Aldo DiCarlo

OCPC approves town’s request to switch policing to Windsor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It is now official – the Windsor Police Service will be patrolling Amherstburg.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) has approved the town’s request to dissolve the existing Amherstburg Police Service and contract policing services to Windsor. The OCPC released its decision late Thursday.

“The Commission consents to the Application by the Town and consents to the abolition of the Amherstburg Police Service subject to the following conditions,” the decision from the OCPC read. “The Town must deliver to the Commission a signed copy of the contract with the City of Windsor which substantially implements the proposal” and “written confirmation from the (Amherstburg Police Services) Board that an agreement as to severance pay has been made with any member of the Amherstburg Police Service whose employment is terminated as a result of the abolition. Failing such an agreement, the Town must provide written confirmation to the Commission that an agreement has been made with such members that any severance pay dispute will be referred to arbitration. If no such agreements are made within 120 days of (July 26), the Commission will order that all remaining severance pay disputes will be referred to arbitration.”

The decision by the OCPC came exactly one month after public hearings were held at the Libro Centre where the majority of residents who spoke came out against the switch. It also came one day before the nomination period for the 2018 municipal election closed.

According to a press release issued by the Town of Amherstburg, the Windsor Police Service proposal “proposes that it will deliver significant financial savings to the Town while maintaining and enhancing the current levels of service delivery, building on the exceptional commitment of the APS personal to their home community.”

Amherstburg will incur initial transition costs and then expects to achieve annual cost savings of about $567,000.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the proposed transition date of Jan. 1, 2019 still appears to be on track “barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

DiCarlo said the proposal saw Windsor police “copies much of Amherstburg” and its policing model so if it wasn’t approved, it would have made him wonder what the town was doing wrong. However, it was approved and that eliminated any shock factor for him.

“My first reaction is that I’m not surprised,” said DiCarlo. “The issue was adequate and effective policing. I guess it’s a little bit of relief.”

The contract between Amherstburg and Windsor is “good to go,” he added, and he noted the conditions laid out by the OCPC. According to the mayor, there is nothing further that town council has to approve as he said the most recent motion essentially approved the switch pending OCPC approval.

“Council was aware at the time we were getting everything we asked for in the contract,” said DiCarlo.

The issues now are to get started on the transition, he added.

“I think the biggest message at this point is we are still committed to making the transition as seamless as possible and make sure all the parties are taken care of,” said DiCarlo.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, was also not taken aback by the decision.

“I’m not surprised,” he told the RTT Friday morning.

McCurdy said knowing the criteria and that the OCPC was looking for adequate and effective policing, he was not shocked by their decision.

“Our next step is going to be making sure every member is dealt with fairly under the law and go from there,” said McCurdy.

That could include looking at the job offers from Windsor, severance pay and any other issue that could arise.

“We’ll take whatever legal action is appropriate under the circumstances,” said McCurdy. “I don’t know what that looks like at this point.”

There has been some “mixed reaction” from the APA membership, he added.

“From our perspective, we’re going to continue to provide adequate and effective policing for the community,” McCurdy stated. “We’ll move forward. We have to.”

The Windsor Police Service issued a press release on the matter late Friday morning.

“The Windsor Police Service is excited about the opportunity to provide policing services for the Town of Amherstburg. The Windsor Police Service is committed to providing the residents of Amherstburg the exceptional service they have come to expect, with numerous enhancements on the horizon,” Windsor Chief Al Frederick stated in the release.

According to Windsor police, “this decision marks the beginning of an important partnership that will benefit the citizens of both Windsor and Amherstburg. Through the dedication of our officers and civilian staff, the Windsor Police Service offers outstanding community support and effective policing within our diverse communities.  Our members, which will include Amherstburg officers and civilian staff, are guided by our vision of making a difference in the communities we serve.”

The Windsor Police Service stated that it would like to “thank the many residents of Amherstburg who shared their opinions on policing and public safety.” Windsor police say the “collective effort brought about a great partnership. Moving forward we will continue to collaborate with the Town and its residents to meet the policing expectations of the community and enhance public safety.”

The Windsor Police Service calls it “an exciting partnership that benefits the entire region.”

Town council voted by a 3-2 vote Feb. 26 to contract policing out to the Windsor Police Service. It will be a 20-year contract with options to review every five years.

(NOTE: This story has been updated from its original version with comments from the Windsor Police Service.)

 

Amherstburg moving ahead with major forcemain project

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A major infrastructure project is proceeding with that project that has been said to allow for hundreds of homes to be built in the Golfview and Kingsbridge areas.

Town council awarded a tender to J&J Lepera Infrastructures with the work to be done to upgrade pump stations in the area and to construct a forcemain to divert wastewater to the Amherstburg sewage treatment plant.

Total cost of this phase of the project is $8.9 million but a developer is contributing approximately $917,000 for pump station improvements. This is the second of three phases of the Edgewater Diversion Project.

Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt indicated that is the normal course of action as developers are responsible for moving sewage while the town is required to receive the sewage.

“That’s what the project is doing,” said Hewitt.

Hewitt told town council at a special meeting last Wednesday afternoon that he couldn’t estimate a work schedule until after the project was awarded but hoped work crews would be in full swing by mid-August. Installing the forcemain will involve tearing up Front Road North (County Road 20) from roughly the Edgewater area to Alma St. It is expected to reduce the highway from four lanes to two during the construction period.

“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline to get it done,” said Hewitt.

The timeline to complete the forcemain is Nov. 30, he stated, with the pump station due for completion by March 1, 2019. Kingsbridge developer Mike Dunn told town council he will be able to proceed with 700 homes once this phase of the project is completed.

“That’s good news for the town,” responded Councillor Rick Fryer.

Hewitt indicated that there could be “other opportunities for development” for the lands in the Edgewater sewage area other than Kingsbridge.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned why the project cost was coming in higher than projected. Hewitt stated the town received two tenders for the work.

“It tells you the remainder of the contractors are very busy and unable to tender the work,” said Hewitt.

Comparisons were also done of similar projects in other municipalities, he added, and that costs tended to come in 15-20 per cent higher than original estimates.

As part of his written report to town council, Hewitt stated: “The Town has invested significant dollars to upgrade and expand the Amherstburg Wastewater Treatment Plant and upgrade the Pump Station No. 2. The recommended works in this report are the final steps to allow the Edgewater Lagoons to be decommissioned and to utilize the capacity built into the treatment plant. By not moving forward on this project the Town could risk potential fines and additional costs from the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) for not addressing the issues with respect to the early discharges at the Edgewater lagoons. The Edgewater Lagoons are currently at capacity. Not approving this project will end future residential development in this area until sewage capacity is increased. This project will allow for residential development and growth to move forward in this area, specifically North Kingsbridge, which has been at a standstill for many years due to the lack of capacity in the Edgewater system.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said it was big news for the town, stating at least 700 new homes are coming to the town.

“It’s definitely some nice closure on a very big project that has literally held back the town and development,” said DiCarlo. “I think the big news is really the homes.”

DiCarlo stated that while there have been some new builds in the area, developers have had restrictions on what can be constructed. He is hopeful the forcemain will be operational by the end of the year.

“We’re definitely going to get on it ASAP,” said the mayor.

The Edgewater lagoons should be decommissioned next year with the estimated cost of that phase being just over $1 million.

“We have made major investments in water infrastructure,” said DiCarlo.

The overall cost of the project, including all three phases, is approximately $14 million. Grant funding received in 2015 provided $5.8 million with $1.8 million being used on the current phase that will be done this year.

Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest draws 13,000 people

By Ron Giofu

 

Great weather, great music and great food were the reasons organizers of the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest were pleased with last weekend.

The ninth annual Ribfest was held at Centennial Park with four ribbers, a selection of other food vendors, craft vendors, bouncy castles and a full lineup of entertainment available for the thousands that came through the gates.

When all was said and done, organizers are reporting that 13,000 came to the Ribfest.

“They loved the bands,” said Ribfest committee chair Carl Gibb. “The weather really helped. The weather and the entertainment brings (the people) out. People like coming out and enjoying the ribs.”

Not only do the ribbers travel from outside the area to come to Amherstburg, but Gibb noted many other food and craft vendors do as well.

“The Golden Onion came all the way from Montreal,” said Gibb, noting others came from London, Chatham and the Toronto area.

“They come from all over,” he said.

Gibb believed this was one of the better years for the Ribfest but the location of future years remains up in the air. Meetings still have to occur with the Town of Amherstburg on a future location as 15 of the 27 acres of Centennial Park have been sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school.

Anthony Liu from Fat Boys BBQ shows some of the ribs he was barbecuing.

“We’ll have to sit down with them and see,” said Gibb.

Gibb also thanked the crowd for coming out. During brief remarks delivered from the stage Friday night, he told the public “your support of the Ribfest and the Rotary Club is always appreciated. We do this for you.”

Planning, he said, takes up the better part of a year.

Brooke Bratt, Brooke Meloche and Patty Cazabon were three of the people that attended Friday night.

“We love it,” said Bratt. “It’s so much fun. We come every year.”

Between the food, including the blooming onions, and music, Bratt said the Ribfest is “amazing.”

“Go Amherstburg!” she said. “Thank you to Amherstburg for having something like this.”

The ribbers also enjoyed their weekend, including those from Fat Boys BBQ.

“It’s amazing,” said Haley Johnson. “Everyone is so great. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

“Everyone is really friendly,” added Amanda Gallagher. “They are really good tippers.”

Approximately 13,000 came to Centennial Park the weekend of July 6-8 for the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. It is expected to be the last year at Centennial Park.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo thanked the Rotary Club of Amherstburg and its Ribfest committee for “putting on a successful event this year.”

“It should not be a secret that this is a very important part of Amherstburg’s festival lineup,” said DiCarlo. “I couldn’t think of Amherstburg’s summer festival season without the Ribfest.”

Rotary Club president Joan Donaldson also thanked the Ribfest committee as well as all the judges that tasted the sauces and ribs Sunday afternoon. Donaldson said Rotary is an international organization that is a leader in its community, with one of its goals being the eradication of polio.

Buck Twenty was the headliner Friday night at the Ribfest. An entertainment committee led by Rick Rock and John D’Alimonte kept the music flowing for the three-day festival.

Winners from Ribfest saw Dinosaur BBQ Pit win in the best ribs category as ranked by the judges, with Ribs Royale coming in second and Texas Rangers third. The judges’ best sauce awards saw Dinosaur win first place followed by Ribs Royale and Fat Boys Barbecue. The People’s Choice award for sauce saw Dinosaur win again, with the public also agreeing with the judges by ranking Ribs Royale and Fat Boys second and third.

Ribs Royale were the people’s choice for best ribs, followed by Dinosaur and Fat Boys.

To see more photos from the ninth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest, view our Facebook album.

Bulk of speakers at OCPC hearing want Amherstburg Police Service to remain

 

 

By Pat Bailey & Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg residents, as well as the Amherstburg Police Service and Windsor Police Service will have to wait about a month before learning if Windsor will indeed take over the policing of the county municipality.

But if Amherstburg residents get their way, the status quo would remain.

At a special hearing of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) at the Libro Centre last Tuesday, only one local resident spoke out in favour of the proposed deal during the morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

John McDonald was the lone resident who lent his support to the proposal. He said if the sharing of equipment and resources result in a financial savings to the town, he’s in favour of council’s decision to give it a try.

The contract is for 20 years, with the ability to review how it’s working out for both parties, every five years. It also allows for each party to opt out of the agreement given 18 months notice. The length of the contract was questioned at the evening meeting, as some seemed unaware that there were review periods every five years.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the information has been public for some time and that the 20 year period was added due to concerns from residents that five years was not enough. He said the media “zeroed in” on the 20-year term of the contract in its reporting.

But Nancy Atkinson, 73, who’s lived here most of her life had one question to ask.

“Why are we here today?” she asked as she made her submission before the OCPC and about 30 others in attendance.

For Atkinson, the recent announcement of an investigation into the Windsor Police Service should have at least served to postpone the application.

“To have this application move forward at this time does not look to effective and adequate policing for our community,” she said.

Nancy Atkinson presents her submission before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission opposing the takeover of policing in Amherstburg by the Windsor Police Service. (Photo by Pat Bailey)

But WPS Chief Al Frederick said the investigation has no real bearing on whether his police service can provide effective and adequate policing in Amherstburg, the test that they must pass if the OCPC is to approve the application.

The issues, said Frederick, are related to human resources, such as hiring and promotions, not their ability to serve and protect. He told the crowd at the evening session that “all police services are subject to oversight” and that Windsor police are working with investigators. He expects recommendations on how to improve the service to come out of the investigation.

“I embrace that,” said Frederick. “I don’t run from that. It doesn’t frighten me. I’m completely open to this.”

Frederick also told the group that if not for the fact that Amherstburg and Windsor are not contiguous municipalities, they indeed, would not have to appear before the OCPC.

He said since they do not share a border, the OCPC, a civilian watchdog agency that oversees policing in Ontario, must approve the application, based on whether it believes Windsor can provide adequate and effective policing, despite having LaSalle separate the two.

But Atkinson called for respect for the Amherstburg police, a service, she said that has offered a history of effective and adequate policing which has resulted in Amherstburg being named one of the safest communities in Canada on several occasions.

Denise Bondy echoed Atkinson’s call to nix the application.

She said Frederick’s talk of enhancements to services is not needed in a community such as Amherstburg. She said comparing Windsor’s issues of drugs and murder to the problems in a small town like Amherstburg is more or less comparing apples to oranges.

“Windsor Police Service has issues, big city issues like guns, drugs, gangs, murder and violence in the downtown core and all that come with the border crossings,” she said. “To date this year, Windsor has five murders,” she added, “I don’t think Amherstburg has had five murders since the inception of our own police department.”

So, she said they have no need for the enhancements Frederick spoke of which include bomb dogs, tactical teams, etc.

To questions regarding the changes to the current Amherstburg Police Service, Frederick said policing in Amherstburg will not change.

He said the department will employ the same officers and civilian staff they have now. He said Amherstburg incidents will be handled by Amherstburg officers with the only time Windsor would step in, he said, is if the local department needed use of some of Windsor’s experts or special units.

He assured the group no Windsor cruisers will be speeding through LaSalle to respond to local calls.

As far as Frederick is concerned, Amherstburg will enjoy a cost savings of up to $859,000 annually, while council has that number pegged at about $567,000.

In closing, Bondy pleaded with the OCPC to veto the application.

“The Amherstburg Police Service is effective and more than adequate for the needs of our community,” she said. “Please don’t make it less so by approving this application.”

“It’s not broken,” she concluded, “don’t try to fix it.”

Frank Cleminson, a former member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), said that the town’s original 2014 motion called for a costing proposal from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and to solicit local municipalities as to the concept of sharing police services. He outlined the process and stated that a Sept. 14, 2017 letter from the OPP stated that the OPP would not participate in the process, that the town had not responded to several requests from the OPP to meet with council and that a renewed motion of council was requested by Sept. 30, 2017.

Cleminson said the evidence he presented “clearly shows” that “council’s motion of Dec. 14, 2014 was not acted upon by administration nor was the motion ever rescinded” and that “administration failed to respond to multiple requests from the OPP for a meeting.”

Citing quotes form Mayor Aldo DiCarlo in July 10, 2017 media articles, Cleminson contended that DiCarlo “still believed the OPP were about to deliver a costing proposal” and alleged that administration “failed to advise council of the Sept. 30, 2017 deadline to renew its interest with the OPP that resulted from the lack of communication from administration.”

Cleminson was not asking for the OCPC to refuse the town’s application, but not to provide approval “until such time as the town receives another costing proposal from the OPP (which we all know provides adequate and effective municipal policing) or council formally rescinds its motion of Dec. 14, 2014.”

The Sept. 14, 2017 OPP letter, signed by superintendent commander of the municipal policing bureau Marc Bedard and addressed to DiCarlo, states that the OPP utilizes the information manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process for all contract proposals.

“We have successfully been using this process since 2016 for the 14 Ontario communities that requested an OPP contract proposal,” Bedard’s letter stated. “The process prescribed in your Request for Proposal differs in significant ways from the process described in our manual. As a result the OPP cannot participate in your Request for Proposal.”

Bedard wrote that “we have made several attempts to schedule an initial information session to explain to your council the OPP contract proposal process. Since we have not been provided the opportunity to do so, we recommend that you and your council familiarize yourself with the Information Manual, as it outlines all the steps involved in the contract process. This manual is kept relevant and up to date. Should your municipality still wish to proceed with a contract proposal for OPP policing services according to the timelines and processes described in the Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal process, we require a confirmation by way of Council resolution by September 30th, 2017.”

A number of residents at the evening session also voiced concerns with the application to have Amherstburg policing switch to Windsor police while the latter is under investigation by the OCPC.

“I think the commission should take into consideration there are residents who are concerned,” said Gregory Moore.

Moore called for the decision to be put off either until the next council or until the investigation is complete. He also questioned response times and whether Windsor police officers would be working in Windsor, noting that the environment is different in Amherstburg than in Windsor.

Windsor deputy chief Pam Mizuno emphasized that under the proposal, Amherstburg officers would still respond to Amherstburg calls and be based out of the current police station. She added that the number of officers responding to calls in town would not change and that “Windsor police officers will not be speeding through the Town of LaSalle to get to the Town of Amherstburg,” Mizuno said.

Kevin Sprague said he already had concerns but he now has “even more serious concerns” after learning about the OCPC’s investigation into the Windsor Police Service.

“If any of these allegations are found to be accurate as a result of the current investigation, I do not feel that the Windsor Police Service will be capable of providing adequate and effective policing to the Town of Amherstburg,” said Sprague. “The Town of Amherstburg currently has a professional, adequate, effective and efficient policing service that makes Amherstburg one of the safest communities in Canada and switching to the Windsor Police Service at this time would be disturbing and inappropriate based on the current ongoing investigation which has just recently been made public.”

Sprague added he has received quick service when he has had to call the Amherstburg Police Service but has had to wait hours for service in Windsor. He said he does not want the latter level of service coming to Amherstburg.

“This would not be adequate and effective policing,” he stated.

Sprague believed any decision to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service should be delayed until the investigation in Windsor is done and a final report publicly released.

Local resident and lawyer Anthony Leardi cited the issue of severance pay, stating the abolition of the Amherstburg Police Service “involves the contracts of approximately 30 police officers. This is a large number of police officers.”

Anthony Leardi addresses the OCPC hearing during last Tuesday’s evening session. Leardi requested that the OCPC deny the Town of Amherstburg’s request to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service and contract policing services out to the Windsor Police Service.

Leardi added: “The Amherstburg Police Service will cease to exist as a result of council’s decision. That means all of the police officers, the thirty or more of them, have their employment terminated. They would be entitled to severance pay. They have no obligation to seek employment with Windsor Police Services. The submission made by the Town of Amherstburg does not confirm that there are written agreements in place regarding severance pay. In fact, the submission confirms the opposite: there are no agreements in place at all.”

While speaking at the hearing, Leardi quoted a section of the town’s submission and stated “At this stage it is expected that all serving members will accept positions with the Windsor Police Service. If someone chooses not to do so, a suitable settlement will be negotiated for that employee with a fallback to mandatory arbitration if a settlement cannot be agreed upon” and contended that statements confirms that the town has not made any agreement dealing with severance pay.

“If that is the case, then the town has not complied with section 40(1) of the (Police Services) Act,” said Leardi.

Leardi also believed the process used by the town “excluded the OPP from participated.” He also used the Sept. 14, 2017 OPP letter as an example and it was Leardi’s contention that “the Town of Amherstburg specifically prevented the OPP from participating in the process. The Town of Amherstburg did this by failing to submit a request using the OPP Contract Manual. If the Town of Amherstburg had submitted the request using the OPP Contract Manual, then the OPP would have been able to bid on this contract. I am highlighting this fact simply to make it clear that Windsor Police Service was not the only party interested in providing policing services to Amherstburg. The OPP was also interested but was prevented from participating.”

Leardi requested that the OCPC deny the town’s application to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service.

Pat Simone addressed the hearing, stating her comments were her own opinions and “in no way reflect the opinions of any committees that I may sit on.”

“As I stated at the February council meeting, when council was deciding this matter, there is a human rights complaint against the Windsor Police Service and we have now learned that there are a number of other complaints against the Windsor Police Service,” said Simone. “If these are substantiated it indicates that Windsor is antiquated and treats its employees poorly. How do you think Windsor will deal with outside personnel if it is substantiated with their own employees?   I feel that the outcomes of the complaints will have an impact on this contract. If Amherstburg policing moves to Windsor, we will be following Windsor policy and procedures. We need to ensure that we are putting our officers in an environment that is fair and has equal opportunity for all. If we are putting the officers in an unfair work environment this is not adequate and effective for the officers and/or residents.”

Simone added that the Ontario Police Service Act clearly defines the minimum that is requires by a police service to provide “adequate and effective service.” She said while Windsor police may fit the criteria, “I feel the residents of Amherstburg deserve more. Could OPP provide a more adequate and effective force? This will not be known as the OPP made several attempts to speak with council to discuss the town of Amherstburg RFP process but the OPP received no response from council. The residents of Amherstburg deserve the most adequate and effective force. We don’t know if we’re getting that with Windsor if we don’t know what OPP will provide.”

Also questioned was the Windsor police business plan, as Simone noted the last business plan available online is dated 2011-13 and the last annual report was dated 2012. She also questioned response times and the Windsor police’s efficiency.

“My thoughts this evening are not meant to be an emotional appeal but to provide my thoughts on whether this contract will provide adequate and effective policing for Amherstburg. In my opinion there are too many questions and issues that still need to be determined,” said Simone.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said approximately 75 per cent of his membership want to remain with the Amherstburg Police Service.

“Nothing against Windsor. We have an excellent relationship with them,” said McCurdy.

Windsor police chief Al Frederick and deputy chief Pam Mizuno address questions from the public during the evening portion of the OCPC hearings at the Libro Centre June 26.

McCurdy said the association is “actively working” on the severance issue and that the association was assured that everyone would be offered a position with the Windsor Police Association, should the OCPC grant its approval.

OCPC associate chair Stephen Javanovic said they have reviewed transcripts of the four public meetings and the petitions they have been sent. He said their role is to determine whether adequate and effective policing would be obtained under the proposal and to listen to the concerns of the public.

DiCarlo outlined the Windsor Police Services’ proposal, stating Amherstburg will “exist as a distinct entity within the Windsor Police Service,” the town will be policed by the same officers that are currently serving with the Amherstburg Police Service, all officers and civilians will work out of the existing Amherstburg police station and that “despite any problems that might be identified during the OCPC investigation, the policing environment and culture in Amherstburg will remain as it is.”

The mayor stated “the exceptionally high level of public safety in Amherstburg will continue,” the town will “continue to have effective control” of policing, existing staff will be treated fairly, there will be “significant” annual savings with the Windsor proposal providing “significant future cost avoidance,” and added “the contract will provide detailed, practical measures that ensure that Amherstburg could realistically reconstitute a municipal police service in the future.”

 

Ombudsman finds violation in how JPAC, council handled meetings

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Ombudsman of Ontario has found violations in how the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) and town council handled in-camera meetings.

According to a report from Ombudsman Paul Dube, there were complaints that alleged that several meetings were improperly closed because they did not fit within any of the exemptions set out in the Municipal Act. Three complaints were received in November and December 2017.

Those meetings included a closed session of council July 10, 2017 about a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for policing services, four closed session meetings of the JPAC to discuss the draft RFP held June 1, June 22, July 6 and December 7, 2017 and a closed session of council Jan. 22, 2018 to discuss the composition of the JPAC.

Dube said the town was advised Jan. 12 and Jan. 24 of his office’s intent to investigate the complaints.

While acknowledging that council and the JPAC “operated in good faith in closing these meetings to the public and understand their concerns about public discussion of sensitive policing information,” there were violations found. Dube’s report stated the JPAC violated the town’s local boards/committees terms of reference when it discussed the police costing RFP in closed session June 1, June 22, July 6 and Dec. 7, 2017.

“Failing to comply with these terms of reference was wrong under s. 21 (1)(d) of the Ombudsman Act,” Dube wrote. “The discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the ‘security of the property’ exception or any of the exceptions provided in the local boards/committees – terms of reference.”

Dube also found that town council contravened the Municipal Act when it discussed the police costing in closed session July 10, 2017. In his opinion, Dube stated the “discussion about the request for proposals did not fit within the exceptions to the open meetings requirement of the Act.”

The news wasn’t all bad for the town, as the Ombudsman found that council did not contravene the Municipal Act when it discussed the JPAC composition in an in-camera meeting Jan. 22, 2018. Dube’s report stated that “the discussion on that date fit within the Act’s ‘personal matters about an identifiable individual’ exception.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. The Ombudsman of Ontario has found that council and the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) had several contraventions as it dealt with in-camera meetings.

There were four recommendations in Dube’s report “to assist the Town of Amherstburg in fulfilling its obligations under the Act and ensuring the transparency of its meetings.” The first recommendation was that “all members of council for the Town of Amherstburg should be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligation to ensure that council complies with its responsibilities under the Municipal Act, 2001 and its own procedural bylaw.”

The second recommendation was that “committee members for the Town of Amherstburg should be vigilant in complying with the local boards/committees – terms of reference” while the third recommendation was that the “Town of Amherstburg should ensure that no subject is discussed in closed session unless it clearly comes with one of the statutory exceptions to the open meeting requirements.”

The fourth recommendation was that “the Town of Amherstburg should clearly set out the rules for committees around holding closed meetings. The procedure bylaw should be consistent with the committee’s terms of reference in setting out open meeting rules.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said in the three-and-a-half years this council has been in office, it is only the second time that an Ombudsman’s report has found contraventions.

“Our initial response was a bit of surprise,” said DiCarlo, of the recent report.

The previous contravention was early in the term when clerk Paula Parker was away and there was uncertainty while she was gone about the reason to go in-camera. There have been investigations since, said DiCarlo, but this is the first time since early in the term that anything was found.

DiCarlo said they have made gains from where the previous council was, stating there were 10-13 violations in one year at one point last term. The mayor said at least one of the current contraventions would not even be one today due to legislative changes. He also pointed out the statement by the Ombudsman that the town was trying to act in good faith.

Many of the issues will not arise again, he added, due to the fact there will be no more meetings by this council on the policing issue.

“It was a one-off process,” he said. “It’s an anomaly. Council is never going to discuss this again unless the OCPC doesn’t approve our application (to switch to Windsor police) and a future council wants to do it over again.”

Some of the meetings involved operational matters and some confidentiality issues, he added, so while the Ombudsman found some issues, the mayor wonders if they will become issues the Amherstburg Police Services Board may have to look at.

DiCarlo added that regular council meetings have yielded nothing in the way of issues for the Ombudsman’s office.

The findings of the Ombudsman will be used to improve how the town does business, the mayor stated.

“They give us information to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate,” he said. “We will apply the recommendations to all our future meetings of council.”