Residents Nancy Beamer and Bernie Law address Niagara Regional Council, Thursday, Nov. 16. VOICE PHOTO

Regional Council passes motion on Pelham’s finances

BY VOICE STAFF

Niagara Regional Council passed a motion regarding Pelham’s finances at its meeting on Thursday night. The motion, which was the product of a special session of the Region’s Audit Committee on Tuesday, calls on the Town of Pelham to release the KPMG audit alleged by former Councillor Marvin Junkin to have occurred this summer, without previous notice to Pelham Town Council.

The motion also deferred any Regional consideration of additional Town debt until the audit is released, and instructed Regional staff to inform Infrastructure Ontario that “there may be a material change in the Town of Pelham’s financial position.” All of the motion’s clauses passed with strong majorities.

Discussion of Pelham finances occupied nearly two hours at the beginning of the meeting, with Council first hearing a presentation from residents Nancy Beamer and Bernie Law on behalf of the advocacy group Pelham DEBT.

Beamer emphasized the group’s concerns about a lack of transparency in Pelham. Beamer said that she was willing to accept that the Town may be unable to comment on specifics of the summer KPMG audit, but expressed her frustration that the Town was unwilling even to confirm that such an audit took place.

After Law and Beamer had returned to the gallery and taken their seats among dozens of other Pelham residents that had packed the room, Council discussed the specifics tabled by the Audit Committee.

After his motion to defer the matter failed, Mayor Dave Augustyn criticized the Audit Committee’s decision to make recommendations based on “garbled” information.

Chair Alan Caslin immediately called Augustyn’s comments disparaging and offensive, and asked that he apologize to former Councillor Marvin Junkin, who was seated in the gallery’s front row. Augustyn did so.

When he spoke again, Augustyn returned to his earlier point, albeit without the “garbled” line, saying that Town staff would provide an update to the Town’s finances on November 29, and that in debating the matter now, the Region was considering something that it didn’t understand.

Caslin again chastised Augustyn, this time for repeating what the Mayor had written in an email to Council on Thursday morning. Caslin had previously reprimanded Augustyn for initiating debate on the matter in this email, noting that on a vote of deferral debate is not permitted.

After a series of speakers, Council voted on the motion’s seven clauses in three separate blocks. Each passed easily.