By Lynne Turner, Confederate Staff
Henry Micek, former Southgate Economic Development Officer, was astounded to read in a recent news story “Southgate found guilty of holding secret meetings,” published in The Confederate, that he had kept notes from committee meetings “but has refused to make them public.”
“That is totally incorrect,” he said. “I am rather upset. The findings of the Amberley people are totally incorrect.”
Amberley Gavel Ltd. of London prepared the reports, which found Southgate Council guilty of holding secret meetings in violation of the Municipal Act. The investigations were as a result of complaints of improperly closed meetings of council and the economic development committee.
Mr. Micek says, in 2011, the “new” economic development committee made up of CAO David Milliner, Mayor and Chair Brian Milne and Councillors Dale Pallister and Glen Irwin decided at the first meeting of the committee on Dec. 9, 2012 that minutes of the committee meetings would not be kept.
He says he knew minutes should be kept, but despite his objections to not keeping minutes, the committee decided not to keep minutes. Concerned by the committee’s decision, he then contacted Southgate’s Municipal Affairs representative, who confirmed that under the Act municipal committees were obliged to keep minutes. The EDC committee argued that they were not required to do so.
“I spent 30 years in the education field, participated and chaired many meetings, and I probably know more about keeping minutes of meetings of than anyone on the committee,” he says. “If minutes were not going to be kept, I ‘said to myself, I will keep my own notes for my own personal use’.”
As EDO, often at meetings I was seeking direction from the committee and so I kept a personal written record of events and decisions. It was my opinion that “good paper work made for clear understandings,” he said.
In or about July, he received a call from Clerk Carol Watson, because of a freedom of information request to provide minutes of the EDC meetings, and the Township solicitor had suggested that she obtain Mr. Micek’s personal notes.
“They were my personal notes,” he said, “and had personal comments.”
He called his lawyer and was told he was not obligated to give the personal notes to Ms. Watson, as they were not minutes.
Mr. Micek did give some notes to Ms. Watson, after she had visited him to look at them, but refused authorization to release them. In fact, he said, several weeks later when he raised the issue with Ms. Watson and she informed him that the township lawyer said it wasn’t necessary to provide the personal notes.
However, shortly thereafter, he was instructed that minutes should be taken of future EDC meeting and these were distributed to council and the public.
“The fact that the story said that I was the recording secretary of the committee and I refused to make the notes public is totally incorrect,” he says, reiterating that they were not minutes of the meetings and that the he was not obligated to release his personal notes.
He says neither Ms. Watson, Mayor Milne or CAO Dave Milliner contacted him again, and the investigators didn’t talk to him either. He feels they should have before putting in the report that he refused to release the information. His calls to Amberley Gavel have not been returned.
“Now I’m the fall guy,” he says
Mr. Micek says he never sought out a position on Southgate’s economic development committee or the job as the township’s economic development officer.
“Back in 2004 I had a councillor named Chapman knocking on my door, asking me to join the committee, and after the fourth visit I did,” Mr. Micek says. “Two months later I was chair of the committee.”
Minutes were kept in those days. Between 2006 and 2010 then-Mayor Don Lewis was chair of economic development and there was no EDC committee; Mr. Micek brought economic concerns directly to council. In 2011 the newly elected council with Brian Milne at the helm struck the new economic development committee and made the decision not to keep minutes.
Since the controversy erupted and the story appeared in the June 27 Confederate, as well as newspapers in Dundalk and Shelburne, Mr. Micek has been trying to clear his name and get the chain of events to the public.
Mr. Micek suffered a heart attack and spent most of last week in hospital, his family says because of the allegations that he would not provide the personal notes that he was never required to take or submit until the committee came under fire for not keeping minutes.