A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted April 19th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Barely more than a week after the Niagara regional government’s recently re-hired integrity commissioner attended a meeting to receive public input on what changes, if any, should be made to the Region’s Code of Conduct, a stack of conduct complaints the commissioner apparently already has sitting on his desk may be held in abeyance for who knows how long.
How has this happened?
The answer can be found at the end of this April 19th’s meeting of Niagara Region’s corporate services committee when St. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski received committee chair David Barrick’s to speak under a final section of the meeting titled “other business.”
After clicking on his microphone for all in the regional council chambers to hear, Petrowski, who has recently acknowledged that he is the target of at least a few code of conduct complaints he insists are unwarranted attacks on the rights every Canadian citizen has to free expression, asked if the complaints now under review could be held in abeyance until the Region’s CAO, Carmen D’Angelo, and legal counsel on staff have an opportunity to determine whether the Code in Conduct now in play follows or complies with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Constitution.
Barrick, a Port Colborne regional councillor serving his third year in the key job of chairing a committee responsible for administrative and financial matters, legal services and human resources for a regional government handling hundreds of millions of our tax dollars each year, responded to Petrowski by saying yes, he feels “it is prudent” to direct the St. Catharines councillor’s query to staff.
With that, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, who represents his municipality on the committee as a regional councillor, was the only member of the committee to question the move.
“So without a motion, without voting,” said Augustyn, “we have one councillor (on a committee that has 20 elected members, including Niagara’s regional chair Al Caslin) asking for a legal opinion on something, and it holds up all the integrity commissioner’s work?”
“Is that what just happened,” Augustyn asked.
“That is my understanding,” responded Barrick, adding, once, again that he feels turning Petrowski’s request over to staff for answers “is prudent.”
Augustyn asked out loud if the matter should not be put before the committee for a vote.
“I appreciate the opinion (from Augustyn),” Barrick responded, but “it has been accepted for staff direction.”
Within a few hours of the committee meeting ending, Niagara At Large began receiving emails from citizens across the region, expressing anger over a move by Barrick that could keep the integrity commissioner – Toronto-based lawyer John Mascarin – from completing reviews of outstanding complaints against regional councillors and others for an unknown period of time if the decision Barrick made gets approval when the whole regional council holds its next meeting this coming Thursday, April 27th.
This Niagara At Large reporter could not attend the corporate service committee meeting this April 19th, but I watched a video of the meeting segment I am commenting on here four times, and I am posting it for all of you to watch here. And I urge you to watch it to get a taste of what goes on at Niagara’s regional headquarters month after month under the leadership of Caslin.
I have also heard from some sources that individuals are already planning to apply to speak as delegations at the April 27th regional council meeting – an application you must get in to the regional clerk’s office by this Friday, April 21st (do a little online searching to get the contact information for Niagara Region’s clerk) in hope of convincing enough councillors to turn this Petrowski/Barrick thing down.
Now here is the video of the session. Please click on the arrow and watch –
If for some reason you click on the video above and can’t get it to work, try watching it by clicking on this link – https://www.youtube.com/embed/m3JBVsOuT1M?start=4363&end=4620&rel=0 .
For a list of Niagara regional councillors and mayors sitting on the Region’s Corporate Services Committee, click on the following link and scroll to the bottom, below the meeting schedule for the committee – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/committees/csc/default.aspx
You might consider calling the ones on the list of committee members who represent your municipality where they stand on this matter and why – if they are at the meeting – they did not join Pelham representative Dave Augustyn in asking questions.
There are too few elected people sitting on Niagara’s regional council who have the fortitude to stand up against this kind of stuff, and it’s about time we start reminding them that the next municipal elections – where we get to decide whether to keep or fire them – are just 17 months away.
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