Paula Parker

Town to stick with traditional method of voting for the 2018 municipal election

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Residents can expect to go back to the polls next year for the municipal election rather than mailing it in, phoning it in or going online.

The town of Amherstburg has chosen to stick with the traditional method of voting for next year’s election, scheduled to be held October 22, 2018.

Town council passed a motion to use the traditional method of voting for next year’s election, but rejected an administrative recommendation to allow Internet voting for advance polls.

A report from municipal clerk/returning officer Paula Parker listed advantages being that electors are familiar and comfortable with the traditional method; privacy is ensured during the casting of votes; accuracy in the counting of ballots; election results are prompt, timely and accurate; the ballot is tabulated immediately, notifying the voters of any errors on the ballot, reducing the possibility of rejected ballots; there is a paper trail should a recount be necessary; the municipality maintains care custody and control of the election process including but not restricted to the safeguarding of ballots and the counting thereof and candidates are able to campaign up to the close of polls on election day.

Town hall signWEB

Disadvantages listed to the traditional method were that it limits the flexibility of the voter as they cannot vote anytime and are provided parameters, there may be difficulty in finding accessible voting locations in that previously used voting locations present barriers which negatively affect the ability of electors to access the facility; the weather may have a negative effect on voter turnout; the town may be deemed by some as “old school and non-progressive” and it is more labour intensive and thus increases workload and staffing.

“No one method has proven to be superior to another with respect to voter turnout. Those wishing to vote will do so despite the method chosen. Those that do not wish to vote will not, no matter the issues or the candidates running for office,” Parker stated in her report. “The method of voting will have no effect on those individuals who choose not to vote. It is up to the council of the municipality to choose the method which in its opinion best suits the needs of the electors.”

Parker added: “The statistical data for Amherstburg however, shows that in the 2010 election, Amherstburg used vote by mail as its alternative voting method and received a 67 per cent voter turnout using this method. In the 2014 election, Amherstburg used the traditional method of voting with optical scanning tabulators and received a 47 per cent voter turnout.”

Parker pointed out that the vote by mail method used in 2010 saw “numerous complaints” from both the public and the candidates over the validity of some of the ballots cast, delays in reporting the results and value for dollars spent on the election.

While Amherstburg will use traditional polls with electronic tabulators in 2018, Essex, Windsor and Chatham-Kent also propose similar methods. Kingsville, Lakeshore, LaSalle, Leamington and Tecumseh propose Internet and telephone voting.

“The 2014 municipal election was run as traditional method with optical scan vote

tabulators. In 2014, the cost to run the election was $93,902.80. In preparation of the upcoming 2018 election, the approved 2017, 2016 and 2015 budgets currently incorporate additional funding to adequately manage the considerations identified by the 2014 election,” Parker’s report states. “The election reserve will have $120,000 set aside for the 2018 election to cover cost by election time, should the current budgeting process be followed in 2018. To add internet voting as an additional option for electors in the 2018 election, additional funds of $112,500 will be required in the election reserve budget for 2018.”

As the RTT reported in February, there will be a reduction of the nomination period for next year’s election. Candidates used to be able to file from the first business day in January to the second Friday of September, but new legislation sees the 2018 nomination period lasting from May 1-July 27, 2018. Another change is that candidates now have to be endorsed by 25 people before they can officially get on the ballot.

Parker said that now that the decision has been made on how the electorate will vote in 2018, planning will now commence for the election.

Traffic committee dissolved due to town’s employee policy

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has voted to dissolve one of its committees and bring back a bylaw with appointments to another.

The traffic committee is no more with administration bringing back a bylaw with appointments to the emergency management program committee. The town will also reconsider the appointment it made to the drainage committee made at the Dec. 12 meeting.

In a report to town council, clerk Paula Parker pointed out that administration learned that the person appointed to the drainage committee Dec. 12 – Josh Mailloux – is also a volunteer firefighter with the Amherstburg Fire Department.

“As such, Mr. Mailloux falls into the definition of a part time employee because he is paid and on call for his volunteer status with the Town and must follow Policy C00-00 Code of Conduct for Staff/Employees.”

Section 7.0 of that policy states that “no full-time or part-time permanent municipal employee shall be appointed to serve on a Municipal Board, Commission or Committee unless appointed as an Administrative Representative.”

Mailloux was on the committee of adjustment for seven years and has been a volunteer firefighter for eight years, Parker’s report states.

Councillor Diane Pouget said the appointment of Mailloux was done “in good faith” without knowing he was employed by the town as a volunteer firefighter.

Town Logo Small-web

After learning of the clause in the policy relating to code of conduct for staff and employees, Parker stated “administration realized that there are two other committees with cause for concern.”

The traffic committee was identified as an issue as it has one council member, this term being Councillor Jason Lavigne, and five staff voting members. In its place, traffic and complaints will be filtered through one administrative member who will, in turn, consult with necessary departments and bring recommendations to council.

The emergency management program committee is mandated by the province under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The committee is to consist of employees appointed by council with each entitled to a vote. A bylaw will appoint the members of that committee with a similar procedure likely for the joint policing review committee.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the changes were due to the fact the town realized there was a problem and they wanted to take the necessary steps to correct the problem.

There were also additional members appointed to the economic development advisory committee. Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) president Carolyn Davies was appointed as the ACOC representative while council chose to expand the committee and appoint two more lay committee members. Councillor Rick Fryer put the names of Marta Leardi-Anderson and John Edwards forward, believing the experience of both on the committee will be “priceless.”

“I really look forward to them being on the committee,” said Fryer.

Pouget agreed with Fryer, believing an extra person on the economic development advisory committee would be a help rather than a hindrance.

Councillor Joan Courtney didn’t disagree with the choices made for the committee, but voiced concern on how the choices were arrived at. She said she would have liked more dialogue on the applicants before making a final selection.

“I disagree with the process of how we do this,” said Courtney.

Mayor relieved after $9 million flooding lawsuit dropped

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg is no longer facing a $9 million lawsuit in relation to the flooding event which occurred in August 2011.

The suit, filed two years after the flooding occurred, was dropped with the process of dropping the lawsuit beginning with an e-mail sent to the town in March. A report on Monday night’s council agenda indicated that subsequent e-mails have been received since updating the town on the status of the dismissal with the town now signing off on the full and final release.

“The simple answer is relief,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, when asked of his reaction to the lawsuit being dropped. “This is a very large, heavy stone hanging around the town’s neck for many years now.”

Town hall signWEB

According to a report from clerk Paula Parker, the claim alleged $5 million in general non-pecuniary and aggravated damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and nuisance, $3 million in damages for diminution and loss of property and $1 million in punitive damages making the total cost facing the town and the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) $9 million.

“The Town’s insurer only covers general non-pecuniary and aggravated damages for nuisance, breach of fiduciary duty and nuisance. Therefore, if the litigation had been successful, the Town would have only been covered for $5 million,” Parker’s report stated. “Payout for uncovered damages would have been based on percentage of negligence found between the parties to the claim and was unpredictable. The town could have been responsible for an upset limit of $4 million.”

DiCarlo said the $4 million would have had to have been built into future budgets if it had been a judgment that high but noted it could have ranged from zero to $4 million. Due to that unpredictability, there wasn’t anything included in this year’s budget for it.

“That would have been (a) huge (impact) to the tax base,” he noted, of the $4 million potential payout. “It would have been something we would have had to address.”

During the course of the meeting, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale wondered if the town could recoup any costs and was told by Parker the town had succeeded in doing that.

“This essentially didn’t cost us anything,” DiCarlo said after the meeting.

DiCarlo added this case was the biggest one the town had faced recently but noted there were “two or three” other cases the town had faced that were either dropped or settled in recent months.