“The current board of directors of the NPCA has lost the public’s confidence. … Their actions have demonstrated governance issues that speak to poor use of public funds, poor management of Niagara’s natural heritage and poor treatment of valued employees.” – from an open letter tabled this past Thursday, March 23rd by Albert Garofalo, a respected naturalist and member of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Community Liaison Advisory Committee.
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted March 24rth, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Albert Garofalo – a Niagara resident and professional biologist representing environmental clubs and groups in the region on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Community Liaison Advisory Committee – tabled a toughly worded letter at the end of one of the committee’s meetings this March 23rd.
The letter, tabled by Garofalo as the committee’s chair, Sandy Annunciata, opened the floor to “other business,” calls on the councils of all municipalities within the Niagara watershed the NPCA has a mandate to care for, including Niagara’s 12 municipalities, the City of Hamilton and Haldimand County, to “withdraw their municipally appointed representatives to the Conservation Authority board and direct Premiere Kathleen Wynne to appoint a third party manager to immediately oversee day to day operations of the NPCA.”
The letter goes on to ask municipalities to refrain from having an appointed member on the board “until such time that the Auditor General’s offer to perform an independent, third party operational review/audit, as approved by the board on January 18, 2017, at no direct cost to property taxpayers in the NPCA funding municipalities, is accepted and completed.”
“Once the Auditor General’s audit is made public,” continues the letter, “a new board should be selected based on the guidelines and publicly advertised appointment process that is detailed in the Town of Pelham motion of February 6, 2017.”
Garofalo’s action represents the first time a member of the NPCA’s Community Liaison Advisory Committee (CLAC) – a committee once called “the conscience of the NPCA” by the Conservation Authority’s former CAO Carmen D’Angelo and assembled every two months to help guide the NPCA’s operations – and follows in the wake of growing numbers of Niagara citizens, local municipal councils and MPPs raising concerns about the way the NPCA does business and demanding an independent investigation, including a forensic/value for dollar audit, of its operations.
It also follows in the wake of a recent offer made by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk to perform an audit – an offer NPCA board members and managers claim they were not in a position to embrace at this time.
This past Monday, March 20th, councillors for the City of St. Catharines unanimously supported a motion, urging the NPCA’s board to get back to the province’s Auditor General and accept her offer. An amendment to that motion, supported by all but two council members, supported withholding the city’s portion of the roughly $7 million the NPCA receives annually from local municipalities ($1.7 million in the case of St. Catharines) to cover its costs.
Other municipalities across the Niagara municipality are now considering following St. Catharines’ lead and that of Pelham’s town council, which recently passed a motion that would make changes to the way NPCA board members are chosen to ensure that at least a majority of its members have a background in the area of conservation and environmental protection.
Garofalo’s tabling of the letter this March 23rd received a rocky response from a few CLAC committee members, including Fort Erie regional councillor and NPCA board chair Sandy Annunziata, who called it “out of order” at one point, then saying it would have been better if Garofalo simply leaves it until other committee members have a chance to read it and decide whether they want to support it at the next meeting, two months down the line.
John Whyte, a co-chair of CLAC and member of Niagara’s developers community, echoed Annunziata’s request and urged Garofalo not to share the letter with other parties in any way that gives others the impression it has the endorsement of the committee.
“I appreciate that it not be circulated in the guise of the committee,” said Whyte, because “that is a falsehood.”
Garofalo told members of the media later that he is confident the letter will get the support of a majority of the eight members of the committee who are not employed by area municipalities or the NPCA and therefore cannot take a position on its contents.
He also said he plans to move ahead now and circulate the letter to all area municipalities for their consideration since the time to take advantage of the Ontario Auditor General’s offer to audit the NPCA is now.
Niagara At Large will be posting more news and commentary on this and related issues involving the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in the days and weeks ahead.
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .