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Councillors refuse to rule on bingo appeal

Town council’s bingo appeal committee refused to rule whether the lottery licence of the Friends of Crystal Beach should be reinstated.

Instead, the three councillors who comprise the committee decided to refer the matter to the province’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission.

Committee members Paul Collard, John Hill and Don Lubberts made the decision Thursday night after a three-and-a-half hour session that included nearly an hour of secret deliberations.

Referral to the AGCO was originally recommended by the town’s Community Gaming Development Corporation in early October when the FOCB gave notice it would appeal its licence revocation.

However, Collard, Lubberts, Hill and Bob Steckley bristled at the recommendation and wanted the appeal handled in-house as specified in the town’s lottery licencing bylaw.

In its decision, the committee requested the town solicitor provide a legal opinion on the interpretation of the section of the province’s lottery licence policy by which the CGDC determined the FOCB was no longer eligible to hold bingos.

The solictor’s opinion and all other relevant materials would then be sent to the AGCO for review and then the appeal committee would decide the matter.

The appeal committee was chosen by a 4-3 vote with Mayor Doug Martin, Rick Shular and Stephan Passero opposed to selecting a committee at all.

The bingo licence was revoked because the FOCB was carrying on activities to persuade public opinion to oppose the Bay Beach condominium project, said Russ Wilson, general manager of the CGDC.

The FOCB used its website to promote its opposition and to solicit donations for the Fort Erie Waterfront Preservation Association which unsuccessfully appealed the condo project to the Ontario Municipal Board and whose members subsequently are suing the town.

Bob Lund, president of the FOCB, is one of the people involved in the lawsuit to stop the condominium project.

FEWPA also received a $5,000 donation from the Friends organization and contributed $1,150 collectively to the campaigns of Collard and former councillor Ann-Marie Noyes who lost her bid to be mayor.

Hill and Lubberts also received illegal donations from an American resident who contributed to their campaigns because of their positions against the condominium project.

Collard, Hill, Lubberts and Noyes are currently embroiled in election finance audits because of these donations.

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