In a surprise article in the Orillia Packet and Times and Barrie Examiner, we’ve learned that Midland Police Board chair, George Dixon may have gotten himself into hot water with the Province.
On Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network published the following story:
Correspondence sent to certain Midland residents voicing support for OPP over the current municipal force is causing some consternation in this Georgian Bay town.
An anonymous source said the email from Midland Police Services Board chair George Dixon prior to a public meeting last week on the town’s policing future has sparked a complaint to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).
“I know someone has made a complaint, because they told me they did,” the source said.
“It’s very unorthodox for a member of the board (Dixon) to make comments about their staff … a circumstance where their staff could lose their jobs and have a financial impact on them.”
Silvia Cheng, a spokesperson with the Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunals Ontario, said a complaint has been received and is under consideration.
“The outcome of OCPC’S consideration will determine whether an investigation is warranted,” she said.
But Dixon said Friday he didn’t violate any code of conduct since he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the police board, but rather voicing his personal opinion in the email he sent, “as a matter of public interest,” to members of a community organization.
“I’m definitely not doing that,” Dixon said. “I think I’ve made myself pretty clear.”
During an interview Friday, Dixon prefaced his comments — regarding next week’s special council meeting, when councillors will decide whether to opt for OPP or stay with the status quo — by saying, “Anything I say, I’m speaking only for myself and not for the board, because this is actually a town council decision, not a decision of the board. The board has not taken any formal position on that.”
In the email titled “September 6 – Decision Day on Policing Midland,” Dixon urges his “Tiffin friends and neighbours” to attend the aforementioned public meeting.
“The decision will affect both the quality and the cost of the police service we receive,” Dixon wrote.
“As many of you know, I have been serving as the chair of the Midland Police Services Board since the beginning of 2015. The facts have led me to the inescapable conclusion that OPP policing is the right choice both in terms of cost and quality.”
Dixon wrote choosing OPP is the right decision since it will lead to an additional four officers patrolling the town at a “cost that is at least $1 million lower every year once the costs of switching are offset by savings.”
The source said the complainant cited a section of the Police Services Act that reads, “Board members shall not use their office to advance their interests or the interests of any person or organization with whom or with which they are associated.”
As well, Dixon’s email notes while most Midland police staff would transfer directly to OPP, some civilian employees and senior officers might not be offered a comparable position in the Midland area.
“Some resistance to change is normal and this issue is no exception,” he wrote. “This may help account for recent efforts to discredit the work of the consultant and the administration by some of those potentially affected.”
Judy Contin, a former town councillor who now sits on the police board as a provincial appointee, said she would always err on the side of caution when it comes to these kinds of matters.
“Personally, I would be afraid that sending out emails like that might contravene the Police Services Act,” said Contin, who declined to comment further, or about whether she knew anything about the complaint.
While Midland Police Chief Mike Osborne said he didn’t know whether a complaint had been filed, he noted Dixon’s comments did upset a number of police personnel.
“I have received many inquiries from members of the public about whether or not that is appropriate,” Osborne said. “Board members have to be careful when using their title and expressing their opinion as a member of the board.
“When a member sets themselves up as a member of the board, that may open them up to a higher level of criticism than if they were just expressing their opinion as a citizen. If a person believes there is a misconduct, then they can file a complaint with the OCPC and they will determine whether or not they wish to investigate.”
But besides the email, a letter Dixon sent to the province two years ago has also surfaced.
In that piece of correspondence, sent to Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi, Dixon asked Midland resident Roy Ellis be appointed to the five-person board, which, at that time, featured Contin, Deputy Mayor Mike Ross, Coun. Stewart Strathearn and Dixon, who had been appointed by council the previous year.
Dixon said while he, Strathearn and Ellis all have strong ties to a local community group that has consistently sought lower tax rates and been critical of municipal services (including police) in the past, his decision was based solely on what he felt Ellis would bring to the board.
“In my view, it would bring together a group of reasonably talented people trying to provide some oversight, which is the role of the police services board,” Dixon said, referring to the unsuccessful move to add Ellis.
It’s not known whether the town advertised the vacancy, but Dixon said Friday the time the province was having difficulty at that time filling these kinds of appointments.
His letter to the province concludes, “Please be aware, however, that a town of 17,000 is never likely to have a large number of candidates at any given time.”
Midland council will vote Wednesday whether to opt for OPP or stay with the status quo.
And while Dixon and Midland Mayor Gord McKay stand firm in their belief moving to OPP is the right decision, Osborne said the numbers presented don’t stand up to scrutiny.
“There are comments made that are very anecdotal,” he said. “If you write an essay, you need to source that information. You don’t promote the person that says they’re going to work really hard.”
Osborne said while OPP might contend it is going to have four officers always patrolling Midland, that might not be the case should the force win the costing and need to send resources to other, outlying areas.
Dixon, meanwhile, noted the town has been bandying about the idea of getting an OPP costing since 2013, so he’s looking forward to council making a final decision.
“I think it’s fair to say that everybody will be looking forward to having this hanging question resolved,” he said.
“This has placed some stress on the senior management of the Midland Police Service. I think everybody recognizes it will be good to have a final decision.”
We’ve looked into this shocking revelation over the past couple days and have gotten our hands on both the email that Dixon sent to residents in his Tiffin Homeowner Association contact list as well as copy of the letter he secretly submitted to try to influence the selection of a missing police board member to be filled by his MidlandCommunity.ca co-founder Roy Ellis. Both Dixon and Ellis, as well as Councillor Stewart Strathearn all reportedly co-founded the lobby group before the last municipal election and we’ve leaned about the group’s plans to create “shadow cabinets” to influence Council in matters they see as being mismanaged, namely Police, Fire, Public Works and Administration.
A quick review of the MidlandCommunity.ca website shows countless scathing rebukes of the past council and police services boards authored by Dixon, Ellis and Strathearn. The group has taken to anonymous publishing over the past year, perhaps inspired by OurMidland.ca’s successes.
The email that Dixon chose to send out to undisclosed recipients (we have removed them from below) clearly has him crossing the line from personal opinion to using his position as the chair of the police services board, to justify his position and to help convince the recipients to show up at the meeting to express support for the OPP by clapping or making public statements. The article above has Dixon denying that he was expressing anything other than a personal opinion. Perhaps he thinks Midlander’s are stupid, but we will let you draw your own conclusions. It seems that complaints to the OCPC are being filed which could have him suspended from the board, or permanently removed.
The next shocker is that Dixon’s submission to the Province’s appointments authority purportedly by the board as a whole, urged the Province to consider appointing Roy Ellis to the board. The letter, it seems, was not authorized by the board and the appointment never happened. Dixon’s denials in the article and his weak explanation of the rationale again paints Midland residents in contempt and clearly seems to be a breach of a few of the code of conduct rules he is bound to. His motivations as an active member of the lobby group he co-founded seem to have driven him to abandon his oaths to keep his personal agenda and vendetta against the local emergency services at bay. The only notes about this we could find on the board’s minutes was a cryptic and sanitized statement on November 16th 2015 “Member Contin expressed a concern with respect to the Minister’s letter. A discussion followed and the Chair clarified his views on the issue.”
The letter he sent is below. The link to the code of conduct under the Police Services Act is here: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/970421
Will Mayor Gord McKay have the courage to see what most of the community now clearly sees? The viral infection that is Roy Ellis and George Dixon must be purged from our municipal government until such a time as they are given a mandate by voters. Strathearn is an elected official, and while we don’t see him being around after the purge of 2018, he and his lobby group affiliation will have to be managed by the voters.
As for the Mayor’s ability to pull Dixon off the Police Services Board sooner than later, that may save the town legal fees if the OCPC sees Dixon’s actions as a conflict of interest. We join others in demanding that Dixon be removed from the board and a replacement found who has no affiliations with the lobby group.
From what we’ve learned, no matter the outcome of the Sept 6th vote, the police will have to negotiate a new contract either as their last before the disbanding 6-9 months later or as a renewed mandate to provide policing to the community. Our source says “We are not sure how Dixon’s continued presence on the board could bring about any positive outcomes or good faith bargaining. The Town will have to decide if Dixon still deserves to be their (council’s) appointee on that board.
George Dixon’s Email
Tiffin friends and neighbours,
On September 6 Midland Council will make a final decision on whether to amalgamate Midland’s Police with the OPP. I am writing to encourage you to attend this very important meeting at 7:00 p.m at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre. Residents will have an opportunity to address Council that evening before Council makes its decision. The decision will affect both the quality and the cost of the police service we receive.
As many of you know, I have been serving as the Chair of the Midland Police Services Board since the beginning of 2015. The facts have led me to the inescapable conclusion that OPP policing is the right choice both in terms of cost and quality. Under the OPP proposal, we will have 4 additional Constables patrolling our Town at a cost that is at least $1 Million lower every year once the costs of switching are offset by savings. For perspective, $1 Million is 5% of Midland’s annual local tax levy. Saving $1 Million a year allows the Town to reallocate the savings to other public services, to reduce taxes or to do a combination of both.
The Town administration along with a respected external consultant have carried out a very thorough analysis of the OPP’s proposal. The key conclusion is this: “Evidence indicates that if the Town of Midland accepts the OPP proposal for municipal policing there will be a significant annual financial benefit with no degradation in policing.” A wealth of reports and background information leading to this conclusion is available on the Town’s website for you to consider. http://www.midland.ca/Pages/OPP-Costing.aspx
Some resistance to change is normal and this issue is no exception. While most Midland Police staff just transfer directly to the OPP with amalgamation, a handful of civilian employees and senior officers may not be offered a position or may not be offered a comparable position in the Midland area. This may help account for recent efforts to discredit the work of the consultant and the administration by some of those potentially affected.
The meeting room at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre accommodates about 500 people. Council is holding the meeting there because a large turnout is expected. My experience working in local government for many years is numbers do matter – the turnout and views expressed on September 6th will influence Council’s decision. You can make your views known that night either by going to the microphone yourself or by your applause for those who do. An effective submission can often be as short as “I support / do not support the move to OPP”. Whatever your own view on the subject, I encourage you to come out and make it known on September 6th. In the meantime you should also feel free to telephone or email councillors to express your views.
George Dixon’s Letter To Have Roy Ellis Appointed
Link to Dixon’s email to the Province: http://www.ourmidland.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Provincial-Appointment-Vacancies-MPSB-Response-to-MCSCS.pdf