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.

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