Rick Fryer

Kusmierczyk takes over for Fryer at ERCA chair

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

There is a new chair at the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

Windsor city councillor Irek Kusmierczyk moved up to the chair’s position after spending two years as vice chair. Kusmierczyk was acclaimed as chair while Tecumseh councillor Tania Jobin was elected as vice chair. LaSalle councillor Sue Desjarlais was the other candidate for vice chair.

The positions alternate between the County of Essex and the City of Windsor every two years.

Kusmierczyk takes over from former Amherstburg councillor Rick Fryer. Before departing the board, Fryer paid tribute to his fellow board members.

“Together, we have done a great job in advancing environmental sustainability in the Place for Life,” he said, referencing the ERCA slogan. “I am pleased we had strong relationships with each other over the past few years.”

Fryer also praised ERCA administration, noting they are busy throughout the year. He said Windsor-Essex County is comparable to the Toronto area in terms of the number of permits issued for work being done in their respective areas.

Noting he went to a “dark place” in his own life, Fryer also promoted mental health initiatives including the “Bell Let’s Talk” day happening Jan. 30.

New ERCA chair Irek Kusmierczyk presents a framed photo of Big Creek to outgoing chair Rick Fryer during last Thursday night’s annual general meeting of the Essex Region Conservation Authority.
(RTT Photo by Ron Giofu)

“I don’t want anyone to go to that place,” he said. “It took a toll on me and it took a toll on my family.”
Fryer added it is “very, very difficult” to be an elected official in the age of social media and encouraged others to keep loved ones in the loop if there is something bothering them.

“Hug your family,” he said. “Talk about what is going on.”

Kusmierczyk thanked Fryer “for his leadership and courage, especially tonight,” and presented Fryer with a framed photo of Big Creek as a token of his appreciation for his time as the chair.

Kusmierczyk said a healthy economy and healthy citizens are linked and said he is looking forward to working with his colleagues around the ERCA board table. He considered it “an honour” to be named as the chair.

“The leadership ERCA demonstrates on things like flooding, climate change, urban forest restoration, urban management in terms of managing the growth in our cities as well is absolutely critical to the health of our community,” he said.

Kusmierczyk added that ERCA is in a “great place to demonstrate leadership” as it relates to implementing policies to combat flooding and climate change.

Outgoing town council members say their goodbyes

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A combined 38 years of experience left town council at the Nov. 26 meeting.

The five outgoing town council members bid farewell at the final meeting of the term. Councillor Diane Pouget said her goodbyes after a combined 14 years of service, as she served from 1991-97 and again from 2010-18. Pouget thanked her fellow councillors, including four that “have been my saviours in the past year. You have done a very good job. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to you.”

Pouget also offered her thanks to administration. She said she fielded the most complaints out of all of council and that she would bring those complaints to administration.

“You were always there for me,” said Pouget. “I thank you for that.”

Thanks were also shared with the Amherstburg Police Service, Chief Tim Berthiaume and the Amherstburg Police Services Board. Pouget thanked Berthiaume for his years of service and hoped the transition to the Windsor Police Service would be a smooth one.

Pouget also thanked the public for allowing her to be one of their council members for the last 14 years.

Councillor Leo Meloche, who has now ascended to the deputy mayor’s job, praised Pouget.

“I know she is very passionate about what she does,” said Meloche. “I really respect her for that. She’s a fighter for the people. I wish her the best in whatever she chooses to do.”

Courtney leaves after four years of service as a town councillor. The former Catholic school board trustee thanked Pouget for “everything she has done the last four years. I admire her more than she’ll ever know.”

Courtney also thanked the rest of her colleagues, stating “it’s been a real ride.” She paid tribute to councillors Rick Fryer, Jason Lavigne and Meloche. Of retiring Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, she stated “I just love you Bart. I wish you well in your retirement.” She also thanked the citizens, including the crowd that regularly attends council meetings.

“You keep tabs on us,” she said.

Thanks were also given to Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, treasurer Justin Rousseau and the rest of administration. She referred to clerk Paula Parker and deputy clerk Tammy Fowkes as “my saviours” for all the help they have given her over the last four years.

“It’s been a ride,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne said “I can’t give enough praise to Councillor Pouget,” recalling her days of helping to save General Amherst High School to the present.

“To those lobbing insults, none of you have given what she’s given to the town,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne said he was mentored by Pouget. He added that Fryer helped get him into politics and also thanked Courtney for her support. He also wanted the community to support Meloche as he moved into the deputy mayor role. He also thanked DiPasquale and pointed out his longevity in public service.

Recommending that people “don’t listen to the noise on social media,” Lavigne said he wants the town to move forward.

“I go out of here with my head held high,” he stated.

Fryer also praised his fellow council members. He said Courtney brought her knowledge of the school board to town council and that knowledge “got us through a difficult time.” He added that Lavigne is passionate about what he does and told him he “did an admirable job the last four years.”

Five members of town council said farewell at the Nov. 26 meeting. From left: Councillor Rick Fryer, Councillor Diane Pouget, Councillor Joan Courtney, Councillor Jason Lavigne, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale.

Like Courtney before him, Fryer referred to Meloche as “a numbers guy” and wished him continued good luck over the next four years. However, Fryer also said he would like to see more county dollars flow through Amherstburg and said, “County Road 20 looks like (crap) right now.”

Fryer said Pouget was “like a mom to me” and also pointed out her passion on town issues. He noted Pouget’s passion didn’t waver despite tough family circumstances this past term. He also praised his father Mike, who was also his campaign manager in every election he ran in.

Even though he was defeated in his bid for deputy mayor Oct. 22, Fryer said he was happy because he got an opportunity to represent the residents. He said he was always thinking of the people when he voted. He said that difficult emotional times after his ankle injury, coupled with criticism from members of the public, caused him to contemplate whether he should “get rid of myself” but “the people of Amherstburg kept me up.” He ran for council again, he said, to show “you can rise above that and be a leader in the community.”

Fryer also said that administration did a great job and “we’ve got to keep moving forward.” He believed social media should be used for such things as congratulatory messages but encouraged the community to not to use it as much.

“Get behind the next council and stay the hell off of social media,” said Fryer.

DiCarlo missed the Nov. 26 meeting due to illness. He did send written remarks, that were read by Parker.

“Over the past four years, this council has authorized and implemented many guiding documents that future councils will rely upon – all with a view to improving the quality of life for residents of Amherstburg,” DiCarlo wrote. “The Community Based Strategic Plan, with its extensive public consultation, will help to shape the future of Amherstburg. But the outgoing council did much more than simply authorize the preparation of these documents – they also acted upon them.”

DiCarlo stated that “strategic initiatives” such as the purchases of the former Duffy’s property and the Belle Vue site and the Bell Fibre to the Home initiative were all supported by the town’s Community Based Strategic Plan.

“A progressive council looks beyond four years,” DiCarlo wrote. “That’s what this council has done.”

Of DiPasquale, DiCarlo pointed out DiPasquale’s years of service with the Amherstburg Police Service as well as his eight years as a member of council – the first four as a councillor and the latter four as deputy mayor.

“It was a pleasure to serve with him as a representative on county council,” stated DiCarlo. “We thank him for his service.”

Regarding Pouget, DiCarlo noted her 14 years of public service to the residents of Amherstburg.

“She is a passionate councillor and her work with the parks committee is something that I think the residents will remember for years to come,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo stated that Fryer “has been a continuous advocate for infrastructure as well as environmental issues. The past two years, he has also served as chair of the Essex Region Conservation Authority.”

Of Lavigne, DiCarlo noted that they both served together on the Amherstburg Police Services Board as well as council.

“He has served with passion and commitment,” said DiCarlo of Lavigne.

DiCarlo also thanked Courtney for her service on the 2014-18 council.

“Councillor Courtney brought her experience as a school board representative to the council chamber and served with honour and passion,” he stated in his written remarks.

 

Town council takes no action on integrity commissioner recommendations

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of reports recommending sanctions against council members in two unrelated integrity commissioner investigations has seen no action taken against either council member.

Integrity commissioner Bruce Elman recommended that Councillor Jason Lavigne’s remuneration be suspended for 45 days with council not only rejecting that but also to suspend his pay for one month.

According to Elman’s report, he investigated alleged leaks that came out of a Sept. 10 in-camera meeting and believed that by “circumstantial information” that it proved to be Lavigne who committed the leak. Lavigne has vehemently denied that accusation.

Elman said two of the four council members at that meeting – councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer -would have had no reason to contact Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic with information. He said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was “outraged” by the leak, leaving only Lavigne.

Elman also referred to two calls placed by Lavigne to clerk Paula Parker about in-camera information and the discussion thereof. He also stated that Lavigne and Rozankovic were not co-operative during the investigation and that Lavigne refused to sign a “Statement of Assurance.”

“Councillor Lavigne’s reluctance to meet to discuss the disclosure of the confidential information – the first time that this has happened to me in the eight years I have been doing integrity work – leads me to the strong inference that Councillor Lavigne was the individual who leaked the information from the in-camera council meeting to Bob Rozankovic,” Elman wrote in his report.

Elman stated in his report that he wrote to Rozankovic by e-mail a total of eight times.

“Each time I was either rebuffed or put off to some future time. Finally, on Oct. 24, he indicated that he would not speak to me on the pretense that ‘the agenda behind this investigation is lacking in legitimacy.’ I responded that “there is no ‘agenda’ behind this investigation; nor is it ‘lacking in legitimacy.’”

Elman told town council he believed the investigation could have been avoided if the information was shared from the beginning.

“Either one of them could have stood up and said this is how it happened and this is why it happened and we’re sorry,” said Elman.

Pouget pointed out that the mayor was supposed to contact an investigator to look into administration’s role but that has not come in yet. She believed it was premature and didn’t think council should be dealing with the issue Monday night.

There was also a meeting in CAO John Miceli’s office before the special Sept. 17 meeting, Pouget claimed, and that Councillor Rick Fryer was on Miceli’s computer. Fryer would put a motion forward at the Sept. 17 meeting to have Lavigne and Rozankovic removed from the APSB but it was defeated.

Fryer said he never touched Miceli’s computer and that there have been “allegations all over the place.” He said he wanted Rozankovic and Lavigne removed from the board for the investigation only, adding something could have been done that night had someone come forward with the information.

Pouget responded that people had already been “publicly lynched” and that “the only thing we didn’t do that night was tar and feather them. They were already found guilty by some.”

Lavigne said he will defend his actions and that of Rozankovic and that “I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.” He said the APSB has been discredited for several months.

In a written statement, Lavigne stated “I would like to take the opportunity to set the record straight. At no time did I divulge any confidential material to Bob Rozankovic.” Lavigne said there was an in-camera meeting of the board in late-August where information was obtained from Windsor Chief Al Frederick. Administration provided council with a report that contained the confidential meeting from the board’s in-camera meeting at an in-camera meeting of council Sept. 10, Lavigne maintained and that he pointed that out to Rozankovic that confidential information that Rozankovic was already aware of was shared with council. Lavigne said Rozankovic then contact DiCarlo with that information.

“The integrity commissioner investigation was designed to find me at fault from the start in my opinion and after seeing how one of these reports was used against Windsor Councillor Rino Bortolin as a political tool, I decided it was not in my best interest to continue to co-operate. There is a a reason these investigations are generally not done during an election and Mr. Elman made our clerk aware of this fact. It was very apparent that there was an attempt to complete an investigation as quickly as possible and, in my opinion, it would have influenced the election and unfairly discredited Mr. Rozankovic and myself,” Lavigne wrote. “I leave this position with my head held high knowing I did not do what some have accused me of.”

Elman’s written report also stated that he believes the new council should be aware of the report for when it makes its committee appointments next term.

In a written statement to the RTT, Rozankovic stated: “By both the Town’s Code of Conduct, and more importantly the Police Service Act Code of Conduct for Police Board Members, neither Mr. Lavigne nor myself have done anything wrong and been the subjects of a ludicrous investigation that had no legitimacy. Mr. Lavigne fulfilled his obligation per Provincial Legislation (Police Service Act), legislation that supersedes any municipal policy. The Integrity Commissioner had no purview to investigate me as a Police Board Member, and he stated this. Yet he decided to pronounce judgement and as such defamed my character in a public forum. This investigation was rooted in vindictiveness on the part of certain individuals.”

Council voted 3-2 not to sanction Lavigne. The motion to suspend his pay failed with Councillor Joan Courtney, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Pouget voting against and Fryer and Meloche being in favour. DiCarlo was not at the meeting due to illness and Lavigne declared conflict during the discussion in council chambers.

As the discussion went into accusations over conduct by Councillor Diane Pouget, Elman noted that he “slowed down the report” as not to have it come out during an election season. Miceli filed the complaint against Pouget over comments made at in-camera meetings both in 2017 and 2018 and comments made at a public meeting in 2018.

“It is clear from the documents filed in this Complaint that there is no love lost between Mr. Miceli and

Councillor Pouget. Councillor Pouget did not vote in favour of Mr. Miceli’s appointment and it is apparent that she still believes that he was the wrong person for the position. Mr. Miceli believes, with some justification,  that the Councillor continues to question his capabilities and his integrity and that she is trying to undermine his authority in those areas of responsibility reserved for the CAO,” Elman’s written report concluded as it relates to the second report on council’s agenda.

Elman added later in his report that “Councillor Pouget may have legitimate questions, for example about hiring of staff, but those questions should be directed to inquiring whether the Council-determined policies have been followed. It is the CAO’s job to hire staff and, if Council policies have been observed, it is not Council’s role to second guess the CAO.”

Pouget did not participate in the discussion during the meeting, but a written response from her was part of the agenda package.

“It is important to note, that Mr. Miceli did not file a complaint about the August 21, 2017 In-camera meeting until July 6, 2018, almost one year after the meeting and only a few weeks before I decided to run for Deputy Mayor,” Pouget wrote. “In Mr. Miceli’s complaint to you, Mr. Miceli provided inaccurate wording and information, that I challenged and corrected. This was verified with a copy of an audio. Further to that, I did not use bad language and I did not raise my voice. In  fact, not one member of Council including the mayor stated, that they found my words ‘insulting’ and not one member of Council commented on this exchange of words. In fact, there were no further comments about this meeting, until a complaint was issued by John Miceli almost one year later, right at election time.”

Pouget was also concerned over the timing of the investigation over her complaints of being harassed and bullied. Another issue was over a discussion over money related to Belle Vue fundraising and that occurred after a motion was passed allowing Miceli controls during the lame duck session.

“This motion was meant to protect our taxpayers, yet Mr. Miceli filed a complaint accusing me of not trusting his professional judgment. I believe it was my right to try and protect our taxpayers during this lame duck period,”  she stated in her written submission to Elman.

Fryer believed by not supporting Elman’s findings, it would send the wrong message to the new council and to the community. Councillor Leo Meloche said he witnessed the events and while “I have the utmost respect for council and staff, everyone needs to be treated with respect.”

Lavigne shot back, stating there are members of council that violate the code of conduct by what they have recently said on social media, referencing Meloche and recent comments on Facebook.

Council voted 3-2 to simply receive the report on the Pouget-related investigation with Courtney, DiPasquale and Lavigne in favour and Meloche and Fryer against.

Miceli stated after the meeting that he will defend his reputation and his staff and would file a complaint again if he felt the need. According to Miceli, he said he has had to endure having his capabilities questioned for the last four years. He said council supports one another and believed the decision not to seek sanctions was “par for the course” with the outgoing council.

 

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.

Town encouraging residents to participate in flooding subsidy programs

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Oct. 6 rain event caused flooding in town, much of which was in the Kingsbridge subdivision, and the town is hoping more people take part in the flooding subsidy program.

According to a report from the town’s public works department that appeared as a supplementary agenda item at last Tuesday night’s council meeting, 41 homes had reported flooding with 30 of them coming from the Kingsbridge area. Six incidents of flooding were reported from the Pointe West subdivision while five reports came from other areas.

As of mid-day Thursday, that number had grown to 54 homes across Amherstburg.

The town has stated that the storm water and wastewater systems were both fully functional “at all times, before, during and after the storm.”

“It is difficult to determine the exact cause of every home’s flooding as not all homes within the flooding areas were subject to basement flooding or the same underlying cause,” the report stated. “Protecting each home from basement flooding is the best defence.”

The report, signed by director of engineering and public works Antonietta Giofu, outlines work done to the Amherstburg sewer system since the 1970’s. Part of it notes the 2017 voluntary basement flooding protection subsidy program that council established, which sees the town subsidize such items as downspout disconnection, foundation drain disconnection, backwater valve installation and sump pump overflow programs. A portion of the 2018 Edgewater forcemain project also sees one of the Edgewater lagoon cells being converted into a temporary wet weather storage cell.

Approximately 40 residents have taken advantage of the voluntary basement flooding protection subsidy program, the town states. That was initiated after the 2017 rain event that hit McGregor.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he had an inch of water in his Texas Road basement and wanted to know how much water hit the area. In a 30-minute period between 7:20 p.m. and 7:50 p.m., the area experienced 36.4mm of rainfall at an average intensity of 116.9 mm/hr. A rainfall intensity of over 98.9mm/hr in a 30-minute period qualifies as a 1:100 year storm.

Fryer believed additional measures need to be looked at, noting 1:100 year storms are happening more frequently.

“It’s more like one in 10 year storms,” he said.

Fryer, who also chairs the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) board of directors, said “it is climate change. There’s no doubt about it.”

Citing the report, Councillor Diane Pouget pointed out that the town has been taking action to prevent flooding since the 1970’s. She asked if another garbage collection day could be added but was told by administration that Windsor Disposal Services (WDS) was contacted and they are going to try to stick to the same schedule, but add another date if one proves necessary.

CAO John Miceli said town council has taken a “leadership role” in trying to address the flooding matters and urged residents to take part in the basement flooding protection subsidy program. He said the town is trying to mitigate the issues but indicated more residents need to take part in the program.

“If you haven’t already notified the town, please do so,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “The key to fixing the problems is knowing where they are. We have been and continue to investigate. There are quite a few homes and we want to do it properly.”

DiCarlo said the system worked the way it is supposed to and that every municipality builds sewer systems to a 1:100 year storm standard. Storm totals “far exceeded” the 1:100 year standard, he said, and that there is no municipal system that could have handled that amount of rain that quickly.

DiCarlo also encouraged people to take part in the subsidy program, noting that some of the issues could have been avoided. New builds do not connect downspouts to the storm sewers and also have backflow valves, with DiCarlo adding that other residents are able to access the program.

For those residents who haven’t already reported flooding problems from the Oct. 6 storm to the town, they are asked to call the public works department at 519-736-3664.