Under pressure, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn to address E. W. Farr email revelation, related issues

Residents encouraged to attend open meeting next Wednesday
[UPDATED Saturday, 2:00 PM with Mayoral comment, Editor’s Note]

By VOICE STAFF

As questions continue to mount regarding an email that Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn quietly sent to a District School Board of Niagara trustee last summer, Augustyn has agreed to address the issue at a public meeting scheduled for next Wednesday evening in Fenwick.

Nancy Beamer, speaking for “Names Matter,” a Pelham citizens  group lobbying the DSBN to reverse its decision to rename a local public school, announced on Friday that the meeting would be held at Fire Station #2, known locally as the Fenwick Fire Hall, starting at 7:00 PM Wednesday.

While the Mayor has agreed to appear, says Beamer, DSBN officials associated with the school-naming process have either declined to attend or have not yet responded to the group’s invitation. DSBN Chair, Dale Robinson, to whom Augustyn’s email was addressed last June, has declined to appear, says Beamer, asserting that she would be “on holidays.” The Voice was unable to independently confirm Robinson’s intentions. She did not respond to repeated requests for comment on E.W. Farr-related matters on Friday.

Beamer, whose group maintains an email list of some 580 residents,  says that all members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend the meeting. “We would especially welcome parents and children who are unhappy with the name change,” she says, referring to the contentious decision by the DSBN to consolidate two Pelham public schools into the E. W. Farr Public School facility in Fenwick, then rename the school “Wellington Heights.” Names Matter contends that the Wellington Heights name was chosen based on flawed research and has no historical relevance to Pelham, much less Fenwick.

Mayor Augustyn has not confirmed directly with the Voice that he intends to speak at the meeting, nor whether he will take audience questions or just make a presentation. The Mayor has also declined repeated Voice requests to clarify his position on whether the DSBN erred in its decision to rename the school last year, and whether it should now rescind that decision.

“That sounds like an ‘off-the-record’ question,” wrote the Mayor in an email to the Voice on Monday, without offering a definitive answer.

 

Editor’s Note:

Five days after being asked to state explicitly whether he supported or opposed renaming the E. W. Farr Public School, Mayor Augustyn emailed the Voice late Friday night after this article was originally posted.

“My Mayoral view and my personal view are the same. (I thought that was understood by the unanimous vote by Council in June.),” Augustyn wrote. “I thought that the DSBN should have reconsidered the name.”

The Mayor asserts that his earlier answer, “That sounds like an ‘off-the-record’ question,” was, “in jest….Next time I’ll add LOL at the end so you might know when I am joking.”

Yet nothing in the Mayor’s earlier email—sent solely to the Voice and not widely copied to Council, the CAO, senior Town staff, and DSBN officials, as is the Mayor’s usual practice— suggested that he was attempting humour.

In fact, he closed with what seemed a sincere request: “I would greatly appreciate it if in all future correspondence (like below) and in your paper that you would use Dave instead of David. I have been known as Dave since grade 7. My Mom only used David when I was in trouble. I hope you understand and will honour my request.”

It is perplexing that the Mayor finds it acceptable to “jest” around an issue that hundreds of Pelham residents have taken to heart, yet turns serious when it comes to how his name appears in a newspaper.

With respect, we suggest that the Mayor leave the comedy to Rick Mercer, the “LOLs” and emoticons to 12-year-olds, and instead take more sincerely the concerns of residents whose interests he was elected to represent.

 

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