Skip to content

Champagne corked (Updated)

East Ferris deputy mayor Donald Champagne took some heat at last night's meeting of the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority board of directors.

East Ferris deputy mayor Donald Champagne took some heat at last night's meeting of the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority board of directors.

East Ferris deputy mayor Donald Champagne said he was chastised behind closed doors last night by the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority board because of the wording of motion he’d authored.

The motion, passed at East Ferris council Tuesday night, included the following clause: ‘Whereas the ratepayers of the district serviced by the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority have lost complete faith in the authority’s ability to govern itself and solve the present financial dilemma…’ and drew the ire of board member Dave Mendicino.

“I would hope that that is just a poorly worded clause or whatever you want to call it in this motion, because this board has been working damn hard to get things done and we inherited a mess but we’re here, and for a township to make a comment like that is totally, in my opinion, inappropriate and I would hope it was just a poorly worded motion,” Mendicino said after the board broke out of an in-camera suggestion.

Poor choice of words
It was in the private session, Champagne said, that he came under fire.

“I got seriously tongue-lashed, yes.”

And following Mendicino’s statement, Champagne offered one of his own.

“As deputy mayor of the township of East Ferris I did move the motion and after discussion with the members I think it really isn’t to reflect on the existing members,” Champagne said.

“I think they’re working very hard to clean this thing up and to bring it out and so there’s a retraction of that motion. It is a poor choice of words and a little bit harsh and does not really reflect the present board members. They didn’t create the mess we’re trying to clean up. Is that satisfactory?”

After the meeting Champagne clarified that he actually mean to retract the wording of the first part of the motion.

Worst-case scenario
Champagne’s motion asks the Municipal Affairs and Housing Ministry to call a judicial inquiry into the past finances of the board, in connection with its debt of at least $5.4 million, which, in a worst-case scenario, could rise to $7.2 million.

The city of North Bay had also passed a motion asking for the board to request a forensic audit and judicial inquiry.

Rather than follow suit, the board voted to bring in a panel of “financial experts” from the community “to examine past financial activities at length and in depth, to assess the current financial position of the authority and recommend a plan for the authority to move forward, and that a decision on a forensic audit or judicial inquiry be deferred to any recommendations of the panel,” said authority secretary-manager Brian Tayler.

The soon-to-be formed panel would have until Aug. 25 to deliver its recommendations.

Lost faith
Mendicino said East Ferris township “cannot speak” for all ratepayers in the district.

“This board is working very hard, they know what their job is, and for someone to say they’ve lost faith in it and to speak for the ratepayers in the district when they should only be speaking of their own township is inappropriate.”

Pushing for an inquiry
Champagne voted in favour of the panel along with the rest of the board, and said he believes the public would not question the wisdom of the decision.

“I would tend to say they have confidence in the board because I know they’re working hard, I think with the publicity a lot of bad things keep happening, and it’s not necessarily a reflection on the board members we have now,” Champagne said.

“I know they’re working hard on this, I’m also pushing very hard that if we do not get a resolution as soon as possible to find out what’s going on I am personally pushing for an inquiry and or an audit and I know the public is asking for it. I’d like to give the board a chance to try to make sure that we do come up with a solution.”

Wasn't too pleased
In a follow-up telephone interview with Wednesday night, Champagne said he would ask his council to hold back on the motion until after the panel’s report.

East Ferris Mayor Bill Vrebosch said the motion has likely gone off to the ministry, but added Champagne was free to bring the matter up at council next week.

Champagne, Vrebosch said, had attended the meeting, in part, to deliver a copy of the motion to the board.

Vrebosch said he wasn’t too pleased with Mendicino’s comments about Champagne’s motion.

“It’s the Dave Mendicino show, and that appears to be the problem,” Vrebosch said.

“He wouldn’t have done that to me if I’d been there.”