat launch,” agreed CAO John Miceli. “The question is what do we do with parking for the boat launch?”

Councillor Rick Fryer said he agreed with the concept for Duffy’s but believed there should still be a boat launch at the site.

“The town should look at other places to park boat trailers and vehicles,” he said, even floating the idea of a valet service where someone could assist boaters by driving their trailers to a different site for them.

Fryer said he is hearing yes to a festival area at the site but no to an amphitheatre. He added there needs to be more room for people to fish.

“I’m a firm supporter of getting fisherman downtown,” he said.

DiCarlo said the Duffy’s project is currently in the environmental assessment stage and that funding will have to be secured for the project since there is a desire not to have it totally funded by the taxpayer. Optimistically, he hoped for shovels to be in the ground early next year.

The mayor said he did hear from people who signed the petition and believed there are some misconceptions. He said some he talked to thought a marina or boat ramp was being sacrificed for an amphitheatre and that he explained to them that all are still in the concept.

“The only thing left is the boat ramp,” he said.

Overall, DiCarlo said the Duffy’s concept has been “well received” and that people are anxious to see it get started. He said there will be future opportunities for people to comment on the project.

Settlement reached between town and estate of Graham Hobbs

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The lawsuit that was filed by a retired grandfather that continued after his death has now concluded.

A settlement has been reached between the family of Graham Hobbs and the Town of Amherstburg. Hobbs had been banned from town hall and other municipal property following an alleged incident at the Amherstburg Municipal Building Nov. 20, 2015. He subsequently filed the $100,000 lawsuit against the municipality.

Hobbs died Jan. 2, 2017 but the lawsuit had continued until recently when the town received $25,000, which resolved the matter.

“Being a legal matter, I do have to be careful of what I say and how I say it,” acknowledged Mayor Aldo DiCarlo after Monday night’s council meeting. “Obviously we felt the town’s position was appropriate.”

According to the mayor, efforts were made to try and resolve the matter.

“Unfortunately, we could not do that outside the legal forum,” he said.

DiCarlo said the $25,000 will be put towards costs to defend its position.

While the matter is over, DiCarlo said the town takes no pleasure in the outcome.

“We don’t feel great about it but we did have a fiduciary duty to get taxpayers’ money back and we did that,” he said. “It was an unfortunate incident and it’s just not the kind of thing that you want to deal with when you’ve got all these other issues you have to deal with.”

In a report from treasurer Justin Rousseau that came before council on 2017 year-end financial ratios and indicators, it contained a portion which read: “Subsequent to 2017 year-end the claim Hobbs CV-16-23500 was settled with cost being awarded back to the Town of Amherstburg. In early 2018, $25,000 was received by the Town to cover the Town’s legal expenses for this matter. This is no longer a pending claim at the time of this report.”