East Ferris council has demanded an apology from the Cassellholme Board of Management after a flyer went out this week accusing area municipalities of "dithering" and driving up costs of the building's reconstruction.
A motion was passed at Tuesday's council meeting following the resignation of Councillor Terry Kelly, the municipalities representative on the Board.
The flyer, mailed to homes across the district and presenting Cassellholme's argument for speedy construction, contains the sentence, "Dithering by the municipalities since March has added $2.6 million in costs."
East Ferris Mayor Pauline Rochefort told BayToday Kelly received the flyer at home and was completely unaware it existed and was disappointed because he felt it should have been approved by the Board, and it had not.
Kelly's resignation comes on the heels of resignations by North Bay councillor Tanya Vrebosch and mayor Al McDonald and more recently Dean Backer of Mattawa. Bill Vrebosch has replaced McDonald on the Board.
Kelly submitted his resignation from the Board of Management of Cassellholme, Castle Arms and Castle Arms Living Management Assistance Corporation "due to concerns with the corporation's governance including the fact that the recent 'Open Letter from Cassellholme' was not approved by the Cassellholme Board of Management" reads the motion.
Council accepted Kelly’s resignation and joined his disapproval of the open letter from Cassellholme.
"In particular, we reject comments about municipalities dithering and it resulting in the addition of costs and also the statement that 'it’s not about cost, it’s about priorities' when according to East Ferris it is about both. It is unacceptable for Cassellholme to state that it has been working with all nine municipalities when in fact in recent months it opted to levy its partners and issue the 'Open Letter.'
"For these reasons and in particular, for management behavior that has led to seasoned Councillor Terry Kelly having to step down from the Board of Management, we request an apology."
However, the CEO of Cassellholme, Jamie Lowery tells BayToday that it's not true that no board members saw or approved the flyer and its wording before it was mailed out.
He says he is the recognized spokesman for Cassellholme and was asked by the Board previously to pass things like this past the Chair Chris Mayne and Vice-Chair Mark King.
"In this case, both Chris and Mark had seen it and authorized the production of it, and the mailout. From their vantage point there was simply so much misinformation floating around out there that some clarity was required, so that's really where the campaign came from."
Lowery says the flyer cost $18,000 to produce and mail out, not the $25,000 estimated by Bill Vrebosch.
And he takes ownership and defends the "dithering" comment, saying council took no issue with all other components of the information piece, they only took issue with one word.
"We've had a project that's been on the books since 2007. Why couldn't they all come together and say 'How can we get this done?'
But Lowery agrees 'dithering' has been a flashpoint. The dictionary defines dithering as "be indecisive."
"I didn't know really what other word you could use. I thought about it, but what word would you use to demonstrate that we've got to get on with things here. It's always one thing or another...the financing, the procurement, the location, and now it's the price. We absolutely take that seriously. We've done everything in our power to make this happen so where's the responsibility?
"The Province has committed its money," says a clearly frustrated Lowery. "So what other word could we use? It's not really procrastination. There's always an excuse, there's always some barrier."
Editor's note: We were able to contact Mr. Kelly after the story was posted and have added his comments below.
"I never saw the brochure until it arrived in the mail, and I'm a director," said Kelly in a phone interview,
"Dithering is not a nice word. To me, it means you can't make a decision. The municipalities have been pretty uniform in saying we want this built. They don't agree with the price, they don't agree with the loan guarantee that's necessary from the Province, and quite frankly we don't agree with the location. We're asking seniors to live in a work zone for at least five years and this is a very vulnerable population."
Kelly says the final straw in his resignation was the mailout.
"The language in the brochure, the main one being dithering, is very contentious as far as our council is concerned. We want an apology because we don't think we've been dithering. The concerns we voiced were very legitimate and we didn't consider it dithering."
Kelly expects the apology to come from Board Chair Chris Mayne.