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Councillor crashes racetrack buffet

Originally published May 13, 2010
An uninvited guest “had a great time” at the VIP luncheon on opening day at the Fort Erie Race Track.

“I guess I’m a racetrack crasher,” said councillor Ann-Marie Noyes after Monday night’s town council meeting. “I didn’t know I wasn’t invited.”

She was specifically left off the guest list, explained EDTC manager Jim Thibert, because “there were employees that were concerned about her attitude towards the track and lack of support for it.”

The candidate for mayor had arrived at the luncheon May 1. After “intimidating” staff, according to Thibert, he allowed her to be seated and she enjoyed her lunch.

“I had a great time,” Noyes said.

Thibert said she was told by telephone that she wasn’t invited and a follow-up email was sent, which she says she didn’t receive.

“My computer crashed two-and-a-half weeks ago, so I don’t have my Outlook Express and I don’t have my Lotus Notes up yet,” Noyes said.

“I’m somewhat surprised at the vindictiveness. I don’t think it has anything to do with the racetrack employees. It has everything to do with Jim Thibert. He’s upset with the questions I asked,” Noyes said.

“She called over saying ‘where’s my invitation’,” Thibert said. “We said there’s no right or privilege here. The corporation has decided not to send you one.”

Noyes was the only member of council not invited to the luncheon put on by the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium which, with a $1.5 million investment from the Town and another $16 million from the province, has leased the thoroughbred racing operations from Nordic Gaming for the next three years.

Industry big shots, owners and trainers of large racing outfits, breeders and other VIPs have been customarily treated to lunch by the racetrack owner during important events.

“It’s been tradition that council gets invited to the opening day,” said councillor Bob Steckley, whose question brought the issue to the public forum. “Was that invitation extended to every member of council?”

He said it was “curious” and “disturbing” that Noyes was not invited.

“In my experience, councillor Noyes has always supported anything to do with the track, has never once voted against anything for the track, supported the money for the track, supported money for the EDTC, including your yearly budget. I have never seen her vote against the budget for the EDTC or anything for that,” Steckley said.

“Is there a question in there?” Thibert replied.

“Yeah,” he said, but Mayor Doug Martin cut him off before he could continue.

“Let’s not get into personalities here, councillor,” Martin said, reminding him that the topic was about the hiring of the new track manager.

After that exchange, Noyes took a turn.

“I’d like the names of the employees,” she said, and Martin again tried to close the topic. Noyes resisted, but eventually acquiesced.

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