Amherstburg Police Association

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.)

 

Legal fees questioned by councillor who also had legal fees

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Councillor Diane Pouget was one of two members of council whose legal fees were part of the accounts payable that appeared on Monday night’s agenda, but she had questions about others.

Pouget declared a conflict of interest on the portion of the accounts payable that saw her having paid $500 to the Leardi Law Firm for legal advice regarding her being able to discuss the upcoming issue of whether or not to stick with the Amherstburg Police Service or switch to the Windsor Police Service.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale also received advice from the firm headed by Anthony Leardi, the latter being a former municipal politician himself.

“My name is in there and rightly so and the deputy mayor’s name is in there and rightly so,” said Pouget

The questions raised by Pouget were not about those fees, but rather with $27,000 in legal fees attributed to the Amherstburg Police Association. Pouget wondered why there was no firm listed for the association.

“Residents have a right to know what public money is being used for,” said Pouget.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau said it was a reimbursement to the Amherstburg Police Association for fees that occurred and that a private and confidential memo was circulated to town council members.

“This settled a grievance,” Chief Tim Berthiaume told town council. “We can’t reveal who the firm was representing.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne, a member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), said elected officials are required to report such fees to residents but the town never reveals who employees are or outside parties.

Berthiaume suggested getting a legal opinion to see what further information could be reported to council with Lavigne adding the motion was simply to receive the report.

Pouget said she could not vote in favour with the accounts payable listed as it was.

“I have the utmost respect for the Amherstburg Police Services Board and the Amherstburg Police Association,” she said, though noted “I just can’t vote for it.”

Voting in favour to receive the accounts payable were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Lavigne, Leo Meloche, Joan Courtney and Rick Fryer. Pouget was opposed. DiPasquale was absent.