Diane Pouget

Recount to occur in deputy mayor race

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

There will be a recount in the deputy mayor race.

Town council approved Diane Pouget’s request Tuesday night with the council members voting in favour being Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne and Joan Courtney. No other member of council was in the chambers for the vote, with others either declaring conflicts or vacationing.

Pouget said the meeting had been originally cancelled and accused Mayor Aldo DiCarlo of doing so without discussing the matter with the rest of council. She thanked those who helped petition to get the meeting rescheduled, with those council members being DiPasquale, Courtney and Lavigne.

Residents packed the council chambers Tuesday night with crowds overflowing into the lobby at town hall. Pouget called the support she received “amazing,” though there were residents on hand to support Leo Meloche.

“From the beginning, I was told I had to go to the Superior Court,” said Pouget, who lost to Meloche by four votes in the Oct. 22 municipal election. “I kept getting one roadblock after another.”

Pouget said she hopes a bylaw is enacted by the next council and hopes “no other member of council has to go through this again.” She believes it should be for difference of at least ten votes, but the matter should be decided collectively by the new council.

Noting her original request was a recount for all races, Pouget said she had to drop that request as it would have put six of the seven members of council in conflict. She added Tuesday night that she was unclear when the recount would take place, believing it would happen in the next 10-15 days. She plans to have her lawyer and a scrutineer with her for the recount, adding Meloche has the same opportunity.

While not at the meeting himself, Meloche had legal representation on hand. Dina D’Andrea questioned the need for a recount, believing the electronic tabulators would return the same result.

Clerk Paula Parker said the town would have to ask election officers to return and rent the electronic tabulators again. An estimate for the cost of a recount is $25,000 with election co-ordinator expenses and legal opinions also factored in.

It was learned later in the meeting the town budgeted $125,000 for the 2018 municipal election and used $75,000.

Lavigne outlined numerous concerns, including with the $25,000 cost, which he later referred to as a “guesstimate” when speaking to the media. During the meeting, Lavigne said he did not receive a report to substantiate those costs and wondered whether it was “a fear tactic.”

“I have some serious concerns about the way things are being done around here,” said Lavigne.

The meeting cancellation was “a farce,” Lavigne added, and believed the 83 spoiled ballots should be looked at again.

“Four votes is not a lot when you have 80 spoiled ballots,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne added he wants the new council to get started on solid ground and not have any questions around it. He stated he didn’t recall any uproar surrounding the recount in the 2003 municipal election between Paul Renaud and Ria Smith.

“I just want to get to the bottom of it and get it over with,” he said, adding he will support either candidate after the recount.

Councillor Diane Pouget speaks to town council Nov. 13. Pouget’s request for a recount was approved after she was defeated by four votes by Councillor Leo Meloche in the race for deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 election.

Lavigne also questioned why no bylaw was ever brought to council to deal with recounts. He acknowledged it is not a requirement under the Municipal Elections Act but recommends it in case of a close vote. Lavigne believed the town dropped the ball on not having a such a bylaw in place.

CAO John Miceli said a report was brought to council in Dec. 2017 outlining election procedures and that all candidates received a copy of those procedures.

Most residents that got up to speak supported a recount. Ken Thrasher believed that, in the interest of accountability and transparency, a recount should take place while Larry Bezaire said people in Richmond Terrace or Seasons Amherstburg may not have known to colour in a circle and put a check mark or “X” instead. Parker indicated testing was done on the ballots including with various types of markings and if a tabulator rejected the ballot, voters would either be given a chance to go behind a privacy screen to fix it or were given a new ballot.

Parker guaranteed that 82 of the 83 voters that had spoiled ballots were given new ballots in order that the ballot could be filled out properly. She said the 83 spoiled ballots were listed on the report to provide a ballot count.

Lori Wightman and Lavigne sparred over the recount issue. Wightman noted she was 33 votes away from a council seat and Lavigne was 37 votes out. Wightman would eventually ask for a recount for the councillor’s race but Lavigne said he would not because of the issue of most members of council being in conflict. He also wondered if Wightman was there to “sink the vote” on the recount issue for deputy mayor.

John McDonald also was in favour of a recount.

“This is a democratic process,” said McDonald. “If it is less than ten votes, simple practice is there should be a recount to verify the results.”

McDonald called the cost of a recount “the cost of democracy.”

“It’s four votes,” said Gregory Moore, who was also a councillor candidate. “I don’t care who wins or loses, you need a recount.”

Larry Amlin called for council to “do the right thing” and vote for a recount. He believed “transparency went right out the door” in the last eight months of the current term.

“Do a recount and put it to bed,” said Amlin. “The next council will have to deal with it right from the beginning and it will tear this town apart.”

“We need to stop the bickering,” added Alison Baldwin. “Count the votes.”

“It just comes down to simple sense,” added Courtney, who agreed with her colleague Lavigne. “It’s four votes. We are Amherstburg. We are a democracy. Citizens are entitled to that democracy.”

Courtney noted there was $50,000 left in the election budget.

“It’s taxpayers’ money but a recount is part of the election,” she said. “It’s a simple thing. Let’s vote on it and put the process in motion.”

Developer to pay for cost of tree and its removal from construction site

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A town-owned tree will cost a local builder $8,500 plus removal costs.

Drew Coulson appeared before town council last Tuesday night regarding a tree located at the corner of Lowes Side Road and Sandwich St. S. He said his company was represented at the Committee of Adjustment several times on the matter and the original intent was to keep the tree.

The installation of storm and sanitary sewers was done in the area, but a letter to the town from Coulson stated “I am also submitting letters from 4 legitimate sources stating that the actions of building the new homes on the Lots, in no way initiated the decaying and subsequent dying condition of the tree. Therefore, I submit the following letters attesting to the fact that the tree was well-advanced in decay prior to the commencement of construction of the new homes.”

“I’m willing to pay to cut the tree down,” said Coulson. “I’m not one who likes cutting down trees.”

Councillor Diane Pouget said a report from the town’s arborist said the tree was formerly in good condition before construction began in the area.

A tree near the corner of Sandwich St. S. and Lowes Side Road was the source of controversy at the most recent town council meeting.

“Thank you for your letter although I don’t believe any of it,” Pouget told Coulson.

Pouget said the town’s tree bylaw “is very, very clear” in that it says that trees have to be protected if near excavation and that snow fence or another type of barrier has to be installed. She said she didn’t see any of that near the tree in question, a 36-foot silver maple.

CAO John Miceli said the tree bylaw is also very clear with regards to how to determine the value of trees with Miceli adding that he told Coulson that the cost of the tree is $8,500 and the builder is responsible for removing the tree. Miceli added that town arborist Bill Roesel said the tree is a danger and needs to be removed.

“I was not going to stop construction of three houses,” said Miceli.

Councillor Leo Meloche believed some of these types of issues are on the town, as trees are placed in “precarious positions.”

“We’ve created some of our own problems here,” said Meloche.

Councillor Joan Courtney said it “would have been nice” if the arborist was at the meeting. She questioned the tree having been fine one year and having to come down the next.

“If there are trees deteriorating that fast in one year, we should look at all of our trees,” said Courtney.

Report from fire chief on Sept. 25 tornado response displeases councillor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone returned to town council with a report on the response to the Sept. 25 tornadoes but it did not satisfy the council member that requested it.

“I’m not happy with the report at all,” said Councillor Diane Pouget, who recalled her family being “hunkered in the basement” that night as WJBK-TV Channel 2 out of Detroit was broadcasting that Amherstburg was in the path of the storm.

“The Town of Amherstburg did not send out any warnings,” said Pouget.

Pouget maintained use of the emergency sirens would have helped and that council members heard from a number of residents unhappy that there was no notification. She said some people knew of the storm only through family members contacting them, something she found “disturbing.”

“This could have been a very, very dangerous storm,” said Pouget. “I just feel it could have been a very significant disaster.”

Councillor Joan Courtney said she saw the same U.S. broadcasts, which called for local residents to take cover.

Montone said they were challenged by the fact that no national or provincial authority warned of an immediate emergency or hazard for Amherstburg.

“Those are the authorities we are subordinate to,” said Montone.

The sirens reach about 260 homes in the “primary zone,” with that zone being the first to know about a nuclear incident. He added they do not reach further out into the community.

“I can’t provide information I don’t have,” said Montone.

The brick welcome sign was also destroyed during the Sept. 25 storm that hit Amherstburg.

The Amherstburg Fire Department did not receive any emergency calls for service Sept. 25, he stated.

In his report, Montone noted that “like many members of the public and media,” the National Alert Ready Message and provincial warning advised of the tornado warning for southwestern Ontario.

“No alert or credible information regarding an imminent event directly to the Town of Amherstburg was ever received,” Montone’s report stated. “The emergency siren system within the Nuclear Primary zone, which was designed specifically for the threat of nuclear exposure, does not provide the majority (primary zone contains approximately 260 households of a total of 8,951 households within the municipality) of the Amherstburg public with specific information about what type of emergency exists nor emergency instructions or appropriate actions to take during a weather event.”

Montone noted that “it is very important that the public be provided with accurate information and guidance” and that sources that are “partly accurate” could mean incorrect or non-effective guidance could be provided to the public “which could result in needless worry and panic, accidents and additional injury caused by inappropriate guidance.

The “probable tornado” that was determined to have hit as part of that evening’s weather event was the result of local information provided by the municipality, he said, as opposed to any scientific visit or investigation.

“This event was not a significant emergency requiring the Emergency Operation Centre to be opened,” Montone’s report stated. “There was not mass damage, no injury or worse, and no emergency calls for help were received. This event did not require the mayor to consider declaring a State of Emergency; this event did not require the Emergency Control Group or our Municipal ERP to be activated. There was extremely little damage to property.”

Messages were also sent via smart phone to those on the LTE network, he added.

Councillor Rick Fryer noted minor sports groups such as minor soccer have long asked for better notification at such places as the Libro Centre. He believed the U.S. has better radar systems.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned whether American weather sources could be used by the town given the close proximity to that country.

“Can we not access the National Weather Service for a fee?” asked Meloche.

Councillor presses for information regarding police bill for festivals

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An issue relating to policing costs for non-town sponsored festivals came up again at the Oct. 23 town council meeting.

As she did two weeks previous, Councillor Diane Pouget pressed for information regarding money that the town may have to write-off for policing costs for two festivals. In an e-mail she later sent out to people in the community, she believes $17,000 is still owed for costs relating to the Mardi Gras and the Harvest Festival.

Pouget wanted more information and asked why DiCarlo was “stopping me from making my motion.”

DiCarlo responded that the information being requested could not be discussed in public session.

“It’s public money,” Pouget responded. “Why can’t I get a report? This has been going on for two years.”

CAO John Miceli said efforts to recover the money are still ongoing.

“We are following the collection policy the town has approved,” said Miceli.

Miceli maintained a position he took at the Oct. 9 town council meeting that efforts to collect the money will continue and that, if it is not successful, then consideration for writing it off will be brought tot town council.

Pouget indicated that the taxpayers should not be on the hook for such an expense, and that those responsible for the bill should be held accountable.

Councillor Rick Fryer believed it was an issue moreso for the Amherstburg Police Service Board and that “in a roundabout way,” the issue is due to an APSB decision that town council is not privy to.

Pouget made a motion to direct administration “to provide council with a report regarding the status of a significant amount of money owed to the Amherstburg Police Department for services rendered at a festival or festivals, that were not sponsored by the Town of Amherstburg. This report must be made available at our next council meeting.”

That motion was defeated in a 3-2 vote with Fryer, DiCarlo and Councillor Leo Meloche opposed. Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney were in favour. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Jason Lavigne were not at the Oct. 23 meeting.

Recount issue becomes more complex in deputy mayor race

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The deputy mayor race saw the top two candidates finish within four votes of each other with a recount appearing to be more difficult than originally anticipated.

Leo Meloche finished with 2,579 votes while Diane Pouget ended up with 2,575 votes with Pouget’s route to a recount becoming more complex thanks to the Town of Amherstburg having no policy or bylaw pertaining on to how a recount would be addressed. Pouget said she requested a recount Tuesday morning but was told she could not have one as the town didn’t enact a policy or pass a bylaw regarding possible recounts before May 1.

Pouget said she was “very disappointed” to lose to Meloche by only four votes but understood it was the will of the people.

“I really respect my constituents. They voted in favour of Councillor Meloche to be deputy mayor,” said Pouget.

Pouget, also a current councillor, said she received a number of phone calls and e-mails suggesting she ask for a recount but was notified when she went to town hall Tuesday morning that a recount could not occur due to a new law that came into effect that called for the municipality having to have a bylaw or policy in effect by May 1.

“It appears my hands are tied,” she said, though noted she has two lawyers looking into the situation.

Regardless of the result, Pouget said she will still try and work on behalf of any resident that contacts her.

“I’m going to be there for anyone who needs help,” she said.

Should Pouget wish to pursue a recount, she would now have to go through the Superior Court and give reasonable grounds for a recount, said clerk Paula Parker. Election results became official Tuesday and Pouget would have 30 days from then to make her request.

Parker confirmed that Pouget did ask for a recount but an automatic recount is only available in case of a tie vote. As there is no bylaw or policy, the town has to rely on provincial legislation and that a recount has to be requested through the Superior Court.

There were no reports of issues with the process or the tabulators on election day, Parker added.

“Everything went very smoothly,” Parker reported.