Jason Lavigne

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.

Council gives administration spending authority in “lame duck” period, but not without debate

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has authorized administration to have the ability make unbudgeted expenditures over $50,000 and dispose of property valued at over $50,000 during the “lame duck” period.

While many stated this is a common motion passed by municipalities across the province, one member of council voiced concerns over the motion. During debate of the motion at the June 11 meeting, Councillor Diane Pouget believed it would be “foolish” of council to pass it without some sort of safety assurances built in. She said the motion as recommended gave administration “carte blanche” to sell town property or make unbudgeted purchases and wanted to ensure additional safeguards were in place.

“It’s absolutely necessary and the responsible thing to do,” said Pouget. “I’m not speaking against anyone here. I’m trying to protect council and our residents.”

Pouget and Councillor Joan Courtney voted against the motion, with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne and Rick Fryer voting in favour. Councillor Leo Meloche did not attend the meeting as his wife passed away only a few days earlier.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The original version of this article had Councillor Joan Courtney voting in favour. She voted against the motion and the story has now been corrected to reflect that.)

CAO John Miceli said the motion did protect the residents, citing an example that if a fire truck was in an accident and couldn’t be used, administration has the authority to carry out measures to replace the vehicle.

“What you are suggesting is that administration would not go through with the will of council,” said Miceli.

Miceli added his concern was if unbudgeted expenditures were to come up during the lame duck period, which would start July 27 if six members of the current council don’t run in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Pouget countered that other emergency measures, such as borrowing a fire truck from a neighbouring municipality, could be used but DiCarlo pointed out an emergency road repair that is being done in River Canard would have had to wait until a new council if it occurred during a lame duck period and such a motion wasn’t in place.

“This isn’t something unique to Amherstburg,” said director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, of the motion.

Lavigne had similar comments to Galvin, adding an example of if something happened at the water treatment plant, an expenditure couldn’t be approved until a new council was in place unless such a motion was passed.

“I understand (Pouget’s) concern, that’s why I researched it,” said Lavigne, who noted many municipalities in Ontario pass such motions in election years. “This is 100 per cent common in Ontario. Literally hundreds of municipalities in Ontario have the same motion. Why are we different here in Amherstburg?”

Pouget believed council was giving up some of their rights and while she acknowledged council would be notified of any such expenditure in the lame duck period, “we can’t do anything.”

Fryer said “it’s a matter of trust” and didn’t foresee any major issues and no sale of property, including the 12 remaining acres of Centennial Park that the Greater Essex County District School.

“To put fear in residents that they’ll spend money like drunken sailors is bullcrap,” said Fryer. “That’s not going to happen.”

Fryer’s comments prompted code of conduct concerns, and DiCarlo urged council to be respectful of

other people’s opinions.

Questions and tempers raised as fundraising expenditure discussed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A question over an accounts payable to the Crown Park Corporation that was labelled for Belle Vue fundraising sparked a contentious debate Monday night.

Town council allowed Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, to speak and Prue questioned a few Belle Vue related expenses, with most of them being connected to the ongoing roof construction. When he got to the line about the Crown Park Corporation, he expressed curiosity and told council “we don’t pay for any fundraising.”

CAO John Miceli, after conferring with treasurer Justin Rousseau, said it was not actually for the Belle Vue fundraising but rather a planning study for the Amherstburg Community Foundation for fundraising efforts for all town initiatives.

Miceli said the study looks at raising money for town endeavors without having to rely on going to the taxpayers. A $6,000 payment was listed under the accounts payable section but the CAO indicated it was a $12,000 report.

“There are two payments of $6,000 to tell us how to fundraise?” asked Councillor Jason Lavigne, who also wanted to know who is on the foundation, when they meet and whether council can see minutes of their meetings.

Rousseau indicated the Amherstburg Community Foundation is a “holding account” and that money is reimbursed by the foundation for any cheques the town cuts. He said taxpayer money wasn’t used on the study.

“Who supported the $12,000 is the question,” Lavigne pressed. “Who paid the $12,000 for the study? I think we all want to know.”

Miceli said there are efforts being made to “accelerate” fundraising and that now “we have a study that will help us.” He said that funds raised by the foundation may be used for Belle Vue but research has shown that not all donors want to donate to Belle Vue and those donors may want to give funds to other projects.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said both himself and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale sit on the foundation.

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered if Crown Park Corporation had been hired by the foundation and Miceli said the foundation hadn’t hired anyone. The study was done in order to raise more money for the foundation, with the CAO adding the Belle Vue Conservancy has done a “great job raising money” but other avenues wanted to be explored by the foundation.

Prue emphasized he spoke up because he didn’t understand the fundraising expenditure.

“We’re fundraising for nothing,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he recalled getting updates when the Libro Centre was being built on the fundraising process.

Pouget said she called earlier Monday and was told by Rousseau it was for Belle Vue, and was upset with the responses she was getting at the meeting.

“I expect the treasurer to tell us the truth,” she said. “I am asking on behalf of the constituents.”
Rousseau said he had yet to review the document, and gave Pouget the most accurate information he had when she called.

“I gave you the best information I had this morning,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “If that has fallen short, I apologize.”

Administration is expected to give council more details on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

Angstrom Cr. residents fed up with condition of roadway

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Residents of Angstrom Dr. have had it with the condition of their road and want the town to make it a priority.

The roadway has fallen into disrepair with residents along the street, which runs off of Pointe West Dr., stating they and other neighbours have suffered injuries due to the concrete road cracking and heaving.

A group of concerned neighbours met with the RTT last Wednesday evening and also attended Monday night’s town council meeting. At the latter, council members voiced sympathy to the residents’ plight and will conduct a further investigation into the matter but some were quick to point out other roads need tending to as well.

Zane Handysides represented residents at Monday night’s meeting, telling town council “the road is getting worse as time goes on.”

“It’s becoming a liability for homeowners,” he said. “We just want our road to be repaired. It’s simply disintegrating around us.”

Handysides said they are “looking for a long-term solution” and “we need to get that road on the replacement side, not the repair side. The road is, quite frankly, embarrassing and I believe, unsafe.”

Residents recalled stories to the RTT last week of meeting with prior mayors and council members but not getting anything but patchwork to the road in return.

“I called 13 years ago when I first moved in,” said Nicole Sekela. “I couldn’t believe the state of the road.”

Residents of Angstrom Cr. are looking for
replacement of their road. They note the cement road is cracking and heaving and repairs aren’t doing anything positive.

Roger Racette, another resident on the street, claimed that he has had to replace springs and the sway bar on his vehicle twice due to the state of the road.

Racette said he brought a chunk of concrete to town hall before while said Sekela she called the town daily at one point to seek action. Sekela added that while residents in the rural areas have noise concerns over rumble strips, the cracks along their road make noise too.

“It sounds like someone has a flat tire when they go by,” she said.

Todd Laliberte believes the fact the road is currently concrete works against him, though neighbours believe it would just have to be cut six inches from the curb and removed. The residents say they are simply looking for asphalt.

The residents want Angstrom Dr. moved up on the town’s list of priorities for repair. Patching the road doesn’t work, they state, with Handysides stating last week that it eventually comes up and ends up on their front lawns.

“We’re not looking for anything special,” he said. “Just a normal, paved, asphalt road.”

“We can’t drive straight,” added Sekela last Wednesday, noting they weave around heaving concrete and holes to get off their road.

The road has dropped on the roads needs study, with numbers ranging from 170 to 183, Monday night in terms of where it is placed.

Todd Hewitt, manager of engineering for the town, said some roads are divided into several sections so the same road could be on there multiple times. He said the study was done in 2016 by an independent consultant.

“I’m not disagreeing that the road is in disrepair,” he told council Monday night, but added there are “a number of roads ahead of Angstrom Cr. in the study.

Hewitt gave a rough estimate of $350,000-$400,000 to fix Angstrom Cr.

Residents have been erecting signage along Angstrom Cr. to urge the town to replace the street. (Submitted photo)

Councillor Rick Fryer, who has raised the state of the road before at town council meetings, said the road is “pathetic” and believes it has been forgotten about. He said he was “sick and tired” of hearing of people getting hurt on that road.

“I got hurt on a section of sidewalk that wasn’t repaired by the town,” he reminded his council colleagues.

Fryer added that the town has gone down the roads needs study before and planned to re-do roads that were not at the top of it, citing Creek Road, though public works said Creek Road was second and fifth in the study as it was divided into two sections.

Councillor Jason Lavigne noted there have been recent pleas to look at other roads at recent council meetings, as Concession 2 North and South Riverview Dr. have been discussed at previous meetings. Lavigne acknowledged he is a former Angstrom Cr. resident and said the road is in “horrible condition.” He added his belief that previous councils didn’t spend the money they should have on roads and now the town faces a cost of about $260 million to repair them.

“There’s a lot of road issues we’ve inherited,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche agreed there are other roads that need attention, stating he knows of another road where he said Canada Post won’t even go down it to deliver mail.

“This council is trying to allocate funds to do major repairs and stop band-aid solutions,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We definitely hear (the residents’) point and administration will bring back a report.”

 

 

Parks committee wants remaining Centennial Park acreage put back in parkland inventory

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s parks and recreation advisory committee wants to ensure that at least part of Centennial Park remains Centennial Park.

The committee will be recommending to town council that the 12 acres of Centennial Park that wasn’t sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board return to the parks inventory. There has been concern over the fate of the land after the other 15 acres was sold to the public school board to accommodate a new high school.

The parks and recreation advisory committee met last Wednesday night in the council chambers with CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the opposite end of the chamber ready to address questions. Miceli maintained that the parks master plan, which lists Centennial Park as “N/A” by the consultants, is not finalized and “those 12 acres could be added back into the inventory.”

Councillor Diane Pouget, who is one of two council members on the committee as well as Councillor Jason Lavigne, indicated she didn’t recall any previous statements by Miceli that the 12 acres could be reinserted.

“Unless I’m deaf or hard of hearing, not once did I hear you say it could be added back into the plan,” Pouget told Miceli.

Dante Pagliaroli, who chairs the committee, noted he met with Miceli and that the town still has use of the pool until November and that there was “no plan and nothing definite” for the 12 acres on the north end of the park. Vice chair Pat Catton questioned why the 12 acres was removed from the parks inventory to begin with.

“To remove them, it seems premature,” said Catton. “I don’t understand the prematurity.”

Miceli maintained that the parks master plan remains in draft form and that it shows Amherstburg has an “abundance” of parkland. He reiterated that adding the 12 acres back into the plan “is not a problem.”

“Why take it out in the first place?” Catton pressed.

Miceli responded that the town offered land at Centennial Park and the Libro Centre for the public high school and that if there were errors made in the plan, “we’ll get them adjusted.”
Alex Smith, whose father was H. Murray Smith for whom Centennial Park was named, said he is “adamantly opposed” to any thought of getting rid of the park entirely.

Smith indicated he is in possession of bylaws and related documentation regarding the park being named for his father, a former mayor.

“If you want to test me, test me,” he said.

Smith also wanted to know who approved removing the park from the town’s inventory of parkland.

“I guess it goes to show when someone goes and does something for the town and has been gone for 21 years, you just forget about him,” he said.

Larry Bertrand worried about traffic in the area of Centennial Park when the school is built, adding he lives in the area and “I can’t back out of my driveway now.” Lavigne said the previous council identified moving recreational amenities to the Libro Centre, such as the baseball diamonds, and that it was the school board and the province that wanted Centennial Park.

“The location was chosen by the school board,” he stated, adding the town risked losing the school had they not gone along with it.

Rick Murray stated the issue was the 12 acres and the fact residents “want it back in the master plan. It should be designated as it was before.” Murray said it should stay recreational “which is what the property is designated for.”

Murray added his belief that the park should not be sold as excess land and continue as a recreational site in Murray Smith’s memory.

Lavigne said nothing has been removed and that there are no “behind the scenes” activity going on otherwise.

“If the public decides we want that as a park, no problem. No problem at all,” said Lavigne.

Pouget thanked the residents in attendance for supporting the notion to keep Centennial Park’s 12 remaining acres as parkland but Gord Freeman wondered why there was an in-camera meeting on the issue. Freeman believed that unless a sale was under discussion, the future of the park’s usage should have been done publicly.

Miceli questioned what motion Freeman was referring to and questioned where he was getting his information.

“I’m just assuming,” responded Freeman, “so I’m asking a question.”

John Corbett asked if the new high school has to expand at some point in the future, where they would expand to if the 12 acres are no longer available. He said General Amherst students have been “shortchanged” as it relates to available fields and now they would have to go to the Libro Centre.

Miceli said Centennial Park “has been mismanaged by the town for the last 40 years” and the current council wants to centralize uses at the Libro Centre.

The committee discussed possibly using the 12 acres for a splash pad, tennis courts and other features currently at Centennial Park. Lavigne said some of those could go on the high school’s property, noting the town doesn’t know the plans for the remaining 15 acres after the school itself has been built. Lavigne added that there are no plans for a track at the new school site “even if there was 100 acres.”

There is also 84 acres at the Libro Centre that can be further utilized for recreational purposes.