A Member of NPCA’s Own Advisory Committee Tables Letter of Non-Confidence against Conservation Authority’s Board

“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

Niagara resident and well-known naturalist Albert Garofalo.

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.”

Niagara citizens demonstrating this winter in front of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s offices in Welland. File photo by Doug Draper

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.

Stay Tuned!

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 .

 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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6 responses to “A Member of NPCA’s Own Advisory Committee Tables Letter of Non-Confidence against Conservation Authority’s Board

  1. Albert displayed the heart of a lion in bringing forth this letter. That the NPCA would turn down an audit from the Auditor General and choose instead to pass the tax burden to Niagara taxpayers underlines their need to control the process. There is a displayed fear in regards to this audit. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. If there is nothing to hide let the Auditor General do the audit, free of any interference and at no cost to local taxpayers.

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  2. There were only two Municipalities, Niagara Falls and Wainfleet that recommended that the NPCA implement an AUDIT.
    This is similar to the weasels or foxes guarding the Chicken house and flies in the face of transparency and honesty.

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  3. Michael R. Deeley

    Albert is a well known, respected and qualified environmentalist and teacher. His knowledge of the Niagara ecosystem is extensive and his dedication to it’s preservation is genuine. In addition to the Auditor General’s offer to undertake an audit of the NPCA, the Ontario Government should also review the selection process for board members and their affiliations.

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  4. Gail Benjafield

    I approve Ed Smith’s comments, as well as those of Joseph Somers. For those of us who watched the St. C. City council meeting recently, at which a known Conservative councillor asked that Bruce Timms be allowed to speak — it was astonishing.. Councillors asked direct questions,but Timms evaded all answers, as far as I could see. Even the mayor admonished him to stick to the “‘chronology”of how individuals were appointed to the NPCA, and Timms danced and weaved and spoke only of His Self. OK. Then Diodati goes with Wynne to China for the Thundering Waters Memorandum of Agreement to promote the deal and now the Conservative mayor of Wainfleet, Jeffs, announces she wants to up her position to Provincial Office. We should all despair, except we should also never give up.

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  5. Well done Albert. If you had waited for the endorsement you likely would have been removed from the AC and their agenda’s would be too full to cover it for months. Although I’ll agree this is your opinion if not discussed and endorsed by the AC the bullying that has gone on there has created the need to operate this way. Hopefully that isn’t permanent. They made a huge mistake by firing all those top of the line environmental workers because now they have the best experts in a position where Conflict of Interest (theirs jobs) are no longer an issue.

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  6. Thank you for speaking out Albert! The Niagara Region is a treasure of Carolinian biodiversity, old growth trees and habitats. It is time that the Authority more seriously live up to ‘Conservation’ in its name vs. being a vehicle for easy development approvals.

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