In the pick-a-topic, or council, atmosphere we live in these days where disruption, dysfunction and a significant level of core dislike among some council/board members/general public has become commonplace, one might think the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority would at least attempt to regain some of its previous lustre.
Not going to happen.
The NPCA has been every bit the bag of toys that Grimsby, West Lincoln and Niagara Region councils have been in the most recent term. The list of regrettable decisions, conduct, lack of leadership on several issues will prove costly for decades on all those fronts.
The matter at hand of late for the NPCA revolves around the crushed $100,000 lawsuit which the Authority launched against a citizen who was intensely critical of the organization on several matters.
The point of these ramblings is not relive that cesspool of debate, but it is important to note the judge who heard the case not only tossed it out, but found the Authority should pick up the $130,000 legal tab for the man who faced the defamation suit.
Aside from Grimsby Reg. Coun. Tony Quirk losing his Tweeting mind over the NPCA setback – Quirk is a member of the Authority’s board of directors – the matter to be dealt with this week deals with the Town of Grimsby’s seeming lack of interest in NPCA affairs.
While other municipalities – I think all but Grimsby and West Lincoln – passed motions to demand Ontario’s Auditor General conduct an audit of NPCA’s books back in the summer, Grimsby and West Lincoln didn’t even vote on that matter.
Hmmm, could that be because Quirk and West Lincoln Mayor are both members of the NPCA board and their “home” councils didn’t want to cross them?
Lincoln passed a such a motion on the auditor issue. As well they should have, since their Reg. Coun. Bill Hodgson got flat out barbecued by some of the vindictive jackals around the NPCA board table.
As Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley noted during the brief audit discussion – the motion which was eventually withdrawn – his belief is Grimsby has no jurisdiction on either matter, hence he was reluctant to step into the fray.
I totally get the reluctance. If anyone or any governing body should be gun-shy it would be Grimsby all week and twice and on Sunday.
The audit matter, well, ok, it really just looked like they were not trying to stir trouble for their home boy, Tony. Whatever.
This time around the matter is not about the potential for a snipe hunt – if you listen to the NPCA board members who portray all is well with the organization and its books – as an audit was said to be. No, this time it is about legal costs, a known factor with a simple (yet large) total. Nobody is asking for the nuts and bolts behind it, just the sum total. Period.
The City of St. Catharines and others contend the total is not protected by privilege, as particulars of a legal bill, of course, would be.
Really, this has precious little to do about privilege, jurisdiction or the will of the public or council.
The NPCA finally has an opportunity to start bailing out its hole-filled ship and instead of saying, “Here you go” on the legal bill question, the board is just continuing to scuttle its own credibility and legacy for what was once a proud organization.
For Grimsby, its council needs to wake up and smell the coffee on many matters and this is one of them.
Bentley is right. Grimsby has no jurisdiction over the conduct and outcomes of another board – a given.
But when Grimsby residents ante up $480.000 to contribute to the NPCA’s coffers you are so far out in left field that you’re not even in the stadium if you genuinely believe that does not get you a ticket to the dance.
It is not about jurisdiction at all. Jurisdiction is about authority and control.
The audit matter and legal expense issue are about common sense. NPCA is a publicly funded body needing to be open and accountable to those who are paying the freight.
Grimsby, like other municipalities, should be demanding transparency and accountability but, just like with its own affairs, council opts to firmly plant its head in the sand waiting for the storm to pass. We’ll see if that transpires again on this legal cost matter.