Come this October’s Municipal Elections, This Is But One More Reason For Sweeping Change
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted February 2nd, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Curly: “Hey Moe, Larry! Here comes a cop.” Moe: “Let’s hide in here. It’s a closed meeting.” Larry:”Hey look, it’s a computer and it’s running. “ Moe: “It probably belongs to one of those sneaky reporters. He’s going to use it to record us and write some fake news.” Larry: “What do we do now? Curly: “Let’s call the cop.” Moe: “We can’t you numbskull. We just got rid of him.!”
The above skit might be funny if it were performed by the real Curly, Larry and Moe of Three Stooges fame.
Alas, it was not.
We have our own stooges right here in Niagara – not least of which are our regional government’s chair Al Caslin, Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick and Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gates – and what those knuckleheads have been up to both in and outside the role they are supposed to be playing as representatives for we, the people, on the Niagara Regional Police services board is not funny at all.
In fact, in one of their latest episodes on that police board, revolving around an $870,000 “retirement settlement” for Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff McGuire, who was on contract to stay on as Niagara’s police chief until 2020, has many tax-paying citizens across the region– to borrow a phrase now famously in the news – filled with ‘fire and fury’.
Since word of the cost of this so-called retirement agreement first surfaced in the final days of this January, the reaction of people I’ve crossed virtually everywhere in the region – in shopping malls, grocery stores or in a neighbourhood convenience store where someone picks up a newspaper with another story about it on the front page – ranges from anger to disgust, bordering on seething rage.
I’ve had a number of Niagara regional councillors confess to me that their phones have been ringing and their inboxes have filled with a volume of protests over this buyout package that rivals any anger-provoking issue that emerged over the past year– and one hell of a lot of anger-provoking issues emerged in this region over the past year.
And as if to pour more gas on the fire, we got at least one of the three knuckleheads serving the regional council on the police board saying how upset he was to see the police chief go, but that’s what he – Jeff McGuire – ‘wanted’ to do.
“Jeff provided seven years of great service for Niagara,” said Caslin late this January on a CKTB Radio interview, “and it was sad to see him go, but he did want to retire so that is what he did.”
A short time later, McGuire issued a statement of his own to the St. Catharines radio station saying; “I can assure you that I did not want or agree to retire until such time as the retirement agreement was finalized”
McGuire, according to the January 30th CKTB report, went on to say that he planned to stay until 2020, the date in his existing contract with the regional police force, but ending with a line similar to one made famous in the first ‘Godfather’ movie, he said; “I was made an offer that I simply could not refuse.”
In the movie, the line quoted by the Godfather himself – “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” is code for making someone the kind of offer that ensures he or she does what you want them to do, even if they didn’t really want to do it.
But we are likely not going to hear any more from McGuire about that because along with the $870,000 in the retirement settlement –which adds up to far more than the roughly $215,000 annual salary he would be paid over the next two to three years, by the way – we learned that the settlement reached between police board and the chief included an agreement not say anything publicly from here on in that might “disparage” one another.
That sounds very much like one of those standard “non-disclosure” or “gag orders” parties sign when they are buying their way out of a less than positive employment relationship.
The question here is that if things were ever so nice and dandy between the police chief and board, why they would need to sign an agreement that places any restrictions on what they can say about each other at all. You’d think they’d want to leave themselves totally unfettered to sing out each other’s praise.
This leaves me recalling how earlier this January, Bob Gale, who chairs the police board, rose in his role as a Niagara Falls regional councillor during a meeting of the region’s audit committee, and spoke with such righteous indignation about how he crossed paths with a former employee of one of Niagara’s local municipalities – the Town of Pelham – who told him that he or she could not discuss any question’s he may have about the town’s financial business because of a non-disclosure agreement he or she had to sign upon leaving the job.
Gale was steaming about that but now here we are, in the same zone of signing agreements not to disclose any information that might be negative or disparaging between the police board and the chief, and the rest of us are left wondering here what the whole story is about here with $870,000 of our tax money.
Some of what is so maddening here is that Calsin, Gale and Barrick are all part of the same cabal on regional council who pride themselves in being champions for fiscal responsibility and restraint.
They sure in hell don’t seem to mind accusing the council of Pelham and its mayor, Dave Augustyn, of financial mismanagement. They have puffed those accusations up at regional council and committee meetings at least three times within the past 10 months in front of a gallery of people from the town as if the vast majority of Pelham residents would like to tar and feather this mayor that at least some members of the cabal, in my view, fear might decide to run for Niagara regional chair in this coming October’s municipal elections?
I have no idea what Augustyn may decide to do with his future this year, if he wants a future in politics at all, but I do know this.
It is no longer a secret that non-partisan groups of citizens have been organizing across this region for the express purpose of encouraging good candidates to run in this year’s municipal election and doing everything possible to sweep out Caslin, Gale, Barrick and a good number of other directly elected councillors and mayors from local municipalities who are sitting on that regional council now.
One of the names these groups of citizens go by is “Better Niagara” and I don’t mind saying that after all that I have witnessed over the past three years – the lack of civility, the insults and bullying and smearing of private citizens, fellow councillors and others, and the lawsuits and threats of lawsuits at the regional government level (not to mention the recent case of seizing a daily newspaper reporter’s notes and computer, and having him removed from the regional headquarters property) – this reporter and this online news and commentary site stands solidly behind this Better Niagara campaign.
Niagara At Large will do everything possible to encourage the efforts of these citizens for positive, progressive change.
So keep it up gentlemen, because you are making their job and ours at Niagara At Large one hell of a lot easier.
Come this October 2018 municipal elections, it will no longer be ‘Hello’.
For you and for more than half of the others who are part of or are enabling the Caslin cabal at the regional government level, it will – to do a play on the opening sing-song lines in a Three Stooges flic – be ‘Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye. GOODBYE!’
Or to cut to the core – Good Riddance!
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders