Gary Zalepa, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s interim board member of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, said the new board is on track to governance reform.
And the work of examining an auditor general’s report, released last summer citing several governance issues, can now begin, said Zalepa.
Some changes have already been made as a result of that report — the current Niagara board members were appointed to a three-month term to provide leadership while determining a process for each municipality to recruit citizens with certain skill sets to serve as NPCA representatives. The auditor general had suggested the former board was weighted too heavily with political appointments rather than knowledgeable citizens.
The next task for the interim board members will be to go through that report, “looking at what’s already been accomplished by the past board and staff, and see what else needs to be done,” said Zalepa.
“This will shape what we have to do going forward.”
Zalepa said the meeting was the first opportunity for the Niagara representatives to sit down with those from Hamilton and Haldimand County, areas also covered by the conservation authority.
“This was one positive result, that we got to meet the board members from outside Niagara. We didn’t know what to expect. But we got the sense that there is good synergy around issues and that we will get a solid governance back in place. There was a general consensus on wanting to to that.”
The initial task of the agency’s interim board went as expected at last week’s first meeting at Ball’s Falls, with the election of an interim chair and vice-chair.
David Bylsma, mayor of West Lincoln, was chosen chair, Diana Huson, Pelham’s regional councillor, was selected vice-chair. The procedure under NPCA bylaws is to fill those positions at the annual general meeting. But board members voted to depart from that procedure to help them get to work on some of the many issues facing them — staffing and legal issues were on the agenda to be discussed at a closed-door session.
The chair and vice-chair appointments were to be confirmed at Thursday’s annual general meeting.
Following a three-and-a-half hour meeting behind closed doors, which was a “good work session,” said Bylsma, a motion was made to instruct interim CAO Dave Barrick to freeze hiring, firing and promotions without board approval.
Zalepa, who has pledged to keep the process going forward as open and accountable as possible given the controversy plaguing the actions of the last term, asked for a staff report on the hirings, firings, promotions and obligations of the board.
If it has to be a confidential memo to the board, he said, “that’s fine, but I want the public to know it’s been requested.”
The board also agreed to direct staff to come up with terms of reference and appointments for a selection committee to replace the interim CAO.
A Dec. 14 release from the NCPA updating the leadership rollercoaster of the organization explained Lisa MacManus, announced Dec. 6 as interim CAO by the former board (the day regional council appointed the new board), had resigned. She had been replacing former CAO Mark Brickell. David Barrick, who had been an NPCA employee up until last November, was named interim CAO “to support the 2019 board of directors in their search of a new CAO,” the NPCA release said.