Pelham Cleared of Wrongdoing – Yet Again – Around Management of Town’s Finances

Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn

“I am sad that Pelham’s residents and businesses have been dragged through an emotional roller coaster with these unfounded allegations.” – Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn

“It’s disheartening that some Niagara politicians and partisans relied on mistruths and misrepresentations to sow the seeds of doubt in our community since last spring. It’s sad how they have used confusion, fear and doubt to try to persuade people that something had gone awry or been improper.” – Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn

A Column by Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn

Posted May 14th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Town of Pelham in Niagara, Ontario – Our Town Council was relieved and pleased last week after Pelham had again been cleared of further allegations of wrongdoing regarding our finances.

First, a letter from Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro indicated that the Province will not conduct a provincial municipal audit. You will recall that in February, a majority of Niagara Regional Councillors supported a petition from last Fall which called on the province to undertake another financial audit of the Town.

Pelham’s mayor and town council became a focus of repeated accusations from the regional government level. It may now be time for the Region to issue a formal public apology.

The Region’s Council “endorsed” the petition even though it was prepared and signed before the results of KPMG’s Forensic Investigation in November/December.

Minister Mauro wrote: “The provincial government recognizes municipalities as responsible and accountable governments, with the authority to make decisions on matters within their own jurisdictions, including management of their finances. As such, the Ministry will not be proceeding with a provincial municipal audit.”

Second, you will recall that this controversy and the call for a forensic investigation arose from allegations made by a former member of Pelham Council (Marvin Junkin) about discussions during an in camera (closed session) meeting on September 5, 2017.

While Mr. Junkin alleged “unethical and dishonest” behaviour, he also provided no proof when he urged the Region to investigate his allegations (see “Ex-councillor cannot prove claims against Pelham,” St. Catharines Standard, 29 November 2017).

D8spite this lack of evidence, a majority of Regional Councillors echoed that call for an investigation and cautioned the Town’s lender in mid-November.

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé rules out any wrongdoing in complaints against Pelham’s mayor and council  around meeting in closed session.

Pelham was cleared of those financial allegations when KPMG (one of the continent’s a major financial accounting firm) presented during a public meeting on November 29 and when they provided reports of their forensic investigation and answers to community questions on December 18.

Third, Pelham was cleared again following a review by Infrastructure Ontario (IO) in February and March 2018. IO undertook that review because of the Region’s unfounded allegations from mid-November.

After IO reconfirmed the Town’s finances, Regional Chair Caslin was compelled to provide an acknowledgement to IO that the Region would live up to the obligations in the Community Centre’s debenture agreement; he did so prior to the Regional Council meeting on March 22, 2018.

Yet, one allegation remained. That was about whether it was legal for Town Council to discuss HR matters behind closed doors during our September 5 meeting.

We are pleased, therefore, that Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé recently cleared the Town of allegations about that meeting. The Ombudsman’s report states: “Council for the Town of Pelham did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001 on September 5, 2017, when it discussed a consultant’s report, received legal advice, and received a presentation from staff in camera”.

I am sad that Pelham’s residents and businesses have been dragged through an emotional roller coaster with these unfounded allegations.

It’s disheartening that some Niagara politicians and partisans relied on mistruths and misrepresentations to sow the seeds of doubt in our community since last spring. It’s sad how they have used confusion, fear and doubt to try to persuade people that something had gone awry or been improper.

That’s why others have suggested that the Town ask the Region to foot the bill for legal fees and KPMG’s Forensic Investigation – which costed more than $165,000 to defend our community against these allegations.

That works out to a 1.5% on the Pelham portion of your tax bill! Or, put another way, we could have reduced your Town taxes by 1.5% this year had we not had those expenses…

What do you think?

Now that we have been cleared of all allegations, should we ask the Region to pay for these out-of-pocket expenses? Please let me and/or your Town Councillor know this week – because this will be discussed during our May 22 Town Council meeting.

Now that the Town has again been cleared yet again, Council and I look forward to completing the Community Centre on time and on budget, to our upcoming award-winning festivals and events season, and to focusing on other measures to enhance the quality of life for residents.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca .

A Brief Commentary on the contents in the Pelham Mayor’s column by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

While I hope that at least some of you share your views on this in the space below, I can’t help taking up Dave Augustyn’s invitation and sharing a few thoughts myself.

First of all, shame on all of those Niagara regional councillors (especially some of the other mayors in Niagara) for voting over and over again, since March of last year, to keep this slime job on the Town of Pelham, in the name of its mayor and town council, dragging on for more than a year!

Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, who chair’s the Region’s corporate services committee, got the Town of Pelham accusation ball rolling with a motion he tabled in March of 2017

Each and every one of them should be made to answer for the waste of time and money (our time and money) grabbing on to accusations that to some, at least seemed (including a minority on the regional council who showed the courage to stand up for the town’s mayor and council) seemed suspect from the get go.

Each and every one of the regional councillors and mayors who voted in favour of one motion after another to keep this regional government-sponsored tar job on one of our local municipalities going should be made to answer to the voters of this Niagara region in the coming October 22nd municipal elections.

What should be most disturbing to those of us who pay taxes to municipal governments in Niagara is that some of the most vocal drivers of this campaign – Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale and Grimsby regional councillor Tony Quirk – also hold key positions – they are chairs of the Region’s corporate services committee, the regional police services board and the Region’s audit committee, respectively – three committees that have a great deal to do with directing and monitoring the spending of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars each year.

If any justice comes out of this sorry saga, those individuals, along with another one holding the job where the buck should stop – Niagara’s regional chair Al Caslin – will be looking at the back of their careers in municipal by the end of this year.

That’s our job, my fellow voters. This election year, we can’t afford to fall down on it!

Here is a very apt image that has been making it way around the social media circuit in recent days. ‘Cabal’ is the world at least some of us have taken to calling that group of regional councils that seems to be calling too many of the shots these days. When will the nonsense stop? Hopefully before the end of October.

Finally, and before I leave the topic of justice, if I were the Mayor of Pelham, I would rally the town’s council to hire the sharpest and meanest ‘take-no-prisoners’ lawyer on municipal law in the province to fire off a note to the powers-that-be at the regional government level – giving them 30 days to issue a formal apology to the Town of Pelham and to financially compensate its taxpayers for all of the time and money this business cost.

The note should warn that should a formal public apology and compensation not come in 30 days, the Town of Pelham will sue them for financial costs and, yes, for defaming the town and those who govern it.

My final wish would be that should the town launch and win such a suit, the money comes out of the pockets of those who led or played a principle role in enabling this business, rather than out of the regional tax coffers.

How much easier it is to pull this kind of stuff when you are using someone else’s money. In this case, ours.

Now it is your turn to comment.

Scroll down to the space where you can leave a comment of your own on this. Please remember that for reasons of openness and accountability, we require anyone who shares a comment to also share their first and last name.

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

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 bi-national 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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2 responses to “Pelham Cleared of Wrongdoing – Yet Again – Around Management of Town’s Finances

  1. Thank you Doug for your continued brilliant reporting on all fronts.
    As per the above article I must to say:

    I have never had a doubt about the “integrity” of Mayor Dave Augustyn.

    “Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, or moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”

    I cannot say this though about those who started and continued this witch hunt for undisclosed reasons that must be due only to their own personal and or political agendas.
    This behavior is also blatantly displayed elsewhere in Niagara.

    Shame on those that did and continue to do this.
    You know who you are.. You know what you do.

    Mayor Dave Augustyn is the embodiment “savoir faire”.
    You only need to watch and listen to him.

    This term “savoir faire” needs to be explained to those who do not have it, don’t know what it is, and or exhibit no desire to aspire to acquire it.

    “sav·oir faire
    ˌsavwär ˈfer
    noun
    -the ability to do the right thing in any situation
    -the ability to act or speak appropriately in social situations.
    synonyms: social skill, social grace(s), urbanity, suavity, finesse, sophistication, poise, aplomb, adroitness, polish, style, smoothness, tact, tactfulness, diplomacy, discretion, delicacy, sensitivity; informal savvy”

    Like

  2. Klara Young-Chin

    I repeat again, You can’t fix STUPID but can vote it OUT!

    Like

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