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Archive: Berry forges Town letterhead

Originally published Jan 25, 2006

Richard Berry doctored up official town hall letterhead to write a letter to the U.S. Federal Highways Administration to discredit the Peace Bridge expansion project.

With the Town’s corporate logo tucked in the top left corner, the letter bearing his signature and dated Jan. 3 was sent by councillor Richard Berry, Corporation of the Town of Fort Erie, 2491 Dominion Road, Fort Erie ON L2A 1S0, Tel: 905-894-1979.

The last two digits of the postal code was changed by hand.

Other anomalous things about the letter: 2491 Dominion Road is Richard Berry’s home. It is in Ridgeway and the postal code is L0S 1N0.

“It’s fraudulent,” said Mayor Wayne Redekop.

Berry’s doctored letter was not copied to Council nor did it reflect its position, wrote Clerk Carolyn Kett on Jan. 26 to Chris Gatchell (misspelled Gathell in the letters) of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the original recipient.

“In closing,” her letter reads, “please note the correct address of the Corporation of the Town of Fort Erie as denoted herein.”

Berry defended himself saying the Mayor often writes letters that “I don’t agree with.”

And he attempted to position himself as being persecuted “If Richard Berry did it you better stop him,” he said in response to councillor Rick Shular’s inquiry on the matter.

Shular wanted to know what the policy is on councillors using town letterhead to write letters.

Kett said it hasn’t been a problem in the past because councillors are not issued letterhead.

A councillor using official stationery on his personal behalf “would be deemed inappropriate,” but if Council authorized a letter to a specific agency or person, “that’s one thing.”

Berry said he perceives it as different rules for the mayor and councillors.

Redekop replied that his letters express accepted town policy and direction, the clerk and other staff are aware of correspondence and copies are distributed to councillors.

“And the letterhead comes from Town Hall,” he said. “We don’t know where this letterhead came from.”

Councillor Paul Fell said Berry’s letter had his home address on it, so if he had received a response it wouldn’t have been received by the Town.

“How would this agency ever know how to get anything to us unless it came through councillor Berry,” he said.

“Does that make councillor Berry the gatekeeper of what Council gets and what they don’t get?”

Earlier in the meeting, Berry emphatically noted that he does not have a computer and could not use the Internet to find out information about the Ontario Citizens Committee on Police Services.

However, his letter was obviously created on a computer, neatly written with justified lines of type, grammatically correct and slightly smudged from being folded.

His letter sought to receive from the FHWA any correspondence it has with the Peace Bridge Authority.

“I am a fourth-term and duly elected councillor . . . ” the letter opens. “Residents have rarely had the benefit of hearing directly from the PBA.”

It continues: “The building of another Peace Bridge and expansion of the plaza have been debated for the past decade with very little active participation of the Town . . . I can be contacted by mail at the above address.”

Berry’s query to the FHWA was identical to one made by Bernadette Secco during an unannounced visit to its office in Albany, NY, on Dec. 12.

Secco was told the FHWA would not require the PBA to copy correspondence to the Town.

She met with Gatchell in lieu of Robert Davies who reports to Gatchell.

Berry’s Jan. 3 letter was copied to Davies.

Kett’s letter clarified for the U.S. agency that Berry acted on his own and that the Town does not require correspondence between FHWA and the PBA.

“In the event Council wishes to receive same, a resolution will be passed by Council and you will be notified accordingly. . . . Kindly provide the Town of Fort Erie with a copy of any correspondence that you forward to councillor Berry as result of his letter.”

Berry harped about different rules for different people later in the proceedings.

“This letterhead was fabricated,” replied Redekop. “You should know better . . . You have two sets of rules, the Richard Berry rules and” at which pointed Berry interrupted him — a frequent occurrence during Council meetings.

“I find it very interesting that you take great offence when somebody interrupts you and yet you have no difficulty interrupting . . . (interrupted again).”

The clerk will provide a report regarding a policy on the use of official letterhead.

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