– A Response To What Timms Calls ‘Recent Allegations” Made Against The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
A Statement from Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Chair and St. Catharines Regional Councillor Timms, as posted this November 24th on the Conservation Authority’s website.
Posted November 24th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
(A Brief Foreword Note from NAL publisher Doug Draper – Some readers may very well wonder why Niagara At Large is posting the following statement from NPCA Chair Bruce Timms.
I would respond to anyone who wonders with two quick reasons.
First, I believe it is only right and fair that all citizens across this greater Niagara region and Hamilton/Haldimand area whose taxdollars help fund the NPCA’s operations read Timms’ response to some of the recent allegations being made against that body and at least some those who run it.
Second, I am posting this statement in the spirit of an old saying I happen to place a lot of stock in – ‘When someone you would rather see the back of is digging themselves a hole, never take away the shovel.’
So in that spirit I am posting Timms’s statement here in its entirety, followed by a link you can click on to read the November 21st, Postmedia article he takes such exception to.
In the days ahead, this Niagara At Large journalist and publisher will have more to say about the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the reasons why I believe it would now be in the best interest of taxpayers and people who care about environmental conservation in this greater Niagara region to completely scrap this body and turn the conservation areas it has been entrusted to care for over to the divison of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry now responsible for looking after provincial parks.
In the meantime, here is NPCA Chair Bruce Timm’s statement.)
I am extremely disappointed in the article published in Postmedia publications on Nov. 21, regarding the alleged improprieties at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA).
Although Postmedia referred to portions of the letter sent by our legal counsel to Ed Smith with respect to false and defamatory statements in the unsigned document he has circulated, Postmedia omitted crucial facts in the letter, and many other details, which are part of the public record of the NPCA.
Of greatest concern, the Postmedia article omitted that the unsigned document contains fake business records, which were fabricated by the author of the document to support its false accusations about the NPCA. The document is unsigned because the author knows that it contains falsehoods and fabricated documents.
This is not the first time defamatory statements have been made in the public domain about the NPCA. During the May 19, 2016, Regional Council meeting, I stood on the point of privilege to correct the record. The delegation (heard in its entirety) was ruled out-of-order after the majority of my peers supported my motion. My rebuttal to each of the inaccuracies is available publicly in the meeting minutes. Regional Chair, Alan Caslin felt it appropriate to issue an apology on behalf of Regional Council for allegations and defamatory statements made by the presenter.
It must be noted that the identifiable individuals who have come forward on these matters are the same persons that voiced their concerns with biodiversity offsetting in the early part of 2016. This group has demonstrated that they do not understand the mandate of Conservation Authorities and the regulatory role we have concerning Provincially Significant Wetland. As the focus of the Thundering Waters development has shifted away from the NPCA, and towards the Ontario Municipal Board, City of Niagara Falls, and the Province, this group has lost focus of their valid concerns. Today, we are facing a group that is trying to discredit us through a smear campaign, which includes complete fabrications.
Citizens have the right to form their opinion, and express that opinion freely. The expression of conscience is a fundamental right within our society. However, in this instance, misleading and defamatory statements have been circulated and are being misrepresented as facts. Our legal counsel has advised us that several of the remarks made are unlawful, and we have asked that the public record be corrected. The account that Postmedia has presented is one that troubles me. There is an overabundance of information available to the public, and Postmedia had all of it at their disposal. The opportunity to write a story that was balanced and fair was present, yet overlooked.
The unsigned document in question calls for accountability and transparency at the NPCA. The NPCA is leading the province in this area. Our Audited Financial Statements are available to all through our website, and in 2016, we hired our first-ever Certified Management Accountant. At each Board Meeting, we are presented with a financial update from our staff. These financial reports are available on our website. Only two other Conservation Authorities update the Board this often. And, we are the only Conservation Authority that live-broadcasts our Board of Directors meetings online. We have instituted best practices which value a significant amount of public consultation accompanied by pragmatic customer service.
The NPCA has been transforming itself in recent years to reflect the needs of the community. In 2012, the NPCA began developing its inaugural Strategic Plan. The project involved two years of comprehensive internal and external consultation that brought many opposing views into the same room to debate the future of the NPCA. The plan introduced many new policies concerning accountability and transparency. Today, approximately 85% of the deliverables of the Strategic Plan are complete and has resulted in faster turn-around times, and an organization better suited to serving the public and the environment.
Through the implementation of the Strategic Plan, we have also executed a restructuring of staff in late 2013. We heard many concerns from the public during our Strategic Plan consultation and needed to put their needs first. This resulted in a reprioritization of certain areas of the organization at the same level of financial resources. Restructuring an organization can be controversial. I can assure you that the NPCA has followed all policies and legislative guidelines regarding the severance and addition of staff. In fact, before the Strategic Plan, the NPCA had not employed any Human Resources staff. The Plan identified the gap, and in 2014 we added the Human Resources Specialist role. This position ensures our hiring practices are equitable and fair. We have also developed a recruitment policy – NPCA’s first since inception.
We have provided more information than ever about our Board of Directors to the public, including how to contact them, how they are appointed, and an annual reporting tool for their event participation. We have developed a Community Liaison Advisory Committee where we seek advice and report to community representatives (environment, agriculture, landowners, development, industry, and user sectors). We provide quarterly updates to our stakeholders and member municipalities. Many Conservation Authorities do not go this far. I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I applaud the efforts of our staff to transform the organization into one that is setting the bar high regarding open, transparent, and accountable governance.
The Board and Staff at the NPCA have been following our provincial legislation and internal policies in every respect. This includes human resources, purchasing, and governance. We have developed policy and regulation regarding tendering, purchasing, and human resources, which are adhered to. We follow legislation regarding all matters of the Authority, including the disclosure of records through the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The fact of the matter is, the defamatory statements being made about the NPCA are baseless, false, and half-truths accompanied by misleading and fabricated information. We will continue to do the good work we do as legislated by the province and continue to be a leader in transparency and accountability.
Now here is the link to the November 21st Postmedia article Bruce Timms is responding to – http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2016/11/21/npca-lawyers-threaten-whistleblower .
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