Town of Pelham Chooses “to take the ‘high road” in Battle with Region over Finances

There is still some civility left in local politics… if not at the regional government level.

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted June 2nd, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and the town’s councillors made a decision at their May 22nd l meeting of town council to take the “high road” in the wake of being cleared of relentless accusations from a group of Niagara regional councillors and others over the way they manage Pelham’s finances.

After more than a year of being under attack at the regional council level, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his town’s council choose to stay on the high road.

It was the kind of a decision that, unfortunately, has become all too rare in politics these days and is all the more commendable in this case, given what the mayor recently described as the “emotional rollercoaster ride” the town was put through during the 14 months that the accusations dragged on.

At the very least, the Town of Pelham could have decided to go after Niagara’s regional government for the more than $160,000 it spent on hiring KPMG, a private financial accounting corporation, to come in and do an independent review of its books, and for whatever other time and money its staff spend dealing with other parties, including the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office, that came in to investigate the accusations.

One could hardly imagine any jury blaming the town council for suing the Region for costs after all of that but it reached a consensus at that May 22nd meeting that it would rather not retaliate in any way – that it would just put the whole affair to rest and move on.

“Maybe this is the time when (Pelham’s) council should take the high road,” Augustyn concluded before the meeting drew to a close.

Commendable, indeed – not to mention considerate to Niagara’s taxpayers.

After all, it would ultimately be regional taxpayers who would cover the costs for a 14-month shit show that, for at least some of us who watched it from the start, always had the stench of an ill-spirited assault on the mayor, his town’s council and staff, and – most seriously for people who live, work and own homes and businesses in Pelham the town’s financial integrity.

An apology from Niagara Region’s chair might have been nice.

It’s bad enough that the tax payers of Pelham have had to shoulder the costs, and after Augustyn rose at a May 25th meeting of regional council to mention his council’s decision to let things go in hope that everyone, at both levels of municipal government, can move on and work together, it seemed that the very least the Region’s chair, Al Caslin, could have done was offer and apology for all that the town was put through.

In a regional council chambers where Caslin and so many of his political pals have hardly hesitated to demand apologies of others over the past three and a half years, there was no apology for or Augustyn at the Region’s May 25th meeting – not that the mayor asked for one.

Still, it would have been a refreshing change of pace in these chambers. But this is the regional council after all, and for too many who sit on it now, the low road beckons. It is the only one they have a baked in road map to.

So long before the evening of the May 24th regional council meeting was over, the accusations were flying again. Only this time the accusations were fired in the direction of St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik who, unlike Augustyn, has more often played ball with the cabal in the chambers.

Sendzik voted with Caslin and company to hire former Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority CAO as the Region’s CAO in 2016 and he seconded a motion tabled by Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata last year that wrongly attacked Niagara area MPP Cindy Forster in her absence, calling on her to apologize to the Jewish community for a stance some members of an NDP association in her riding took on Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip – just to name a few examples.

Yet here was Sendzik getting a taste of what Augustyn and others have had to put up with time and time again.

“This is what it’s become,” responded Sendzik while ducking mud balls at the May 24th meeting. It’s become these accusations. It’s become finger pointing.”

Wrong again, Mayor Sendzik.

It hasn’t’ become that. It has been that way for the past three and a half years.

Fortunately, there are now only months left until the October 22nd municipal elections.

That is when we the people finally get the chance to vote for a Better Niagara.

To read an earlier commentary Niagara At Large posted on this issue, click onhttps://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/05/19/niagara-region-owes-town-of-pelham-a-full-public-apology/

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

 

 

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