Judge’s Order Hopefully Means No More Road Blocks For New Board to Meet A.S.A.P.
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted January 2nd, 2019 on Niagara At Large
This time David Barrick, who is allegedly serving as the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s “acting CAO,” has heard the call for a long overdue meeting of the new NPCA board in the form of a clear and simple order from an Ontario Superior Court judge.
Justice James Ramsey, who added the word “allegedly” after Barrick identified himself as the NPCA’s acting CAO in a Welland court room this past December, served the order this January 2nd that there will be a first meeting of the Conservation Authority’s new board this coming Monday, January 7th.
The January 7th meeting, now scheduled to take place at 2;30 p.m. at the NPCA’s Centre for Conservation at the Balls Falls Conservation Area in Lincoln, received a green light from a majority of Niagara regional councillors at a special meeting the Region’s council held at the end of December.
And now, hopefully, this latest order from Justice Ramsay, on top of an order he issued this past December 21st – that the 12 regional councillors the Region appointed to serve on the NPCA board on an interim basis, are new board members and that Niagara’s 12 members from the old board are gone – will seal it and a new era for the problem-plagued Conservation Authority can get underway.
Barrick and at least one other current NPCA staff member – Krystle Caputo who was apparently recently promoted to the position of director of communications and administration by some of the old board members and/or others – were in the Welland court room this January 2nd to hear the judge’s latest order.
They did not have an attorney to speak for them. However, an affidavit signed by Caputo and filed in the courts on December 31st, stated that the NPCA was “hoping to ask the judge to dismiss the application (filed earlier in the month by a Niagara-based citizens group, A Better Niagara, asking for a court ruling on matters around the status of the NPCA’s) board), but we were unable to secure legal representation on time.”
The NPCA’s lengthy affidavit goes on to accuse A Better Niagara members of issuing inaccurate information to the court and at one point, it questions why the group is continuing to raise questions and concerns, and to engage in issues related to the NPCA now that the October, 2018 municipal elections are over.
The NPCA affidavit also charges that A Better Niagara may be a “lobbying group” that is operating without proper licence or registration, and raises questions about its membership, including how many members may be municipal politicians in the regions, and about where it gets its funding.
Justice Ramsay made no mention of the accusations in the NPCA affidavit in his order or in any other comments he made in the court this January 2nd. As for “whoever” (as the judge put it this past December) is now running the NPCA, the judge added; “I don’t know why they are hanging on?”
When asked, following the January 2nd court session, about the judge’s remark about some individuals at the NPCA “hanging on,” A Better Niagara’s director, Liz Benneian, said “it looks like the strategy is to delay, delay, delay.”
“The question everyone needs to be asking is what has been going on inside that building,” added Benneian in reference to an office building in Welland that is owned by Niagara Region and is home to the NPCA’s headquarters.
Benneian went on to say that the citizens group hopes that new members of the board will call on the provincial government to bring in an outside supervisor to help bring an NPCA that the judge noted this December is in a state of “chaos,” back to order.
It may be that a number of changes are going to have to be made at the administrative level at the NPCA, she said, and it might be best if a qualified person from outside was brought in, at least temporarily, to do that while a search begins for a new CAO with expertise in the conservation field.
The January 7th meeting date represents the second time members of the new NPCA board were on deck to hold a first meeting since a new Niagara Regional Council was sworn in this past December 6th.
At that same inaugural meeting of the Region’s council, a motion was passed for a meeting of the new board by December 12th, but that attempt ran into obstacles, including questions raised by representatives of the old board over how many members Niagara is entitled to appoint to a new board.
After the Region’s council passed a motion on December 29th, approving a board meeting on January 7th, that news was sent to whoever is in charge of the NPCA now, a lawyer representing the Region told Justice Ramsay this January 2nd, but the Region had not yet received a response from the Conservation Authority.
A Better Niagara was represented in the court once again this January 2nd by Erin Pleet, a lawyer from Toronto who helped the citizens group prepare the original application this December that helped result in the orders from the judge.
Niagara At Large will continue to provide updates on this issue and will have more commentary on the NPCA and what measures should be considered by the news board to restore public trust in any agency that plays an important in protecting and preserving our region’s waters and natural places.
For the record, here are the full names of the interim members Niagara’s Regional Council appointed to the NPCA board this December 6th, along with the local municipalities they represent –
Members of the interim board include West Lincoln Mayor Dave Bylsma, Welland Regional Councillor Pat Chiocchio, Lincoln Regional Councillor Robert Foster, 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.
To read a related story on this matter, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/12/21/ontario-court-upholds-niagara-regions-appointment-of-12-new-members-to-npca-board/ .
To read another news commentary Niagara At Large posted on this matter, click on –https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/12/21/we-the-people-not-only-deserve-to-have-but-need-to-have-our-conservation-authority-back/ .
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