Province turns attention to Amherstburg as OPP investigation concludes


OPP logoBy Ron Giofu


The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) has turned its attention to Amherstburg’s finances now that the Ontario Provincial Police’s investigation has wrapped up.

The OPP announced last Thursday that its investigation into possible wrongdoing in the town’s municipal office pertaining to financial processes had turned up no evidence that supported a criminal investigation. The OPP, which had been called in at the request of Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume, said its anti-rackets branch conducted “a thorough review regarding some financial processes used within the municipal office of the Town of Amherstburg.”

Berthiaume made the initial request Dec. 10 with the OPP officially stating it had agreed to the investigation Jan. 21.

MMAH spokesperson May Nazar noted “Ministry staff will work with the town to determine next steps and timelines” with regards to the audit the town has formally requested now that the OPP investigation has concluded.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey stated that position in a letter she sent to town council. She stated that it would have been “inappropriate” for the MMAH to begin the review of the town’s request while the OPP request was ongoing but it can proceed now.

“Given that the OPP process is now complete, I am offering to facilitate a financial management and practices review by a qualified professional firm,” Jeffrey told town council.

Jeffrey added she has asked manager of local government Roger Moyer to contact town staff to arrange a meeting where “my staff will outline the expected process for the review.”

OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said they don’t divulge their investigation techniques, simply stating the follow the evidence to where it leads them.

“There’s no evidence to support a criminal investigation at this point,” said Rektor. “That information was passed on to the Amherstburg Police Service. Our investigation is closed. What Amherstburg chooses to with it at this point is up to them.”

Deputy Chief Pat Palumbo indicated Amherstburg police would not proceed further with the matter, stating the OPP completed the task they were asked to do.

“We accept this report and at this point it’s no longer an active investigation,” said Palumbo. “The case is closed as far as we’re concerned unless any new evidence comes to light.”

Palumbo said the OPP “is pretty thorough” and they were called in to investigate to ensure it was an independent investigation. Berthiaume, who was away from the office last Thursday, noted in January that Amherstburg police also wanted to avoid the perception of there being a conflict.

“The whole idea of farming it out was that there would be no bias or conflict of interest. We work for the town,” said Palumbo. “We left it in (the OPP’s) capable hands.”

Also, the town is stating the gas tax issue has now been resolved with “questions answered.”

According to a news release sent Friday afternoon, the town has resolved the issue by assigning the roughly $1.5 million in gas tax allocations to projects that were done in 2013.

“Following questions about the 2012-13 allocations of gas tax, please be advised that allocations have been completed for this period. A deferred portion of 2012 gas tax disbursement equaling approximately $474,000 and the gas tax disbursement of 2013 equaling $1.06 million has been assigned to completed projects in the 2013 year,” the town’s news release states. “This means that there will be no outstanding gas tax allocation or deferral amount that will be carried into the 2014 year. No repayment of gas tax funds will be required.”

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