Jig is Up for Annunziata and other Niagara ex-councillors and mayors on outgoing NPCA Board
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted December 6th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
If Sandy Annunziata or any others on a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) board of directors that has gone rogue think they are going to be the ones sitting around the table when the board is scheduled to hold its next meeting this December 12th, they had better think again.
Niagara Region’s new council, in its first official act business this December 6th following its inauguration and selection of former St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley as Regional Chair, named a member of regional councillors from each of Niagara’s 12 local municipalities to form an interim NPCA board – “effective immediately,” says a motion the new council passed, “for a period of three months until it is determined how to proceed with the board composition.”
That means that the jig is at long last up – if it wasn’t already – for Sandy Annunziata, the outgoing chair of the NPCA board and defeated Fort Erie regional councillor, who has spent the past few weeks circulating around a 24-year-old Order in Council from the province that contains language he claims give him and the old board authority to remain in their seats, at least until they pay a role in deciding who will sit on the new board.
With that Order in Council in hand, Annunziata and at least some members of the old board (made up of a number of regional councillors and Niagara mayors who were either defeated or decided not to run for another term of council in the October 22nd municipalities, held a closed meeting in a hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake as recently as this December 3rd – three days after terms on the 2014- regional council officially expired.
The December 3rd meeting was also held after Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch received a letter from an Ontario government representative who informed him that the Order in Council Annunziata was using to hold his board seat has been “null and void” for years.
Days later, Niagara Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo received a letter from Bruce Bateman, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Land and Water Division for the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, confirming once again that the Order no longer carries any weight.
Municipalities in the region have the powers under province’s Conservation Authority Act to determine who has membership on the NPCA board, Bateman noted in his letter.
The only member of the old board to publicly tender his resignation in the wake of growing public anger over the old board’s apparent refusal to step aside gracefully was Welland Mayor Frank Campion, who stepped down before the December 3rd meeting.
With no word yet on whether Annunziata or any of the others might now follow Campion’s lead, the Region’s new council voted this December 6th to pass a motion, tabled by St. Catharines Regional Councillor Tim Rigby and seconded by Port Colborne’s new mayor, Bill Steele, to immediately install an interim NPCA board to fill the 12 seats held by Niagara.
Members of the interim board include West Lincoln Mayor Dave Bylsma, Welland Regional Councillor Pat Chiocchio, Lincoln Regional Councillor Kevin Gibson, Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Barbara Greenwood, St. Catharines Regional Councillor Brian Heit, Pelham Regional Councillor Diana Huson, Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan, Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele, Thorold Regional Councillor Tim Whalen, Fort Erie Regional Councillor Tom Insinna, Wainfleet Mayor Kevin Gibson and Niagara-on-the-Lake Regional Councillor Gary Zalepa.
It remains to be seen how Annunziata and other ex-regional councillors and ex-mayors on the board will respond now. The others include defeated Pelham regional councillor Brian Baty, defeated Grimsby regional councillor Tony Quirk, defeated St. Catharines regional councillor Bruce Timms, defeated West Lincoln mayor Doug Joyner, defeated Niagara-on-the-Lake lord mayor Patrick Darte, and Port Colborne mayor John Maloney and Wainfleet mayor April Jeff, who both decided not to run for another term of office.
The City of Hamilton and Haldimand County together have three members on the NPCA board and it is up to their councils to decide who should hold those seats and for what period of time.
Before this final controversy began to brew over the Order in Council, the old board and senior management at the NPCA already faced strong criticism from members of the public and municipal councils across Niagara over questions and concerns over operating practices and the spending of millions of tax dollars it receives to fund its operations each year from area municipalities.
A special report released by Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk this past September following a detailed look at the way the NPCA does business confirmed many of the concerns raised in recent years by citizens, municipal councillors and some of Niagara’s MPPs.
Niagara At Large will continue to post news and commentary on developments at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in the days and weeks ahead.
For the record, what follows is a letter Niagara Regional CAO Carmen D’Angelo received from an Ontario government official days ago, confirming that the Order in Council Annunziata and the old NPCA board have been using to keep a grip on power no longer carries any weight –
Mr. Carmen D’Angelo Chief Administrative Officer Region of Niagara
Dear Mr. D’Angelo,
Thank you for your telephone call regarding the board of directors composition for the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA). As we discussed I am writing you with further clarification on the appointment process.
Under the Conservation Authorities Act participating municipalities are responsible for the appointment of members to a conservation authority. Recent amendments to the act in 2017 include provisions that give participating municipalities clear authority to appoint and replace the members of an authority.
Order in Council 2706/94 set out board appointment numbers for groupings of local municipalities and a process for appointing members to the NPCA. The provision of the act under which this was made has since been revoked and replaced with new provisions, enabling participating municipalities to make such decisions in accordance with the act.
As a result, the Order in Council does not need to be revoked in order for NPCA’s participating municipalities to use the powers now provided to them by the act to determine conservation authority membership and to appoint and replace members of an authority. ….
I hope this additional information helps clarify the application of the Order in Council and confirms the authority of the participating municipalities to make decisions regarding the appointment of members to the NPCA.
- Bruce Bateman, Assistant Deputy Minister Land and Water Division, (Ontario) Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks
For a reminder or possibly for some of you, a first-time review of the way our Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has been operated with millions of dollars of our money in recent years, click on the following link for a report on the NPCA, prepared and released this past September by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk – http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/specialreports/specialreports/NPCA_en.pdf .
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