Joan Courtney

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.

(UPDATE — Town administration stated Friday that the recount will occur Nov. 21.)

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.

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.

Council members debate road repairs, roads needs study

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Questions have been raised by council members over road repairs and the roads needs study thanks to a report about Angstrom Cr.

A report from the town’s public works department regarding Angstrom Cr. indicates that a re-inspection of the road now falls within the “1-5 Year” category for scheduled improvements rather than the previous “6-10 Year” category that it was originally listed as after an Oct. 2016 visual inspection. The most recent visual inspection was in July 2018.

Councillor Jason Lavigne questioned the roads needs study, done in 2016, and wondered how reliable it was if a road were to switch categories so quickly. Lavigne asked if there were other roads that would have shifted categories in that short of a timeframe and whether the town could be in a different situation as it relates to paying for road repairs.

CAO John Miceli reminded council they agreed to a 10-year program where $1.4 million is budgeted for reconstruction of rural and semi-urban roads as well as major resurfacing of the urban roads in the “now” category.

In response to Lavigne’s concerns, Miceli said Angstrom Cr. “could have been on the cusp” when the 2016 study was compiled and that the information contained in the new report is not alarming. Angstrom Cr. is a concrete panel road, Miceli stated, and that “it’s shifting and there are challenges with the freeze and thaw cycle.”

Councillor Rick Fryer said it took three to four weeks of complaints from residents of that Pointe West subdivision street to get the street looked at again. He believed the town “may as well make it a dirt road. It’s better than what they have now.”

Residents erected signage earlier this year along Angstrom Cr. to urge the town to replace the street. The issue came up again at the Sept. 10 town council meeting.

Fryer stated “the plan doesn’t work,” in reference to the roads needs study, and believed more investment needs to be made in roads, possibly with increased taxes or levies for roads, “but they need to be done.”

“We need to start paying attention to the residents,” said Fryer. “We need to change the mindset of what we’re doing because the $1.4 million isn’t working.”

Miceli responded that prior to the current council, there was no money that was pre-committed to roadwork.

“We’ve made great strides with this council in doing road repairs,” said Miceli.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau agreed, noting that $15 million has been invested in four years into roads. Rousseau did acknowledge that while the town is moving as quickly as possible, “it’s never going to be as fast as some may like.”

Fryer added that “pet projects should never come before a road.”

Councillor Leo Meloche believed there are roads in “horrible” condition, relaying issues from farmers who are concerned about equipment and heavy machinery tipping on rural roads due to the uneven surfaces.

“I don’t know if we’re catching up at this rate,” said Meloche.

Councillor Diane Pouget stated that she doesn’t want residents to think roads are being neglected but they are also not trying to raise taxes significantly. She noted that money had to be spent on other things as well, including flooding matters.

Councillor Joan Courtney worried that bumping up Angstrom Cr. on the list of priority roads could be “precedent setting” and that if the town were to repair it ahead of other roads listed in the study, how many people would come to council looking for repairs on their roads.

“We have so many roads that need to be done,” said Courtney. “The public works department has a big job.”

Town gets update on pot legalization

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has directed administration to hold a public consultation session with regards to the community impact on the legalization of cannabis and administration will also bring back a report with information on the province’s one-time opt-out option to host private retail cannabis outlets.

Council members received an update Monday night from manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli, who stated that while a public meeting will be held this term of council, it will be the next term of council that will be making decisions on the matter.

However, there are still questions municipalities have of the Ontario government and there are also concerns with what constitutes a nuisance and how such nuisance complaints would be handled by the municipalities.

“There’s an anticipated impact as it relates to nuisances and odours. There will be some additional enforcement required, but a lot of it is public education,” said Rubli, adding the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will be of assistance as it relates to educating the public.

In a written report to council, Rubli noted that in April 2017, the federal government introduced Bill C-45, also known as The Cannabis Act, and Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

“These pieces of legislation plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to recreational cannabis in Canada. The federal Bill C-45 is the overarching legislative framework that provides rules specifically to regulate the production, distribution, selling and possession of recreational cannabis. This Bill received royal assent in June 2018 and will come into force Oct. 17, 2018,” her report stated.

Rubli added that in December 2017, the Province of Ontario responded with corresponding legislation, the Cannabis Act, 2017 and the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 (OCRCA, 2017).

“This provincial legislation will provide the regulatory framework for the purchase and use of recreational cannabis in Ontario,” she stated.

The legislation will prohibit the sale of recreational cannabis to anyone under the age of 19, prohibit the use of recreational cannabis in all public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, prohibit youth (under 19) from possessing, cultivating, consuming and sharing any amount of recreational cannabis, address illegal selling, including storefront dispensaries, allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis and allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household.

“Concurrently, this legislation strengthens the penalties for supplying cannabis to under-aged youth and for impaired driving. However in August 2018, the provincial government confirmed their plans to introduce legislation to allow the private sector to retail recreational cannabis in Ontario by April 1, 2019. This will change the intent of the OCRCA, 2017 that was to establish a new Crown corporation, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) to sell cannabis and related products through a network of dedicated storefronts and an online channel,” Rubli’s report stated. “In the interim and as of Oct. 17, consumers 19 or older will be able to purchase recreational cannabis through an online retail platform operated by the Ontario Cannabis Store. The Minister of Finance also confirmed that municipalities will have  the ability for a one-time opting out of having a retail store in their communities.”

“This is going to be brand new for all us,” said Councillor Joan Courtney. “I hope the new council has fun with it.”

Courtney said she attended an Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference and the issue was raised that a definition of nuisance has not been clearly established. She was concerned that municipalities could face issues with enforcement and that it would present added workloads to bylaw enforcement officers.

“This is a political minefield that we’re getting into with this,” said Courtney.

CAO John Miceli shared much of Courtney’s concerns, saying “I don’t think we’re going to be on the winning end” of the issue. He agreed that additional resources may be required on the enforcement end.

“It’s going to be a big education (process) for residents and future councils,” he said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said no one has figured out the nuisance issue as of yet, including U.S. states that have legalized marijuana.

“It doesn’t seem any state has figured it out yet,” he said. “It’s going to be a process.”

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out there could be WSIB issues with police and bylaw officers facing additional exposure to cannabis. However, he compared the issue with that of the gas tax in that money could flow back to municipalities.

“Get on the bandwagon,” said Fryer. “There is going to be a revenue stream heading back to municipalities.”

Councillor Leo Meloche noted there is the issue of proximity to other municipalities that has to be considered.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said municipalities are “in limbo” with regards to the matter and that more communication needs to come from the province.  More information is expected in October and that leaves municipalities a short time to decide to opt-in or not. Both he and Rubli noted municipalities can opt-out one time and then opt back in.

“To me, it should be called the opt-in clause,” he said. “If you do opt in, there’s no getting out.”

DiCarlo said he has heard from people interested in opening private shops and knows those people, as well as those opposed to such businesses, are anxious to see the next steps and noted there will be opportunities for public feedback.

Rubli, who is part of a town “task force” on the issue, also said she has heard from people interested in running retail stores or lounges.

“We want to ensure that we’re touching as many residents as we can to see what the town residents want and feel about cannabis storefronts,” she said.