Financial practices review not good enough for petition organizer

Town hall summerBy Ron Giofu

The local resident who started the petition requesting an audit of the town’s finances is “mad as hell” over the financial practices review that is being done instead.

Town council voted unanimously to ask for an audit at the Jan. 20 meeting and the current financial practices review undertaken by Deloitte on behalf of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is not good enough, said Jason Lavigne.

Lavigne said he requested an audit and said he is continuing his petition with plans on going to Toronto to present it directly to the ministry.

“I feel they lied to me,” he said, in reference to the January vote. Lavigne contends that any resident can request an audit of their municipality’s books and he said that is what he is asking for.

“What they are doing is not an audit,” said Lavigne. “It was very clear – the motion was for an audit. Council put money aside for an audit. They are spending money for a financial review. This is not what we asked for.”

Lavigne believed taxpayers have a right to know where the reserve funds went, how the town’s debt accumulated and who had involvement and authority in the financial business of the town.

“As a taxpayer, I want to know why money got moved around the way it did,” he said. “We need to know who is accountable for the money and what is going on. I don’t want to point fingers but we have to figure out what is going on so it doesn’t happen again.”

Lavigne wondered why it was now a financial review rather than an audit and further contended there is no accountability in Amherstburg.

“The definition of accountability doesn’t fit in Amherstburg because we have none,” he stated.

The petition sits at roughly 500 signatures and Lavigne said he will continue it until he gets into the thousands if he has to. He pledged to even go as high as Premier Kathleen Wynne to get his voice heard.

“I’m going to make them listen to me,” he said. “(An audit) is what was promised.”

Lavigne said the town has been a “mess” for four years and emphasized his view that the review currently underway was not the solution. “I find this unacceptable and I would like to know why the decision was made to alter council’s original request,” he said.

“Possibly the mayor will offer some insight into this issue at his upcoming ‘state of the town’ address. Although the current CAO claims Amherstburg is now doing the right things to fix the financial problems we face, I believe it is still important to figure out how we got here in the first place and a full financial audit is the only solution.”

Lavigne said anyone wishing to contact him in order to sign the petition could reach him at jasonlavigne@hotmail.ca.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs official Roger Moyer said at the June 23 council meeting that municipalities, including Amherstburg, already have their books audited annually. He said the review will cover areas including matching revenues with expenses, municipal assets, reserves and reserve funds, communication with council on financial matters, financial practices and policies and agreements, policies, procedures and bylaws.

“This sort of review is actually quite unique,” Moyer said, following the June 23 meeting. “This is a unique process.”

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