Pelham Council Fires Back at Niagara Regional Councillors’ Charges of Fiscal Mismanagement by the Town

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted April 4th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – It was “a slander and attack” on the Town of Pelham’s “credibility” by some Niagara regional councillors, said Pelham council member Gary Accursi who tabled a toughly worded motion this past Monday, April 3rd in defence of how well he believes Pelham’s council and staff manage the town’s finances.

Pelham town councilor tables motions, leading counter-attack against Port Colborne regional councilor David Barrick’s charges that Pelham has mismanaged its financial operations.

“Let’s call a spade a spade,” added Accursi of a lengthy and of a motion David Barrick, a Port Colborne regional councillor who is also chair of the Region’s budget and corporate services committees and senior manager at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), aimed at Pelham – charging that the town’s finances are in such bad shape, they could cause Niagara’s regional government to end up with a negative credit rating that ultimately hurts every taxpayer in the region.

Barrick’s motion, seconded by Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale at a March 30th meeting of the Region’s council and verbally supported by Grimsby regional councillor Tony Quirk (a member of the NPCA’s board of directors), meeting, had at least something to do with earlier motions passed by Pelham’s council, calling (as a number of other local municipalities have) for an independent audit and full investigation of the NPCA’s financial operations, and for a change in the way NPCA board members (11 of which now sit on Niagara regional council) are appointed, Accursi charged.

Not just one, but two motions tabled by Accursi in response to the March 30th decision by a majority of regional councillors to refer Barrick’s dire picture of Pelham’s finances to a June 12th audit committee meeting, were passed unanimously by the town’s council.

And in a follow-up statement released by the Town of Pelham this April 4th under the heading; “Council United in Rejection of Regional Councillor’s Motion,” the town’s council said; “At the April 3, 2017, Pelham Town Council meeting, unanimous support was given to a motion put forth by Councillor Gary Accursi, wholly rejecting Niagara Regional Councillor David Barrick’s motion “Regional Taxpayer Affordability Guide”, as presented at the March 30, 2017, Niagara Regional Council meeting.”

The Pelham motions also state that the town will soon hold a public meeting to answer the charges raised in Barrick’s motion and will invite Barrick and other regional representatives to appear as a delegation to address their concerns.

The Town of Pelham has also prepared 335 pages of facts and figures aimed at countering each and every negative assessment Barrick has made with respect to the town’s books.

Grimsby regional councilor Tony Quirk

In the wake of Pelham council’s motions and the statement it released this April 4th, Grimsby regional councilor Tony Quirk made the following comment on Facebook; “I certainly appreciate the Town of Pelham’s Mayor Dave Augustyn and Council inviting myself and Councillor David Barrick to attend a public meeting,” stated the Grimsby regional councillor, but “ultimately, they do not answer to Clr Barrick and myself, but to the taxpayers of Pelham.”

“The 335 (page) report was comprehensive,” added Quirk  “but did not, in fact, answer critical questions. In fact, there were some concerning statements in one section and some critical omissions with respect to incurred debt by the Town.”

“I will share my concerns at the June 12 Audit Committee meeting when we discuss the motion.”

In response to Quirk’s Facebook statement, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn shared the following observations this April 4th with Niagara At Large –

Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn

“First, Councillor Quirk states that “ultimately [Town Council] does not answer to Councillor Barrick or to him”; yet, he states he will ask questions at a Regional audit meeting…. This argument is illogical and self-contradictory,” states the mayor. 

“Second, the Councillor eludes to “critical” or “omitted” portions of the Town’s 335-page report, but provides no detail or proof. According to the dictionary that’s fear-mongering: “the tactic of purposely and needlessly arousing public fear about an issue.”

“Finally,” said Augustyn, “while Councillors Quirk and Barrick and I each have political science degrees, none of us are accountants or have a financial designation. Pelham Council and I rely on those with public accounting designations to handle and audit these financial transactions.”

What follows, in full, are the two April 3rd motions, tabled by Pelham councillor Gary Accursi, and passed unanimously by the town’s council

Motion One

Whereas the Council of the Town of Pelham and the staff of the Town of Pelham pride themselves in conducting the business of the Corporation in an open and transparent manner with a concerted effort toward thoroughness, honesty, integrity and with the best interest of the citizens of Pelham in mind; and

Whereas the Council of the Town of Pelham  employs both internal staff and external consultants who are highly qualified professionals to carry out the business of the Corporation in all areas  and specifically with respect to finance, planning, development charges and legal matters; and

Whereas  Niagara Regional Councillors Barrick and Gale put forward a motion at the Region of Niagara Council meeting of March 30, 2017  which specifically questions the integrity and management abilities of the Council, Staff and Professional Consultants hired by the Town of Pelham; and

Whereas this motion contained egregious information in its facts and assertions further undermining the Council and Staff of the Town of Pelham and their Professional Consultants; and

Whereas the Town of Pelham prepared and circulated to the Members of Regional Council a 335 page response to the false and misleading assertions contained in the motion made by the Regional Councillors Barrick and Gale; and

Whereas the Council of the Region of Niagara on Thursday March 30, 2017 failed to deal with this motion and deferred dealing with it by referring it to the Regional Audit Committee meeting scheduled for June of 2017, thereby perpetuating the myths and falsehoods created by this motion and allowing the undermining of the Council, Staff and Professional Consultants of the Town of Pelham to linger, despite overwhelming evidence that the factual material in the motion was false; and

Whereas this action prevented the Mayor for the Town of Pelham from addressing this motion despite the fact that Councillors Barrick and Quirk were in fact allowed to speak to the motion and to allude to impropriety on behalf of the Town of Pelham; and

Whereas the Town of Pelham takes its fiscal responsibility very seriously and the un-researched, undocumented, and anecdotal Motion misleads and misrepresents the Town’s financial position:

Now Therefore Be It Resolved That:

  1. Town of Pelham Staff be directed to immediately organize a public meeting in a suitable large venue within the Town of Pelham to answer any questions put forward by the citizens of Pelham with respect to the questions raised in this motion.  A panel consisting of the Town’s Legal Counsel, Auditors, Development Charges Consultants, Senior Staff and Council shall be available to address these questions;
  2. That the members of Council make themselves available to present at any local service club or recognized group of the Town regarding this matter as requested and accompanied by appropriate Staff;
  3. That staff be directed to prepare an Executive Summary response to address the Regional Motion which shall be made available to the public;
  4. That the Regional Chair, the Regional Chief Administrative Officer and the Movers of the Regional Motion Councillors Barrick and Gale be invited to appear as a delegation to the Town of Pelham Council with respect to their concerns in this matter;
  5. And that this Motion be circulated to the Region of Niagara, the Councils of the Area Municipalities of the Region of Niagara; Local MPPs, the Premier of Ontario, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, all local Chambers of Commerce, and the Pelham Business Association.

CARRIED

Motion Two

Whereas Regional Councillor Quirk, at the Regional Council meeting of March 30, 2017, indicated that the Region needed new policies to control more aspects of the business of the lower tier municipalities; and

Whereas the Council of the Town of Pelham believes that the actions taken at the Regional Corporate Services Committee on June 22, 2016 and at the Regional Council meeting of March 30, 2017 may exceed the spheres of jurisdiction of the Region of Niagara as granted by the Ontario Municipal Act, which is of concern to the Town of Pelham and may be of concern to the Councils of all Niagara Local Area Municipalities;

Now Therefore Be It Resolved That:

Staff be directed to investigate and explore with legal counsel the Ontario Municipal Act with respect to the authorities and jurisdictions of the Region of Niagara (upper tier) and the Town of Pelham (and any other lower tier municipality) and to advise what steps the Town of Pelham (and any other lower tier municipality) might undertake.

CARRIED

For more on this issue, including one news commentary recently posted on Niagara At Large that quotes Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick’s entire motion, click onhttps://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/03/27/town-of-pelhams-financial-affairs-could-hurt-niagara-regions-credit-rating-port-colborne-regional-councillor-warns/ .

And click onhttps://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/03/31/niagara-regional-politicians-to-probe-possible-fiscal-mess-in-town-of-pelham/ .

More from Niagara At Large on this developing issue later. Stay Tuned!

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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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