Presentation to Niagara Regional Council
by Preston Haskell

November 28, 2012

Note: The actual presentation is in Bold and Black Link to Staff's Memorandum to Council

Councillors,

I requested to come before council because I’ve been told that some in this government are calling for the taxpayer to ante up the annual expense of an ethics commissioner.

The assumption has got to be that someone in this government believes that there are elements in this council that are UN-ethical.

Is the message suggesting that our Niagara Regional Councillors are unable or unwilling to police themselves?

Where is the evidence to justify this expense?

Who would be affected by the imposition and expense of a so-called ethics commissioner?

Would this ethics commissioner have any authority over undue secrecy?

Would this ethics commissioner have prevented the embarrassment of having the Ontario Ombudsman’s findings against the Region for misconduct and secrecy?

Standard Newspaper Report:   
  ! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/09/10/region-chided-for-transparency-snafus


The Ontario Ombudsman’s Letter clearly states:
Council and the Corporate Services Committee could have been more transparent
however in their consideration of the land acquisition matters reviewed at the April 4,
2012 Corporate Services Committee meeting and the subsequent April 12, 2012 Council meeting. It is noted that the Committee did not report back in open session following the closed committee meeting and, when Council approved the recommendations at an open meeting on April 12, 2012, it did not provide any detail about the nature of the recommendations being passed. As such the amount of information, even of a general nature, available to the public with respect to council’s decision was extremely limited.

As discussed, the Ombudsman encourages municipalities to report publicly in open
session on what transpired in closed session, at least in a general way. In some cases,
public reporting might simply consist of a general discussion in open session of subjects
considered in closed session, similar to the information in the resolution authorizing the
session together with information about staff directions, decisions and resolutions. In
other cases, however, the nature of the discussion might allow for considerable
information about the closed session to be provided to the public.

When we spoke, we asked that you share this letter at the next open meeting of Council
on September 13, 2012 and make a copy available to the public on your website.
! http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Files/sitemedia/Images/Reports/Niagara-Region-August-27-final-EN.pdf  

Please note;
Pelham Mayor and Regional Councillor Dave Augustin said that Preston Haskell’s presentation to Niagara Regional Council was so full of errors that he couldn’t vote to have it accepted into the record! Interesting considering his own statements in the following article:
! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/09/10/region-chided-for-transparency-snafus

! http://newsalertniagara.blogspot.ca/2012/07/citizens-or-subjects.html 

According to the Standard, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, who co-chairs the corporate services committee, said “the report shows the Region’s moving towards transparency, but there’s still work to be done.”
“I would’ve preferred if they’d be even more open than the ombudsman is suggesting,” he said. He said committees should always come out of closed session with a report and then vote in public.
“I think it’s important to post everything,” he said. “They’re public documents. They should be made as broadly available as possible.”


With all the serious problems facing the Niagara Region should the expense of another bureaucrat be our first priority?

What could the ethics commissioner have done about the Region’s CORC Committee’ decisions, with which council unanimously agreed, that Delegations {Individuals} shall not be permitted to appear at Council Meetings.

Note - Those that claim they did not vote for this attempt to ‘ban the public from the public forum’ also failed to raise their hand for a recorded vote!

Consider the fact that the Regional Government recently formed another secret committee made up of two commissionaires, two Councillors, plus the Regional Chair to interview candidates for the vacated position of Clerk.

This case of indiscretion lies in the fact that this whole secret setup was actually withheld from the REST of COUNCIL!

Even the CHOSEN Councillors couldn't see a need to enlighten their fellow Regional Councillors about their direct involvement in this process!


How About a fifty (50) Day wait to get a response from this administration on a serious toxic pollution inquiry! Even then their response failed to answer a single one of the five (5) questions!

Reflect on the month long refusal to reply to Industry and Commerce and even then only under duress! Should Industry & Commerce be ignored?  And this from a government, whose legacy is unemployment and poverty levels, which are unacceptable by any standard and the envy of no one.

In the private sector world where REAL wealth and jobs are created, failure to respond to a prime customer can be cause for termination!

Chairman Burroughs believes he has a valid reason to demand an ethics commissioner. Apparently the idea is to include stiff (1/4 year salary) penalties to intimidate suspected UN-ethical regional councillors. ! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/11/28/committee-wants-weakest-code-of-conduct

Evidence is that what we truly need is an ethics detective to ferret out how we have lost more than just ethics at our Niagara Regional Government. We need to discover how and why we have also lost honesty, transparency and integrity!

Question: Where is our ethics and integrity authority to protect Niagara citizens?

On Thursday Nov 22, 2012, I witnessed Regional Councillors struggle to assist the Regional Bureaucracy with their ‘Plea for help’* conference.
* The moniker of ‘Plea for Help’ was appropriate considering the results...

Other than learning that no one had a helpful suggestion beyond the ‘Pure Gold’ of the same old tripe, what did we learn?

We learned that secrecy continues!

This government is forming ‘Team Niagara’, to be made up of a gaggle of EDO's and CAO's predicated on their stated excuse that ‘Industry & Commerce’ might not ‘open up their business’s strategic information’ unless ‘Team Niagara’ is secret!
Secret is ‘in-camera’ or is this also insecure predicated on the perceived lack of ethics and integrity?
Team Niagara will operate just like the former NEDC – In complete secrecy with no witnesses from the Press or Public and NO oversight from our elected officials!

Councillors: Voters have sent you here to do the right thing for Niagara and NOT to be intimidated by what some would demand of you…

Pelham Mayor and Regional Councillor Dave Augustin said the presentation was so full of errors that he couldn’t vote to have it accepted into the record!
Interesting, considering his own statements in the following article: 
! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/09/10/region-chided-for-transparency-snafus

Councilor Marshal representing the City of Welland stated that he had not heard of the Ombudsman of Ontario’s findings regarding misconduct and secrecy!
Councilor Marshal may have missed the article: ! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/09/10/region-chided-for-transparency-snafus 
or the letter from the Ombudsman of Ontario:
! http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Files/sitemedia/Images/Reports/Niagara-Region-August-27-final-EN.pdf

Following excerpt goes to ‘Embarrassment of Misconduct & Secrecy’:
Council and the Corporate Services Committee could have been more transparent however in their consideration of the land acquisition matters reviewed at the April 4, 2012 Corporate Services Committee meeting and the subsequent April 12, 2012 Council meeting. It is noted that the Committee did not report back in open session following the closed committee meeting and, when Council approved the recommendations at an open meeting on April 12, 2012, it did not provide any detail about the nature of the recommendations being passed. As such the amount of information, even of a general nature, available to the public with respect to council’s decision was extremely limited.

When asked to clarify the situation with the Ombudsman’s investigation into complaints, clerk Pilon answered that the region was cleared of all violations and that the region had zero violations. However the Ombudsman’s embarrassing report is now on line for all to see.
! http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Files/sitemedia/Images/Reports/Niagara-Region-August-27-final-EN.pdf
Note: The Ontario Ombudsman’s ONLY power is to embarrass.

St. Catharines Mayor and Regional Councilor Brian McMullan interrupted with a ‘point of order’ leading Chairman Hodgson to suggest that I was attacking Chairman Gary Burroughs for what Burroughs actually wanted! I had no idea that referring one of the members of council by name would lead to being accused of an attack! Read: ! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/11/28/committee-wants-weakest-code-of-conduct 
Rich, considering that Mayor McMullan, a quarter-century political veteran, knows all about the council rules & Etequet yet apparently failed the rules regarding accepting thousands of dollars in illegal political donations!
! http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2011/07/05/mayor-looking-into-possible-election-campaign-overpayments

What did Chairman Burroughs Want?  According to the Standard: “Without consequences, Burroughs said, a code of conduct means nothing and the expense of an integrity commissioner would be relatively small, he argued.”
Obviously, this actually was just a weapon to attack councillors that happen to be out of favour or who will not ‘go along to get along’.

Finally...
I have since received an email message stating that ‘Staff provided Mr. Haskell with clarification on points of misinformation contained within his presentation’.

Councillors, I have received no such Clarification! The first so-called clarification was in the subsequent 'memorandum to coucilors.

Perhaps the message was intended to placate council.
The so-called clarification is something that I am entitled to and that I now demand.
Preston Haskell

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