Diane Pouget

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.

Town supportive of youth council request

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council members expressed support for the possibility of establishing a youth council in Amherstburg but still had several questions about the concept.

Jacey Silvaggi from the Youth Council Coalition of Canada appeared before town council about forming a youth council with Silvaggi stating that the organization he was representing is “a not-for-profit that works to foster the development, success and influence of Canadian youth councils by determining areas of improvement and creating resources as well as networking and learning opportunities with the support of community partners and organizations.”

Silvaggi said there are 93 youth councils in Ontario but only two in Windsor-Essex County.

“We know there is a lot of untapped potential,” said Silvaggi.

According to statistics in Silvaggi’s presentation, as of 2016, 18.77 per cent of the Windsor-Essex population is between ages 10-24. That means municipalities without youth councils “lose the opportunity to hear from one in five residents,” said Silvaggi.

“Youth issues are everyone’s issues,” said Silvaggi. “Youth councils are tackling tough topics.”

Silvaggi noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also has a youth council. He said local municipalities including Kingsville, LaSalle and Essex have shown interest in forming youth councils and that the Youth Council Coalition of Canada would try to help cover costs by applying for a Windsor-Essex Community Impact Grant.

Councillor Diane Pouget asked if the group worked with The House Youth Centre.

“They do a lot of the work you mentioned in your proposal to us,” she told Silvaggi.

Pouget said The House offers “an excellent program” that is non-denominational and has been successful since the 1960’s.

“I want to make sure we’re not doing anything behind The House’s back,” she said. “It appears it could be a duplication of services.”

Councillor Rick Fryer said it was important to get youth involved and get them engaged in their communities. He recalled being a leader at The House and didn’t remember any opportunity to also being involved in a similar fashion with the town.

“If we don’t engage them now, we won’t have people sitting in these (council) chairs,” he said.

Fryer thanked Silvaggi for bringing the idea of a youth council before town council.

“I think this is a great initiative,” he said.

“This is wonderful, wonderful work you are doing,” added Councillor Joan Courtney, who wondered how the program would be administered.

Councillor Leo Meloche had similar questions about how it would be administered but did refer to the concept as “a great idea.”

Silvaggi said they would try and get representation from all schools in the area and that the coalition would help provide support for youth councils to help keep them going. CAO John Miceli said it has been his experience that it would be an application process to form what would be an advisory board to council on issues and provide a youth perspective. He noted his children have involvement on youth council’s in Windsor and provide recommendations to the mayor and council on issues.

“It’s not a duplication of services we are getting into,” he said, adding he would consult with The House Youth Centre when he prepared a report.

Town council directed administration to bring back a report on support of the YCC and that Amherstburg endorse the YCC grant application.

 

Council votes down zoning bylaw amendment

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has unanimously refused to grant a zoning bylaw amendment for a Concession 6 North property that has raised the ire of its neighbours.

The property is home to numerous dogs and both neighbours and council members have been concerned about activities at the site for at least the last month, as the matter was also talked about at a July planning meeting. Concerns raised included the breeds of dogs, the proximity of activity to neighbours, whether activities such as dog boarding and the sale of goods was occurring, and the timing of permit applications as opposed to when building activity actually occurred.

The issue was addressed at Monday night’s town council meeting where neighbours Tom and Suzana Siimes again voiced concerns with the property and said a building that had been proposed for the land “is not a minor variance.” The Siimes family said they located where they did, 2,000 feet from the road,  for peace and quiet. That followed up on a July presentation to council where they said it was “not your regular kennel.”

Suzana told town council is was “not fair” that neighbouring landowners have had to abide by the law and endure noise and other issues from the home in question.

“If you amend (the bylaw) to favour him, this will become horribly big and out-of-control,” she said Monday night. “Tonight we ask you to deny the application.”

Suzana added they have to put up with “insane noise” on a regular basis.

Ken Blanchette, another neighbour, also called for council to deny the application and wanted peace and quiet in the neighbourhood. In July, he also voiced concerns regarding a secondary driveway near his home and the lights that shine in when people use that driveway at night.

Councillor Leo Meloche said he visited the area and there are a “number of issues.” While he “totally understands where (the neighbours) are coming from,” he asked to hear from the applicant as well. Planner Jackie Lassaline, who works with the applicant Aladdin Khalifa, was not permitted to speak Monday night but at July’s meeting, she stated “in my professional opinion, the proposed dog kennel is consistent with the PPS (Provincial Policy Statement) in a rural area.”

The kennel would have mitigating measures such as security fencing, trees, berms and screening, she also told council last month, and that the proposed new building to was to have sound proofing.

“Other local municipalities such as the Town of Essex allow 60 metres from a kennel to an existing residence,” she said at the July planning meeting.

Dogs are his hobby, Khalifa explained at the July meeting, adding that he constructed eight-foot fencing and installed sheets of zinc around the perimeter of his property so that they couldn’t dig under them. Khalifa added that he stopped boarding dogs after meeting with the town’s bylaw officer. He said the only dogs on the property are his dogs and “you can’t hear my dogs.”

At Monday’s meeting, Councillor Jason Lavigne said he was not in favour of amending the zoning bylaw. He said there was an ad online where the kennel was looking for people to work there and added that issues such as the amount of dogs on the land could be addressed through future motions from council.

Councillor Diane Pouget outlined a series of concerns, and was the one who made the motion to deny the zoning bylaw application.

“I feel very, very strongly we can’t allow this request to proceed,” she said.

CAO John Miceli cautioned that without an amendment, it might limit the town’s powers on what it can do to enforce regulations at the site including enforcing how many dogs are permitted on a property.

“Without an amendment, the town will have difficulty having any control over the property,” he said.

Meloche said he was concerned over how to “get a handle” on the matter, and called for a report believing that more problems could be created without it but director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said a report was prepared but that administration sought further direction and clarification.

Manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli said “there’s an open investigation” into what breeds of dogs are on the property.

At the July meeting, Khalifa’s lawyer Nick Souilliere described the dogs as “absolutely sweet” and that all were licensed with Khalifa telling council at the time the dogs were mastiffs that played with children at local festivals.

Chief building official Angelo Avolio added that five permit applications have now been put in, but no permits have yet been issued.

Pouget believes she has experience, track record to be deputy mayor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A third current town councillor is seeking the job of deputy mayor.

Diane Pouget filed her nomination papers July 27 and became the fourth and final candidate for the position. Pouget will be running against council colleagues Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche as well as Amherstburg Police Services Board chair Bob Rozankovic.

“I decided to run for deputy mayor believing I have the knowledge, experience and proven track record to properly represent our residents,” she said.

Pouget stated there are “strong, honest candidates” running for councillor positions so she felt comfortable with her decision to seek the deputy mayor position.

Progress has been made over the last four years, Pouget indicated, but more progress is still needed.

“Although our current council worked very diligently to pay down our debt, we still have a long way to go,” said Pouget.

The town’s finances remain an issue for Pouget.

“If elected, my first order of business would be to try and re-instate the finance committee in order to refocus on our needs instead of our wants,” she stated. “We must continue to pay down our debt, build our reserves, improve infrastructure, repair our crumbling roads and get control of our hiring.”

As the deputy mayor also sits on Essex County council, Pouget said repairing roads are among her objectives if she is elected to represent Amherstburg at that level also.

“My goals are very similar to what they are right now (in Amherstburg) – to improve roads and infrastructure and to work collectively with all municipalities,” she said.

Diane Pouget is running for the position of deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

There are county roads that need work as well as town-owned roads, she believes.

Pouget said the number of people hired is an issue, as is where the people come from. She understands the town can’t be discriminatory, but hopes if there is hiring done that more people from the community get jobs.

“It is a very contentious issue,” she said. “Residents are very unhappy with hiring from outside our community.”

While a report she requested recently about town hiring and the cost factor of said hiring was refused by her council colleagues, she said the counterargument of savings through the new hires due to not contracting out services “has not been proven to council.” She said the finance committee helped council earlier in the term as it aided in whittling down a request for nine new employees to 3.5.

“I have been vocally opposed to the rebranding because of the cost and the fear of losing our historic identity,” she added.

Pouget stated she is “a strong advocate” of receiving public input from Amherstburg’s rural residents regarding their needs. She added that council must meet with developers before changing any agreements that have been in existence since 2007.

It is important for Amherstburg residents to vote in the Oct. 22 municipal election, she added, so that the most honest and strongest group of candidates can get elected to represent the town over the next four years.

Feedback to her candidacy for deputy mayor has already been strong, she reports, as she received numerous phone calls shortly after filing her nomination papers.

“I didn’t expect this much support,” she said.

The other three vying for the position are “very good candidates,” Pouget said, but believes her experience gives her the edge.

“I believe it’s because of my experience, knowledge and proven track record,” she said of what sets her apart. “I’ve always been there to represent (the residents). I’ve proven that over and over again.”

 

Full report on new hires discussed, will not be provided

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A request from a town councillor for a report on new hires will not be coming forward as her colleagues were concerned it wouldn’t show the full picture.

Councillor Diane Pouget asked for a “full report” on all the town’s new hires in the past four years including all costs relating to salary and benefits. She said she has read documentation where wages alone have increased $2.2 million in the last three years.

“The reason (for the report request) is we will have a new council and I think it’s important they have the information after they’re sworn in,” said Pouget.

The report would have come back in September, had it been approved.

“If it’s intended for the next council, why is it requested for September?” asked Councillor Leo Meloche, with the reply being that it would give incoming council members time to prepare for budget sessions.

Pouget added later in the meeting that in January, the town would be obligated to pay “a large amount for wages” and the report would help be a starting point for the new council.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said if a person wants to be elected, they should be looking at budgets otherwise they could be in trouble going into their first year of budget deliberations. He noted that the information for such a report is already in the budget documents.

Lavigne didn’t believe such a report could provide a “clear picture,” saying that while there have been new hires, those hires have produced savings in such areas as legal and engineering due to work not having to be farmed out.

“We’ve already seen the report in budget (sessions) that the people we’ve hired have more than paid for themselves,” he said.
Lavigne added “it’s easy for a pundit to say ‘oh yeah, you’ve hired these people and this is how much it’s going to cost the town’ when it’s not a true representation of what happened. We hired these people to save money, not spend money.”

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin added that staffing requests have come with a “fulsome report” dealing with why the request was made and the financial implications. He said council has to “look at the larger piece of the puzzle” and that information on why the hires were requested is readily available.

Lavigne added his belief the report “is designed to make us look bad.”

“In my opinion, it’s easy in an election year and going into a new council to say ‘they hired all these new people.’ I don’t think it’s legitimate,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer agreed with Lavigne, stating that the public has to have “the full picture.”

In the end, council did not proceed with Pouget’s request.