It began innocently enough, with a request by Dave and Mike Allison to rent ice time at Memorial Arena for their new “AA” developmental hockey camp for the coming July.
It ended quietly Monday night—almost three years later—with a behind-closed-doors discussion and then a 4-1 vote by council in favour of a $24,000-plus out-of-court settlement with Borderland Hockey School owner Terry Mihichuk that actually was reached last month.
That’s a far cry from the $200,000 Mr. Mihichuk originally had been seeking for what he said was breach of contract, and $5,000 isn’t a whole pile of money in the grand scheme of things. But still, the bottom line is taxpayers are on the hook for what was a gross error in judgment and bad decision on the part of Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and him alone.
It’s also something the previous council had vowed never to allow when Mr. Mihichuk first filed his lawsuit back in March, 1999. But evidently only Coun. Dave Bourgeault had the courage to stand by his convictions in the end.
Most galling, though, is that Mayor Witherspoon has never acknowledged the gravity of his poor judgment in writing, under “Office of the Mayor” letterhead, that the Borderland Hockey School had the exclusive right to rent ice time at Memorial Arena here during the summer months—a policy the Community Services manager, rec commission, town council, and residents knew nothing about until the Allison brothers came forward with their request.
Instead, he seemed to regard the whole thing as an annoying nuisance propagated by the media.
Sure, Mayor Witherspoon said today that, in retrospect, he made a mistake. But it sounds cold or distant without the words “sorry” or “apology” accompanying it. Perhaps the citizens of Fort Frances can look forward to that at the next council meeting.
Offering to cough up the $5,000 deductible would help, too.