Leo Meloche

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.

Changes necessary to Belle Vue roof project, CAO says project still underbudget

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has been advised of changes to the roof restoration project at Belle Vue that will cost an additional $111,400 plus HST.

However, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) says that despite the extra costs, the project still remains underbudget.

According to a report from treasurer Justin Rousseau, town council approved $325,000 in the 2018 capital budget for the project, $250,000 of which is to be funded from donations. The roof was identified as the top priority in restoring the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion.

“During the construction phase of the project, additional structural issues have been identified and change orders have been requested,” Rousseau’s report stated.

Work began in the summer of 2018 and administration was presented “with a series of issues” that consultant ERA Architects Inc. identified during construction.

“The issues they identified would have not been known at the time of tender as the initial scope of the work was determined based on a non-invasive review of the structure,” Rousseau stated in his report.

The additional issues include sill beam repair and replacement, soffit replacement, eave components, fascia mounted copper gutters, face nailing detail, in-laid gutter supports, brick pier rebuilding and eve painting.

Rousseau noted that the town received confirmation from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places that the town was approved for support up to $100,000 for improvements to Belle Vue and that the grant was applied for by the town “to help offset the cost of construction and further the cause of the restoration efforts.”

Change orders to the Belle Vue roof replacement project sparked a recent debate at town council. (Photo courtesy of the Belle Vue Conservancy Facebook page)

“The 2018 capital budget includes $325,000 for the Belle Vue restoration project. Project funding is based on receipt of $250,000 from donations and the balance from the general tax levy,” Rousseau stated in his report. “However, the budget did not account for the additional grant revenue of $100,000. These grant funds will be used to help offset the additional unexpected cost from the change orders being recommended by ERA Architects Ltd.”

Councillor Leo Meloche said he “thought this might happen” and wondered how much tax money would be spent on the project.

CAO John Miceli pointed out that the original budget was for $325,000 but now they have received a $100,000 grant. The total cost of the project is now estimated at $396,760 but Miceli said they now have $425,000 set aside thanks to the grant.

“We are still underbudget with the grant funding,” said the CAO.

Miceli noted there were items that need repairing that were hidden below the soffit and that efforts are being made to restore the soffit to its original condition.  Meloche said he disagreed with the approach taken, believing that a more invasive investigation should have been done on Belle Vue to get the full picture on what was needed to repair the roof.

Meloche also questioned why the repairs to the town-owned building still weren’t subject to review by the town’s heritage committee. Meloche is the council representative on that committee and questioned whether the town was “skirting our own rules but not getting the heritage committee involved” in the matter.

“Any homeowner has to come before us and get an approval,” said Meloche.

Councillor Rick Fryer opposed the town spending more money on Belle Vue, saying road projects such as Angstrom Cr. need it more.

“People drive on roads every day,” said Fryer.

Miceli noted that town council had already approved the budget for Belle Vue.

“If you are asking me to reallocate money from Belle Vue to Angstrom Cr., that’s a different situation,” said Miceli.

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 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.