‘The taxpayers of Niagara do not fund the NPCA with their tax dollars so that it can pursue lawsuits, under any circumstance, against private citizens. We expect the NPCA to spend our money on conservation efforts.’
A Message from Friends of Jocelyn Baker, a Niagara, Ontario-based citizen group organized in support of former NPCA employee Jocelyn Baker.
Posted April 3rd, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Something significant may have happened at the board meeting of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) this past March 26th.
Welland Mayor Frank Campion, one of the majority of politicians Niagara’s regional council appointed to the 15-member board, appeared to make a move towards common sense leadership that has rarely been demonstrated by this board.
The details are a little bit thin at the moment but it appears that Mayor Campion has started a motion that could result in the board reconsidering the NPCA decision to sue former employee Jocelyn Baker.
The NPCA launched legal action against Baker in response to an email she sent last year to Niagara area MPP Cindy Forster. The email apparently described conditions of employment at the NPCA that included harassment of staff.
For reasons unknown, Baker – respected on both sides of the Niagara River for her dedicated efforts to restore and protect the watershed – was terminated from the NPCA more than a year ago after 23 years of service. Shortly thereafter she sent the email to her MPP.
The NPCA responded by suing Baker for breaching the terms of her release settlement. According to media reports, the Conservation Authority is using the lawsuit to seeking $164,000 from her. Baker HAS subsequently launched a counter-suit against the NPCA for $400,000 for defamation and breach of contract.
According to Campion, he has tried unsuccessfully three times in the recent past to put the issue of litigation on the agenda for the board to discuss. At the meeting on March 26th, Campion made statements that seemed to suggest (without mentioning Baker’s name) that he was concerned with the NPCA’s decision to pursue the lawsuit and it appears he is pushing for a reconsideration of the entire matter.
The statements that Campion made at that meeting brought to the fore some common sense that we have rarely heard or seen from this NPCA board.
Mayor Campion pointed out that “litigation has costs – financial costs and reputation costs.” He went on to point out that “if we lose it’s bad, and if we win it’s still bad”.
Well said Mayor Campion. Very well said.
Finally there appears to be a voice of reason on the NPCA board.
The citizens of Niagara have watched in disbelief over the past three years as this NPCA and its board seemed bent on a path of petty and vindictive politics that in no measurable means, were in line with the NPCA’s mandate or the greater public interest.
The NPCA already lost a great deal of public respect with what seemed like a mindless pursuit of a lawsuit against Niagara citizen Ed Smith – a lawsuit which they not only lost, but also cost the taxpayer of the region $280,000.
It was a lawsuit that a Superior Court Justice, in a ruling he released last year, likened to something that he would expect to take place in other less free and democratic regions of the world, but not in his “beloved Dominion”.
The taxpayers of Niagara do not fund the NPCA with their tax dollars so that it can pursue lawsuits, under any circumstance, against private citizens.
We expect the NPCA to spend our money on conservation efforts. We expect them to adhere to their mandate and we expect them to act as though they respect the public trust we that place in them.
Listening to the words of Mayor Campion from the meeting on March 26th, it seems very likely that certain members of the board may have been trying to prevent him from starting the dialogue about this lawsuit.
He did it anyway and as strong as our misgivings are about this NPCA board, we have to give credit where credit is due.
The issue will now apparently be fully discussed – albeit in-camera (in closed session) – at the next NPCA board meeting. We may not know how the discussion goes at that meeting, but we will know the results.
Ending the litigation against former NPCA employee Jocelyn Baker would be the first real act of sensible leadership this board has displayed on behalf of the citizens who expect it to get back to the business of conservation and restoring the health of the region’s watersheds.
In fact, we believe you would hardly find a single citizen in Niagara who wants their tax money spent in this worthless pursuit.
As Mayor Campion said; “If we lose it’s really bad, and if we win it’s still bad.’
Find it in yourself to do the right thing NPCA.
We are going to be watching this issue and how you deal with it very carefully.
(A Brief Footnote from Niagara At Large – The next meeting of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board of directors is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18th during which this issue may be discussed. NAL will share any updates we receive with our readers when we get them.)
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