Niagara’s Regional Council Moving To End Turmoil At Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority

“Enough is enough. … We need to get in there as soon as possible and start cleaning house.” – St. Catharines regional councillor and recently appointed NPCA board member Brian Heit

News by Doug Draper

Posted December 14th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Reports of former Port Colborne regional councillor and NPCA operations manager David Barrick suddenly being hire to serve as the next CAO of the Conservation Authority has triggered yet another wave of public outrage.

Niagara’s new Regional Council has approved steps to move as quickly as possible to end the turmoil at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.

In a motion the council passed following a closed session this December 13th, Niagara’s 12 recently appointed interim members of the NPCA’s boar have been directly to call on the board’s current co-chair, James Kaspersetz (a board member representing the City of Hamilton) to hold a special meeting no later than Thursday, December 20th.

The Region’s Clerk has also been directed to send a letter to all of Niagara’s outgoing NPCA board members, including former regional councillors Sandy Annunziata of Fort Erie, Bruce Timms of St. Catharines, Brian Baty of Pelham, Tony Quirk of Grimsby and others, “that their term on the board is complete.”

Many hope that change will come to the NPCA, making protest rallies like this, outside one of the Conservation Authority’s monthly board meetings, far less common in the future. File photo by Doug Draper

Those steps and others approved by the Region’s council this December 13th follow in the wake of news that David Barrick, a former Port Colborne regional councillor has reportedly been fired from his job as the NPCA’s operations administrator, then rehired as its chief administrative officer (CAO) by an outgoing board that may no longer have any legal authority to make such decisions.

The steps also follow recent news that the outgoing board fired Mark Brickell from his job as the Conservation Authority’s CAO, and that Hamilton’s city council, which currently has two members on the NPCA board, is poised to give final approval this coming December 19th to a motion that would give it four members on the board, and insist that Niagara’s board representation be reduced from 12 to five.

All of this has left many Niagara citizens, who have been closely following and criticizing what has been going on at the NPCA for a number of years now, reeling and calling on members of the new council to put an end to what they view as the mismanagement and chaos plaguing this public agency as soon as possible.

The motion the new Regional Council passed this December 13th is a response to the public’s call for action, Brian Heit, a St. Catharines regional councillor and one of the new interim board members, told Niagara At Large after it was passed.

St. Catharines regional councillor and recently appointed NPCA interim board member Brian Heit

“Enough is enough,” said Heit of what he and many of the rest of us have learned of the manoeuvring going on at the NPCA in recent weeks. “There has been enough damage done. We need to get in there as soon as possible and clean house.”

Two other steps the Region’s council approved to address problems at the NPCA include; Niagara’s new chair, Jim Bradley contacting the mayors of Hamilton and Haldimand (both municipalities have lands inside the watershed under the Conservation Authority’s jurisdiction) to discuss and provide an update on the current situation, and; requesting Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks to mediate matters at hand at the agency.

Matters began coming to a head at the NPCA in the weeks following this October 22nd municipal elections when a number of Niagara’s 12 outgoing representatives of the board, including regional councillors and local mayors who were either defeated in the elections or did not run for another term, refused to leave their board seats.

In a letter Annunziata circulated late last month to the Region and local municipalities, he argued that an Order in Council, drafted by the province in the 1990s, gave him and other board members a right to remain in their seats a play a role in deciding who would be appointed to a new board.

Jeff Burch, an MPP for Niagara Centre, was later able to obtain confirmation from an Ontario official that the Order in Council has long been “null and void”

Yet some outgoing councillors would still not follow the lead of Welland Mayor Frank Campion, who resigned from the board for what he called ‘moral and ethical’ reasons, and tender their resignations too.

Some even expressed uncertainty as to whether they would leave after the Region’s new council, shortly after being sworn in this December 6th, appointed the 12 new members to replace them.

It now remains to be seen if the step in the Region’s December 13th motion, directing the regional clerk to inform the outgoing members that their term on the board is over, will be enough to, as St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik put it at a city council meeting, finally see them “just go away.”

The motion Niagara Region’s council passed this December 13th in response to ongoing chaos inside the NPCA

The 12 interim members the Region’s council appointed to the NPCA board for a three month period while board members for the full four year term are being selected 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.

Niagara At Large will continue to update this story as it develops.

Stay Tuned.

To read a recent post in Niagara At Large on Niagara’s new Regional Council’s decision this past December 6th to appoint an interim board at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to replace what was assumed to be the outgoing board, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/12/07/new-niagara-region-councils-appointment-of-an-interim-npca-board-seals-rogue-boards-fate/ .

To read a recent post in Niagara At Large on a statement from an Ontario government official, confirming that a 24-year-old Order in Council the old NPCA board is using as an argument for remaining in control is null and void, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/12/02/info-from-ontario-official-confirms-that-the-order-npca-board-is-using-to-cling-to-power-is-null-and-void/

To read a recent post in Niagara At Large on the replacement of the NPCA’s CAO, click onhttps://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/12/07/mark-brickell-is-out-as-niagara-peninsula-conservation-authoritys-cao/

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

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