Council to give back donation

By Joel Charron

After the discovery that a donation of $105,000 towards Amherstburg’s United Communities Credit Union Complex came from a convicted pedophile, residents demanding the town give the money back got their wish.

In 1990 local resident Jim Massen pleaded guilty to two counts of gross indecency and one count of invitation to sexual touching involving three teenage boys.  He was later paradoned.

The donation made by Massen on December 13 secured him naming rights regarding the complex.

Massen had earlier paid $50,000 to Amherstburg Rotary Club for the new Miracle League baseball diamond and was to have his name on the scoreboard and $55,000 to the town for his name to be on the road leading to the new recreational complex.

Massen’s donation came into question when Windsor Star’s Anne Jarvis, published a column which revealed Massen’s prior conviction and questioned his connection with the complex.

Public reaction to the column resulted in an emergency in-camera meeting of council held last Thursday, in which the decision was made to rescind the donation.

While in session a handful of residents waited in the lobby of town hall until the meeting was finished to hear council’s decision.

“It’s in the best interest of this council to not accept the money that had been given,” Mayor Wayne Hurst told residents.

He added that because of possible legal ramifications and that the town is in a very “litigious society” he would not be making further comments.

Councilor Diane Pouget, who was visibly upset as she exited council chambers said she was advised to not speak.

However, said Pouget, she had opposed the naming agreement with Massen as it was “too ambiguous,” and that she had requested more information on the matter at the meeting at which council accepted the donation, but was denied.

“I voted against it and spoke against it,” said Pouget, as she fought back tears. “I’d like to personally apologize to the people of Amherstburg and any victims.”

Local resident Brady Thrasher has created a Facebook petition called: “Amherstburg Online Community Petition 5,000 Against Massen Drive”.

“I have always believed that our community is run by our citizens, not just our leaders,” said Thrasher. “We choose to stand for what we are passionate about. We need passionate response more often to ensure our community will evolve into a place we all contribute to building and are satisfied with.”

Former councillor Rick Fryer questions why current council held an in camera meeting without advertising it.

“A few people found out late last night and I used the medium of Facebook to make sure residents knew that council is having a meeting in contradiction to the Municipal Act,” he said.

Fryer says he was against the purchase of the 70 acres of land from Massen for $406,000 in November 2008.  A deal which also allows Massen to live rent-free and tax-free for the rest of his life.

“We didn’t need the property for the arena,” said Fryer. “The arena could have fit on the property the way it was. If you look now, it was squeezed over just south enough so we used a little of the property.”

Fryer also stated that at the time he had only heard rumors and not facts about Massen’s past. However, he added, it was enough for him to vote against purchasing the property.

“It was like the town gave him $406,000 and he’s just reimbursing these organizations to get his name on them. I didn’t think it was right, I didn’t know the facts so I aired on the side of caution and said no.”

Some residents say they believed that some of council knew about Massen’s past but proceeded forward anyways.

“I believe council knew and it was all about the money,” said Debbie Renaud, who added that if the money is given back, “all may not be forgiven so quickly; but at least it would be a start.”

Hockey coach Len Mailloux said it’s about protecting the children.

“Too many times in the past I’ve heard of these incidents happening and the public stands back and says “how did this get by the system,” said Mallioux. “Well I’m making sure he doesn’t slip through the system and head it off before anything really happens.”

“If they don’t accept the donation , they have to give it back plus interest, which would be around $200,000, and I still have the naming rights anyways,” said Massen

Massen says he feels the town is wrong in giving back the money because he has since received a full government pardon, “for something that happened a long time ago.”

Massen also pointed out that he has legal documents and will fight to keep his name on the scoreboard and road.

The $23 million complex opened its doors on Jan. 2 and just recently concluded its weeklong grand opening celebrations.

One response to “Council to give back donation”

  1. Annonymous says:

    The Windsor Star’s Anne Jarvis should work for the National Enquirer as she is all about exposing people’s pasts wheteher they have been pardoned or not. Amherstburg is such a tight knit town and rife with local gossip that I find it hard to believe that Mr. Massen’s, pardoned, past was not brought to light before this keen reporter had it published!