BY DAVE BURKET
Through legal representatives, the Town of Pelham has threatened to hold Niagara Region responsible for “damages as a result of any premature or inappropriate action” by the Region, saying that the Town reserves its rights to “claim recovery” for such damages.
The letter, dated “Tuesday, November 15 [sic],” is signed by Donald DeLorenzo, of Daniel & Partners, LLP, the same lawyer who presented the Town’s legal case last night in front of a special meeting of Pelham Town Council.
Regional Council convenes tonight for a regularly scheduled meeting. On the agenda is a motion from its Audit Committee calling on Pelham to release the results of an audit undertaken this summer, an audit that came to light as a result of Councillor Marv Junkin resigning his Pelham Town Council seat last week.
In a further effort to prevent Regional Council action, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn sent an email to all of Regional Council this morning, arguing that the Audit Committee motion, passed at its emergency meeting this Tuesday, ought not to come to the floor for debate, but be deferred.
While it is not unusual for a councillor to advise colleagues of information pertaining to a topic coming up for debate, it is considerably less usual for a councillor to actively lobby colleagues in private email, a practice that would seem to flout transparency guidelines.
In his email to Council, Mayor Augustyn describes the concerns former Councillor Junkin brought to the Audit Committee as “garbled, confused, and inaccurate information from an [sic] resigned Councillor about an in camera meeting.”
Augustyn goes on to write that he will “ask for a deferral of the [Audit] Committee recommendations….”
Regional Councillor David Barrick, whose concerns about Pelham finances last spring triggered the cascade of events that has led to tonight’s showdown, responded critically to Augustyn’s email.
“I find your email to be completely out of order,” replied Barrick to Augustyn and the rest of Council. “You know the procedural rules, particularly, that one cannot debate or speak to a deferral. In this case, you have outlined your arguments via email, in advance of a Council meeting, then stating you will request a deferral, thereby limiting anyone else from commenting.”
Regarding the Town’s threat to the Region to hold it liable for unspecified damages relating to Regional Council’s actions, Audit Committee chair Tony Quirk responded in reply to a request for comment, “The Town of Pelham Council had the opportunity last night to do the right thing and release the September 5th audit findings. If there was no fraud, and everything is accounted for, why are they keeping it hidden? If everything is on the up and up, what possible damages could it do to the Town of Pelham?”
A copy of the Town’s letter sent by Daniel & Partners and Augustyn’s email to Council were provided to the Voice, PostMedia, and Niagara This Week early Thursday afternoon.
Neither Mayor Augustyn nor Daniel & Partners have replied to requests for comment.
Tonight’s Regional Council meeting begins at 6:30 in Thorold.
UPDATE 1: In response to a request for comment on the propriety of communicating with Regional Council in the manner that he did this morning, Mayor Augustyn wrote in an email late this afternoon, “Thanks for your email. I plan to say something similar tonight at Council.” This was the entirety of his comment.