By Tristan Marks
An online petition seeking a province-led investigation into administrative issues at the Town of Grimsby was launched last week, clicking by the 1,000 milestone Monday.
Grimsby resident Mark Kossek posted the petition after losing “all confidence” in the majority of Grimsby council members and the municipality’s chief administrative officer, Harry Schlange.
The petition asks Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff and Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé “to begin an immediate and independent investigation” into the hiring practices and activities of Schlange.
It also asks that an investigation delve into possible conflict of interest regarding Schlange’s relationship to Coun. Dave Kadwell.
Kossek said he hopes this action from the community will prompt the provincial officials to research and consider a recall mechanism for municipalities.
“If you’ve lost all confidence in your municipal council, there should be recall legislation,” Kossek said.
He added that, without the accountability a recall mechanism could offer – a situation such as Grimsby council’s where five councillors regularly control the agenda on key issues – councils have a “four-year fiefdom in front of them.”
The petition points to the recent firing of long-time, respected Town employees as just the latest in a series of actions taken by Schlange that are “causing significant and potentially irrevocable damage to the Town of Grimsby”.
It also notes how “simple administrative tasks have gone wanting while major structural and policy issues have mushroomed up at every turn” during his tenure.
Kossek noted in the petition that former CAO Derik Brandt, who was fired more than two years ago, was still an official signing officer for the municipality as recently as this month.
Kossek alleges this issue is all the more damaging since the group of councillors which has become known as the “Grimsby 5” (G5) and Schlange appear to coordinate their actions away from public’s sight.
“There’s no transparency or accountability coming from those guys and they ran on that,” Kossek said of now-councillors who campaigned on those traits in 2018.
“And as for Harry, we didn’t vote for that guy. In his 12-page contract, all but two lines are redacted.”
This latter comment refers to an employment contract which was recently released Freedom of Information Act request.
Kossek added that if the G5 have nothing to hide, “they should welcome” an investigation into the CAO.
The petition was originally inspired by the level of outrage Grimsby residents were expressing on social media platforms.
“A lot of people wanted to take action,” said Kossek.
He decided to put his experience creating other petitions to use and help residents initiate concrete action to solve serious issues plaguing the Town.
“I’m happy how many signatures we’ve got and the amount of attention we’ve received is astounding,” Kossek said.
“I’m not trying to be the face of this. I’m just trying to be an involved citizen and hopefully inspire people to do the same.”
To sign the petition, visit: change.org/savegrimsby