Bob Rozankovic

Deputy mayor candidates square off

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The candidates for deputy mayor went head-to-head last Thursday evening in the second of two “Meet the Candidates” nights organized by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC).

Held at Western Secondary School, the event featured Rick Fryer, Diane Pouget, Leo Meloche and Bob Rozankovic making opening and closing statements with questions also being posed by moderator Patty Handysides of AM800. Many of the questions were the same as the previous night’s councillor debates and had been sent in by members of the public.

“Infrastructure is a need, not a want,” said Fryer.

Fryer added that jobs are also needed and that the mayor and chief administrative officer (CAO) are already doing “a great job” in bringing new investments to Amherstburg.

“We definitely need jobs,” he said. “Amherstburg is ready for new innovation and jobs.”

Fibre internet coming to town will assist in bringing jobs to town, Fryer believed, and that the town needs to go after employment for such lands as the former General Chemical property and other areas.

“I’m always looking after the ratepayers,” said Fryer.

Fryer said infrastructure is the top item on his to-do list and that council was saddled with a lot of infrastructure needs when they took office in Dec. 2014. He said the town has to expand its tax base.

Meloche said his late wife grew to love Amherstburg and that he found time to take care of her plus look after his other obligations when she was ill.

“I did what needed to be done,” said Meloche. “I fulfilled my commitments.”

Meloche said he brings sound financial accountability and business analysis to the table and that the current council was able to make “substantial improvements” in town.

While noting there are issues like Belle Vue, Duffy’s and the roads still left to be resolved, Meloche said the town has to “keep the momentum” and continue to make progress.

“Progress doesn’t just happen,” he said. “We need to keep working at it.”

Meloche said the problems relating to roads have been “20 years in the making” but the town now has an asset management plan and levies to help pay for projects.

“Unfortunately, what taxpayers didn’t pay 20 years ago is going to be put on their shoulders in the next four years,” he said. “There’s no way around it. We will have to continue to pay for the errors of the past.”

Pouget outlined her past experiences, dating back to the 1990’s when she headed up the Parent-Teacher Council (PTA) at General Amherst High School. She said they fought to preserve the school from being lost by the public board and they were successful in keeping it as General Amherst after some struggles. She said she was sued at the time, adding “Glenn, I know what you’re going through,” in reference to mayoral candidate Glenn Swinton’s ongoing defamation suit filed against him by CAO John Miceli.

Pouget said efforts to save the school included blocking off streets, meeting provincial officials and gaining national headlines. The lawsuit against her was eventually dropped. That led to the start of her career in municipal politics. She said they had to save General Amherst again earlier this term when it was part of a PARC process, along with Western Secondary School and other schools in the area.

Town council hired local lawyer Anthony Leardi to represent them in the matter and Pouget called the $12,000 expenditure some of the best tax dollars ever spent.

“I believe my 14 years of municipal experience will assist me in becoming your next deputy mayor,” she said.

Pertaining to roads, Pouget said they now have a roads needs study and that the town has to follow it and the advice of its engineers. She said they have to proceed carefully pertaining to roads but added they have made other successful investments including ones to combat flooding.

The debt will be $35 million by the end of the year, she said, with $15 million in reserves. Much of the debt, she added, is tied up long term.

Rozankovic said “the next council will be pivotal in determining the future of Amherstburg for many years to come. Moving forward we need to make decisions ensuring that residents get the maximum value for  their tax dollars.”

Rozankovic wondered where the $24-30 million will come from to update and replace the Amherstburg water treatment plant and said other issues include roads, plans for both Duffy’s and Belle Vue, a new outdoor swimming pool and a decision on the remaining 12 acres at Centennial Park.

The policing issue has become the focal point of this election, Rozankovic added, and that people were actually wondering four years ago whether the town was getting value for the money they spend on policing.

“Whether to contract out policing or not is not simply an exercise in ‘what is cheaper.’ There is the emotional attachment of residents to consider,” he said.

Rozankovic said a referendum could have been on the ballot and would have pushed the contract start date to July 2019.

“So where do we stand today on the policing issue?” he asked. “The residents were told that every employee of the Amherstburg Police Service Board would be offered employment with the Windsor Police Service. That was not the case. The residents were told that there would be no severance payouts attributed to the contracting out of police services. While we do not have solid numbers yet, we can say that the total possible exposure exceeds $2.5 million.”

Rozankovic said he will, if elected, ask the new council “to hit the pause button” and re-evaluate the situation.

The $1.41 million committed annually for roads will likely lead to the town falling further behind, said Rozankovic, and that “we have to find money somewhere in the system.” He suggested maybe it wasn’t such a good move to buy the Duffy’s property and Belle Vue.

Leo Meloche, Rick Fryer, Diane Pouget and Bob Rozankovic discuss issues during the Meet the Candidates Night presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce Oct. 4 at Western Secondary School.

On the subject of economic development, Meloche believed small business is the key for economic development. That will be aided by further residential development with the new force main to lead to over 700 new homes coming to town.

Commercial development will spur job growth, Meloche added, and the town has to look at helping small businesses and “build from the ground up.”

The town “sells itself,” Pouget believed, and that the local real estate industry does a good job in promoting the town. The tourism department also does a great job, she said, and touted the General Chemical site for future development.

Pouget also noted the need for a hotel in Amherstburg.

“We have so much to offer,” she said.

Rozankovic said he travels through China, Mexico and the southeastern United States through his employment and questioned the ability to attract industry to town.

“Everyone is chasing industry,” he said. “Amherstburg doesn’t have anything to sell to industry. This is a reality.”

Rozankovic suggested promoting commercial and residential growth, including more distilleries and microbreweries. He said there is a reason there are not takers for the former General Chemical site and that the future is residential and commercial development.

Fryer said he would want to set up a “task force” for economic development and touted the area’s workforce. There should be incentives offered to companies, Fryer suggested, and that such a proposal is happening in Windsor.

The town has “turned the corner,” said Fryer, but now a “revival” is needed. He suggested streamlining the application and permit processes.

“We need to go after jobs,” he said, adding he voted in favour of the Wendy’s proposal.

One of the questions was about policing. Pouget said she could not answer because of a conflict of interest. Going against the advice of her lawyer would be “very, very serious” and potentially end up in a court of law.

“I can’t put the residents of Amherstburg at risk or my family at risk,” she stated.

Rozankovic said should the deal be finalized, Windsor would do “a fine job” but believes a referendum should have been held. He reiterated that more information should be obtained before any deal is finalized.

Fryer said it has been referred to in the media as a “takeover” but it is not. He said the same officers will patrol the streets of Amherstburg and that the only thing to change will be the uniforms.

“Our officers are still going to be there,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to change.”

Rick Fryer, Leo Meloche, Bob Rozankovic and Diane Pouget took turns presenting their cases and answering questions last Thursday night at a “Meet the Candidates” event at Western Secondary School. The four are running for deputy mayor.

Meloche described himself as a “numbers guy” and that at the end of the day, he believed switching to the Windsor Police Service would result in “significant savings.” In 2014, he said, policing costs were the number two issue he heard and that he compared services to Essex and Amherstburg currently pays $1.9 million more. Municipal policing is also a hot topic at conferences, he added.

“The only thing that’s going to change is the boss,” said Meloche “The employees will still stay the same.”

Relating to taxes and funding local government, Rozankovic said there are costing pressures for such things as roads so needs have to be focused on. He stated that police severance payouts could eat up the first five years of savings “so be careful there.”

Fryer quoted a figure of $2 million to purchase Belle Vue and said he was “totally against it.”

“That’s a (heck) of a lot of roads we could have done,” he said.

Meloche said growth will take some pressures off of tax bills but stated the Libro Centre is built to the size of a 40,000 person town while the wastewater treatment plant is built to accommodate 50,000 people.

“21,000 are paying for it,” he said. “How we address it is growth.”

Pouget called for the reinstatement of the finance committee. She said that committee warned against hiring nine new staff members at the beginning of the term and that she is opposed to positions as plumbers and electricians as the town contracted those services out to “excellent people.”

In closing arguments, Rozankovic stated public trust needs to be regained and that people need to know all the facts before moving forward on projects. Pouget said she has served in every committee imaginable and that she will “continuously work” if elected deputy mayor. Meloche said both the senior and youth populations have to be consulted going forward while Fryer indicated his black and white campaign signs are keys to his campaign as “the answers I give you are in black and white.”

CANDIDATE Q&A – Bob Rozankovic

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

What must be understood is that it doesn’t matter what one individual thinks. The re-branding is a collaborative effort that is extremely dependent on resident input. Having said that, I would define Amherstburg as a “quaint town full of opportunity to become so much more than it currently is”. How Amherstburg should be promoted is dependent on what the residents want it to be. In time, should Belle Vue materialize, we could promote the town as a cultural and arts center. If the Duffy’s property is developed we can promote the town as a waypoint for the many boaters on both sides of the border. With the Miracle league Field and the Libro Center we can promote our exceptional facilities for athletes of all abilities.

 

 

Bob Rozaknovic is running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election

 

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

The current budget of 1.41 million dollars per year for roadwork over a 10 year period could be increased with the proposed saving from outsourcing our policing service. According to current estimates that would approximately $550,000 per year.

 

 

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

Accountability and transparency are standards of good government that enhance public trust. They are achieved through the Town adopting measures ensuring, to the best of its ability, that all activities and services are undertaken utilizing a process that is open and accessible to its stakeholders. In addition, wherever possible, the Town will engage its stakeholders throughout its decision making processes which will be open, visible and transparent to the public. Personally, ensuring that council lives up to these words is predicated on completely understanding what must, by law, be discussed in-camera, and always insisting that as much as possible be debated in public.

 

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

It would seem the Town has reached a point where a dedicated Economic Development Officer is warranted. Neighbouring communities have such a position within their administrative structure. This position would be directed to meet with Provincial EcDev authorities on a regular basis to ensure we are made aware of all opportunities being presented. The position would also be in constant contact with the Windsor Essex Development Corporation, exploring possibilities as they arise. We must be “out there” marketing Amherstburg. Opportunities will not simply come to us.

 

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

Whether to contract out policing or not is a generational issue and not simply an exercise in “what is cheaper”. The public meetings that were held fully showed the depth of emotional involvement by this community with its police service.
Though I am not a proponent of referendums in most cases, I believe a this is one of those rare times. If we had submitted a request to the province by March 1st, we could have had this issue on our ballots for the October 22nd election. This would have pushed the contract start date to July 2019. A very small delay to ensure a correct decision.
Furthermore, there are times when emotional connection is more important than saving money.
I don’t profess to know whether the majority wanted a switch or not. I do know that in door-to-door campaigning I am getting many different opinions.
The fact that a three to two vote, with two abstentions, decided this important issue is so sad. How could a referendum have been any worse? At the very least, council would have known the will of the people.

Integrity commissioner to investigate alleged in-camera leaks

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Who leaked information from an in-camera meeting and the circumstances surrounding it will be subject to an investigation to be conducted by integrity commissioner Bruce Elman as well as a private investigator.

The integrity commissioner will investigate council members that were in the Sept. 10 in-camera meeting while the other investigator will look at administration. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo called the special council meeting Monday night and said from an e-mail chain he was a part of that there was a “clear violation” and that the leak occurred somewhere between Sept. 10-13. Information was sent to Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic and Rozankovic sent an e-mail to council and CAO John Miceli with concerns about it.

No names were released as to whom the person or people are believed to be.

DiCarlo called for the integrity commissioner to investigate the alleged “breach of confidentiality” and council would agree, though not before other amendments were debated, defeated and adopted.

Councillor Rick Fryer’s amendment that council appointed Police Services Board members be removed during the investigation and the positions refilled was defeated. Councillor Jason Lavigne believed that “adding that clause to the motion smacks of guilt before a trial,” adding “that seems to be going a lot around this town lately.”

Lavigne questioned why this particular leak was of such interest and why it warranted a meeting. Lavigne said the current council hadn’t had a meeting of that nature before and further stated he will be asking his own questions at an upcoming Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) meeting, of which he is a part of. He added he e-mailed DiCarlo several months ago about an apparent breach at a parks committee meeting.

“Know what was done? Absolutely nothing,” said Lavigne.

DiCarlo took exception, responding that “you can’t say what I did or didn’t do” and added after the meeting that all possible violations are taken seriously and treated individually. He also said after the meeting that any member of council can file a complaint with the integrity commissioner if a breach occurs and that the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on the mayor.

Councillor Diane Pouget opposed Fryer’s amendment and that she believed “we are already pre-judging someone” and that “we don’t know who it is.” Fryer said he was not trying to accuse anyone and that his amendment would have removed the people from the APSB while the investigation was ongoing.

“I’m a little befuddled on why you are trying to lay blame on myself or the police board,” asked APSB chair Bob Rozankovic, when Fryer’s amendment was being discussed.

Rozankovic said he advised council and CAO John Miceli regarding the information he received, something he did “out of respect, not to make your lives difficult.” He noted the board is in the middle of severance package negotiations and other matters relating to the switch to Windsor.

The alleged breach did not occur from a APSB member, Rozankovic maintained.

“That came from someone else,” he said. “It was not the police board that created the breach.”

Fryer stated that when Rozankovic sent an e-mail to all of council  – including Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Pouget – it was not the correct course of action as the two council members were in conflict and not in the Sept. 10 in-camera session.

“When you declare a conflict, you are not privy to what happened in that meeting at all,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche said answers are being sought and that all parties are being looked at. He said it was an attempt to “put it out into the open” and find out why it happened.

“At the end of the day, I just want an answer,” Meloche said.

Councillor Joan Courtney wanted to make sure administration was investigated as well.

“With all due respect to administration, they were in the room too,” said Courtney. “Members of the police service board haven’t done anything wrong. They were acting on the information they were given.”
Town council voted 4-2 to reject the motion with Fryer’s amendment with DiCarlo noting his objection was due to the rest of council wanting administration to be involved in the investigation as well.

The second motion, which included DiCarlo’s request for an integrity commissioner to investigate council members and Pouget’s request that administration be investigated by an independent investigator was passed unanimously.

Following the meeting, Rozankovic said he was informed of information that he didn’t like was in town council’s with his belief that information was in the purview of the APSB. The e-mail voiced his concern that the information was out there and that it involved the employment status of people in the board’s employ.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” said Rozankovic. “This is all about the police issue. Things may not be going exactly as they would have liked (with the police transfer to Windsor). They have promised zero cost to the transition at all five of their town hall meetings, and I guarantee you this will not be the case.”

Rozankovic said the costs won’t be as promised and that he believes council has to blame someone. He said he would tell the integrity commissioner where the information originated, but didn’t tell council.

“They’re scared of the outcome of certain things and they’ll try to block certain things from happening and certain information from getting out,” said Rozankovic. “It’s the silly season.”

Fryer questioned why Rozankovic didn’t reveal more information about where the alleged leak came from. He asked that “if it’s silly season politics,” why didn’t Rozankovic inform council and “what do you have to hide?”

Fryer added that he has no reason to believe the transfer of policing duties to Windsor isn’t going smoothly.

“In general, I haven’t heard of anything that could cause a derailment,” he said.

In response to what was in the e-mail chain, Fryer indicated he could not comment on it because it contained in-camera information.

Fryer, Rozankovic, Meloche and Pouget are all running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 election. There were at least 13 candidates counted in the gallery or in the lobby at the meeting, not counting the candidates who are also members of the current council.

DiCarlo told the media after the meeting that, as the head of council, he had to call the meeting once he discovered there was a possible breach. He disputed claims it was politically motivated.

“It’s not the case,” he said.

The mayor added he did “what I was supposed to do” and that was to call a meeting and let town council discuss the issue. He wanted the two separate investigations, he said, because “no one should be targeted” and that it should include everyone.

Rozankovic updates position on policing issue

 

Deputy Mayor candidate Bob Rozankovic has updated his position on the issue of the police switchover from Amherstburg police to Windsor police.

Rozankovic, who currently chairs the Amherstburg Police Services Board, noted he was limited in what he could say when profiled in May, but now that the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) has rendered its ruling, he has issued the following statement:

“With the OCPC ruling now having ben publicized I can answer the question on the much-debated policing issue with somewhat more detail.

My original answer was “as a member of the APSB I am limited in what I can say at this time. Ultimately it is the decision of council as to the direction the town takes. Certainly, there are both pros and cons and I have the ultimate respect for all councilors that voted on this difficult issue, no matter their individual preference.” Also “as a member of JPAC, I can say we attempted to address all concerns put forth by all stakeholders including residents, police officers, and administration. All facts were clearly presented without bias for council’s decision-making process.”

Whether to contract out policing or not is a generational issue and not simply an exercise in “what is cheaper”. The public meetings that were held fully showed the depth of emotional involvement by this community with its police service. Though, by far, most speakers at the meetings preferred to maintain police service in its current form, I know there were many who preferred the switch to Windsor. Whether the majority wished to switch, or not, no one can say with certainty. And therein lies the dilemma. As I stated previously, this is a generational issue. A “one-shot” deal to get the decision right because there will not be a chance to reverse the decision at a later date. Let’s be clear, the Amherstburg Police Service will never be reconstituted. At the end of the first five-year term Amherstburg will pay Windsor whatever they ask or Amherstburg will need to contract the OPP for service.

Though I am not a proponent of referendums in most cases, I believe a this is one of those rare times. If we had submitted a request to the province by March 1st, we could have had this issue on our ballots for the October 22nd election. This would have pushed the contract start date to July 2019. A very small delay to ensure a correct decision.

There are current councilors who feel that referendums are not worthwhile, that the general public isn’t knowledgeable enough to make these decisions. I beg to differ. The general public will be knowledgeable and will be intelligently engaged if they are provided with valid information. That is particularly true for an issue such as this one. Furthermore, there are times when emotional connection is more important than saving money.

I don’t profess to know whether the majority wanted a switch or not. I do know that in door to door campaigning I am getting many different opinions.

The fact that a three to two vote, with two abstensions, decided this important issue is so sad. How could a referendum have been any worse? At the very least, council would have known the will of the people.”

Amherstburg Police Services Board, council take no further position on WPS investigation

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council took no position on an ongoing investigation into the Windsor Police Service and Windsor Police Services Board (WPSB) and the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) took a similar position or lack thereof.

The two hastily-called meetings in Amherstburg Thursday afternoon and evening were due to the investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), the same body that will be holding public hearings June 26 at the Libro Centre over the town’s proposed contracting out of policing services to Windsor.

According to a news release put out by Windsor police last Wednesday, Chief Al Frederick and the WPSB were notified that the OCPC has initiated an investigation under section 25 of the Police Services Act with Frederick and the WPSB advising they “intended to fully co-operate with this investigation.”

“The Ontario Civilian Police Commission initially advised the Windsor Police Service and the Windsor Police Services Board that the investigation should be kept confidential.  However, in view of the upcoming Public Hearing related to contract policing in Amherstburg, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission has now recommended that we disclose the fact that an investigation has been initiated relating to internal policies and promotional matters,” the release stated. “The Commission maintains a strict separation between its investigative and adjudicative functions.  Accordingly, the Windsor Police Service and the Windsor Police Services Board believe the fact that an investigation has been initiated is irrelevant to the Commission’s mandate, which is to determine whether the Windsor Police Service contract policing proposal will ensure the provision of adequate and effective policing services to the residents of Amherstburg.”

It was stated that from January 2018 to April 2018, the OCPC “received multiple complaints from members of the Windsor Police Service” and “these complaints raise serious concerns about the workplace environment of the WPS, the administration of the WPS, and the oversight provided by the Windsor Police Services Board.”

The OCPC decided to conduct an investigation May 4. Items being investigated include whether the promotional processes, particularly to administration rank positions, are fair and transparent and whether the Board exercises appropriate oversight of those promotional processes; whether the hiring processes relating to the potential hiring of relatives are fair

and transparent; whether the Board is appropriately informed about administration issues relating to its mandate, including the promotional processes involving candidates for senior administration; whether there has been improper interference in specific legal proceedings and whether any such interference has been initiated, encouraged, and/or sustained by the current administration of the WPS and/or the Board; whether a poisoned work environment has been created, encouraged, and/or sustained by the current administration of the WPS in relation to workplace policies and/or accommodation requests; whether the WPS has fair and transparent processes to address workplace harassment and human rights complaints; and whether the Board is fulfilling its statutory oversight role in relation to the latter two items.

Councillor Jason Lavigne, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic listen to comments made by the public at last Thursday’s APSB meeting.

Bob Rozankovic, chair of the APSB, said he was tempted to cancel this meeting but decided to keep it scheduled to see if the board wanted to make any sort of resolution.

“The board has no say in the matter,” he said. “We have no say in the decision of council.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne, who joins Mayor Aldo DiCarlo as council representatives on the board, said the council meeting featured Frederick and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins and emphasized there have been allegations laid but no actual findings have been discovered.

“We are not part of Windsor, we are not part of the investigation. These are allegations at this point,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne said the OCPC didn’t want to come to Amherstburg June 26 and have the investigation become an issue if news of it were to leak out and wanted the town to know about it.

“They wanted to make sure no bombshells were dropped at the hearing,” Rozankovic added.

George Kritiotis, one of the residents at the meeting, raised various questions and comments including about body camera’s (“In general, they keep everyone in check.”), where new applicants would apply to and the investigation itself. New applicants, he was told, would apply to the Windsor Police Service, he was told. Questions raised over the investigation were met with the reply that the APSB can’t provide any comment anyway.

“Even if we did have the facts, it’s not up to us to judge the Windsor Police Service or the Windsor Police Services Board,” said Rozankovic.

Kritiotis questioned morale of the officers that would be joining Windsor and further asked whether the Amherstburg officers would be impacted should the OCPC grant the go-ahead for the service to be contracted to the city.

Denise Bondy added she wanted the town to show it cares “about the men and women who serve us” and also wondered about the collective agreements for the officers. The Amherstburg Police Service would officially dissolve Jan. 1, 2019 if contracting out the service is approved provincially and officers would work out of Amherstburg as Windsor police officers.

A number of the questions and concerns raised by members of the public at the APSB meeting dealt with other issues as well, including severance pay for Amherstburg officers, with Amherstburg Chief Tim Berthiaume stating that issue is still being worked on and that it could come up in arbitration if unresolved by Jan. 1, 2019.

Councillor Jason Lavigne speaks during the special Amherstburg Police Services Board meeting held June 14.

Nancy Atkinson questioned DiCarlo as to how he felt when he walked into the mayor’s job in a difficult work environment.

“That is what you are asking our police officers to do and I don’t understand,” said Atkinson.

DiCarlo, emphasizing that there are only allegations at this point against Windsor police, said he chose to enter the fray as mayor four years ago. He said Amherstburg had to endure a similar situation with the fire department and called in the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office to investigate. Recommendations were then adopted by the town and he said the same could hold true in Windsor if any issues are revealed or confirmed by the OCPC.

The town council meeting was made public about 30 minutes before the start of it, the mayor added, as it turned out no additional information was gained prior to the meeting to necessitate council going in-camera.

Rozankovic added there are over 600 employees with the Windsor Police Service and allegations have been raised by anywhere from 2-5 people.

Lavigne added the June 26 hearing is to decide whether Windsor police can provide adequate policing to the town.

“They don’t want to hear that you don’t like it,” he said.