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ANALYSIS: Pelham Town Hall has a Ron Kore problem, and it’s unlikely to end any time soon

Senior municipal staff say Ward 2 councillor’s public statement of apology last month not enough to rebuild bridges burned even before COVID-19 conduct S tarting the week of April 6, the Voice began hearing assertions about alleged conduct by Pelham

Senior municipal staff say Ward 2 councillor’s public statement of apology last month not enough to rebuild bridges burned even before COVID-19 conduct

Starting the week of April 6, the Voice began hearing assertions about alleged conduct by Pelham Town Councillor Ron Kore—related to his duties as an elected official, as well as to his job at Fonthill Sobeys, the grocery store he manages as a franchisee.

The assertions grew louder a week later, when Councillor Mike Ciolfi, who had been ill with COVID-19, died.

[UPDATED OCT. 14 2020: Kore takes second leave of absence]

As a result, the Voice filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the Town of Pelham on April 30, seeking copies of email correspondence between Kore, other councillors, and Town staff. The documents provided by the Town raised further questions, leading the newspaper to file a second FOI request on May 21. The Town provided those results earlier this month.

A larger issue also emerged, one that pre-dated Kore’s conduct while infected with COVID-19. The email record, as well as comment from senior Town management, painted a deeply unflattering portrait of Kore, particularly regarding his perceived lack of competence, poor knowledge of matters under discussion at council, and alleged abrasive treatment of Town staff.

In researching this story over the last six weeks, the Voice has repeatedly requested comment from Kore, his council colleagues, the Mayor, the CAO, the Fire Chief, as well as from all staff present in council chambers on March 23, the evening when Kore attended council while ill. Despite repeated invitations to provide his side of the story, Kore has declined to do so—including after being provided a summary of critical Town staff comment that appears below. The Voice continues to welcome Kore’s perspective, and will update the online version of this story should we receive it.

Request to block emails

The principle assertion brought to the newspaper was that in early April, near the peak of coronanvirus infection in Niagara, Councillor Kore requested that Town of Pelham IT staff block all incoming email to him from Mayor Marvin Junkin, and from Fire Chief Bob Lymburner, head of the municipality’s COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

This extraordinary request—an elected official seeking to block communication from the head of council, and from the Town’s EOC leader, during a global pandemic—was indeed made by Kore early in the afternoon of Wednesday, April 8.

In an email addressed to IT staff, Kore asked that all email from both Junkin and Lymburner be blocked. He did not explain why, saying only, “I don’t want to communicate with these two people.”

Four minutes later, an IT staffer replied, saying, “I would have to consult with the Town Clerk and or Town CAO. Whenever I am asked of these requests, I require approval. Are you ok, if I reach out to the CAO and or the Clerk?”

A half hour later Kore responded, “The CEO [sic] will be fine.”

Two hours later, at 3:40 PM, Pelham CAO David Cribbs emailed Kore to inform him that while he would agree to block Junkin’s messages, he would not block Lymburner’s.

“We are prepared to block messages from the Mayor to your account, as per your request,” wrote Cribbs. “Those messages are typically and fundamentally political in nature, and so we can accede to your wishes in said regard. The request to have the Fire Chief blocked is more problematic. As you know, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and the Fire Chief is the Town’s default Incident Commander (I am the other) throughout the emergency period. As such, we worry about potential health and safety implications that could arise if you do not receive critical information from the Fire Chief. I would suggest that for messages from Chief Lymburner that you prefer not to interact with, you could either simply ignore them or delete them...Frankly the Town isn’t resourced to be able to ensure that someone else would or could send you the same message every time.”

At 5 PM, Kore answered Cribbs, “Thank you very much. Appreciate it.”

Shortly after 8 PM, IT staff emailed Kore to confirm that emails from Junkin were now blocked.

Kore has not responded to Voice requests to explain why he wanted to block communication from the Mayor and Fire Chief.

Asked for comment, Mayor Junkin said that “purposely severing all contact with the Fire Chief, especially during a pandemic, is not showing much respect for your duties.”

Junkin added that several weeks earlier, Kore had stopped including him in group emails.

“From approximately mid-February until present, Councillor Kore did not include addressing myself in any emails sent to all other councillors and the CAO. As to why I was excluded from these emails, which were about Town business, you would have to ask Councillor Kore.”

Asked whether he had ever encountered such a request in his career working in other municipalities, the CAO replied, “I am currently experiencing a large number of professional firsts [in Pelham]…. My prior experience with elected officials blocking email access to third parties occurred in the context of the elected official receiving misogynistic or otherwise hateful messaging.”

I am currently experiencing a large number of professional firsts [in Pelham]…

Asked why he agreed to block Junkin’s emails, Cribbs reiterated his assertion that the relationship between the two was fundamentally political.

“As such, anyone who wishes not to receive political messages from a given source should have the capacity to do so. There is no specific corporate harm derived from elected officials not directly communicating with each other.”

Sobeys parking confrontation

The secondary assertion brought to the newspaper related to Kore’s conduct at his store earlier the same day, Wednesday, April 8, when he confronted a Town employee who was assisting with volunteer efforts to deliver groceries to elderly shut-ins and those in quarantine.

The Pelham Support Network (PSN) was an initiative undertaken by Pelham’s two Lions Clubs in late March, in partnership with local grocery stores and pharmacies, with delivery assistance provided in part by Town staff driving Town vehicles.

Volunteer Pelham Support Network vehicles line up in front of Fonthill Sobeys as drivers load prepared grocery orders. FENWICK LIONS PHOTO

On the morning on April 8, a Town staffer pulled up in front of the Fonthill Sobeys entrance to load a Fire Department vehicle with PSN groceries already prepared for pickup. She parked where other vehicles, such as armored cars, often stop for brief pickups or deliveries.

In an exchange that left her shaken, the driver was confronted by Kore, who appeared at the entrance and told her that she was not permitted to park where she had. (In fact, given that it was an emergency vehicle, there was no prohibition against it being parked in the spot.)

In a series of emails to the rest of council and the CAO, Kore defended his conduct, initially glossing over his encounter with the driver. In a reply to council sent by the CAO on Friday, April 10, Cribbs sought to correct the record:

“I would however be remiss not to inform the rest of Council that what these messages don't say is that Councillor Kore elected to shout at the junior staff front of many other people, which at best was also poor optics. In the future, I would recommend to any and all of you that ideally you refer matters to my office whenever the problem relates to unfortunate staff decision making. That is part of what you pay me for.”

Kore pushed back: “And for the young girl I did not shout at her my front end manager was with me and I asked her politely to remove the vehicle. Why is it that Town leader can’t take criticism or admit that they were wrong without personally attacking somebody after the fact. It’s a sign of a weak Leader and leadership.”

To which the CAO responded: “Whether or not you yelled at the staff member, whose name is [...], you were at least excessively forceful in your language, and she was really quite upset by the interaction. Given the power imbalance between you, even without intent you can cause significant fear and anxiety in others when you speak with passion. You might consider an apology. If you wish, I can provide you with her contact particulars for said purpose.”

Kore did not respond when asked by the Voice if he had apologized to the staffer.

Fire Chief visits Sobeys

The following day, April 9—after Kore had already asked the Town to block email from him—Fire Chief Bob Lymburner went to the store to discuss the shouting incident with Kore. However, Kore refused to do so.

In what one witness described to the Voice as “like it was out of the Keystone Cops,” Kore held up his hands when he saw Lymburner appear and “scooted around avoiding [the Chief].”

Fire Chief and Emergency Control Group chair Bob Lymburner leads the March 27, 2020 daily meeting by video conference from his office at Fire Station #1. DON RICKERS

In an email sent to the CAO and councillors the following morning, Kore presented his version of the incident.

“Mr. Lymburner came into the store I recognized him, I put up my hand and I said I don’t want to talk to you today. Mr. Lymburner chased me around the floral display several times. The only way to escape him was, I ran up into my office and he chased me to the bottom of the stairs. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him and he’s remained at the bottom of the stairs for several minutes. Why can’t Mr. Lymburner Respect my wishes of not communicating. If anything Mr. Lymburner was harassing me. I’ll be happy to show you the tape of the scenario.”

Kore did not respond when asked by the Voice why he did not want to speak to the Fire Chief.

In a brief telephone conversation, Lymburner thanked the paper for its interest in the incident, but said he had no comment.

“The Town of Pelham does not publicly comment on interpersonal disputes,” replied CAO Cribbs, “or communications issues as between staff or as between staff and elected officials.”

However, Cribbs communicated his disappointment in an email to Kore sent the next day, April 10, which happened to be Good Friday.

“I also regret that the Fire Chief came to see you [yesterday] rather than going through proper channels. I have spoken to him about that. Here's the thing: you both should have come to me, but rather you both went off on each other while circumventing proper process. That interaction in your grocery store must have been mutually embarrassing, and perhaps it can be a learning opportunity for both sides...With that, I really would like to put this to rest on a holiday in which the basic premise is forgiveness.”

A half-hour later, Kore responded, copying all of council and the Fire Chief.

“You’re absolutely right DAVID I haven’t been myself for the last 3 to 4 days because the mayor accuses me of putting someone in harms way. Think about it if that person passes away he put the blame on me. Think of the burden I’m caring the last couple days. And again it was not fair. No one and I mean no one has the right to do that.”

April 6 council meeting dispute

Kore’s mention of putting someone in harm’s way referred to an email written by Mayor Junkin earlier that week, addressed to Kore and copied to the rest of council and the CAO. In it, Junkin took Kore to task for questioning the Town’s decision to hold council meetings by video conference during the pandemic.

Ahead of the meeting scheduled for that Monday, April 6, Chief Lymburner reminded council that all members were to participate by video.

At 12 noon, he wrote in an email: “The Emergency Control Group discussed best practices within the Municipal organization this morning, and, to keep in line with these principles, all meetings will be held in the virtual setting. As for council meetings, the Clerk and Mayor will attend council chambers so the meetings can be facilitated; others participating shall do so virtually... In order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, all staff/Council members who do not need to be in the building, should connect remotely. The Mayor attended our EOC meeting, participated in the discussion and fully supports the decision. Be safe, isolate, physical distance and wash your hands.”

A little over an hour later, Kore emailed the CAO, copying all of council—except, notably, the Mayor— challenging the EOC’s decision.

Does the emergency control group have the authority to determine who attends council meetings? Can you tell me the policy and procedure of the by-laws that allows this?

“Am I correct in saying that Bob Lymburner has the authority to tell who can and cannot enter the chamber? Does the emergency control group have the authority to determine who attends council meetings? Can you tell me the policy and procedure or the by-laws that allows this?”

Considering that Kore had attended the immediately previous Town Council meeting while displaying symptoms of a respiratory illness, and that Councillor Mike Ciolfi had subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the possibility that Kore might attend that evening’s meeting in person was sufficiently alarming that within an hour and a half the Voice had learned of Kore’s pushback. The newspaper emailed Kore to confirm whether it was the case that he wished to attend in person. He did not reply.

At 2 PM, three and a half hours before the meeting was set to begin, the CAO answered Kore, writing in an email:

“One member of council has a presumptive case of coronavirus. Clearly we need to keep all of Council apart...This is the same step being taken all over the Province and probably the country. I take from the tenor and tone of the email that you are unhappy with the electronic meeting, but I am unclear why. Our choice is to have remote, electronic meetings or no meetings at all... I don’t understand why this is being raised now mere hours before the meeting. We have all known about the electronic meeting plans for several days. Has something changed?”

CAO David Cribbs gestures as he explains a point of municipal procedure to Ward 2 Councillor Ron Kore, right, at Pelham Town Council's February 18, 2020 meeting. YOUTUBE

Cribbs invited Kore to call him on his personal cellphone if it was easier. Kore did not answer Cribbs’ email. He did not attempt to enter the building that evening. Without explanation, he also did not attend the meeting by video conference.

However, after the meeting ended, Kore sent the CAO a sharply worded message, implying that Cribbs had informed the Voice of his implied desire to attend the meeting in person.

“You criticize me for using the phrase playing little games,” wrote Kore, “I wonder who’s playing games now? Shameful.”

Shortly after midnight, Cribbs replied, not mincing words.

“I did not leak this information to the press. There are at least seven leak possibilities, plus presumably spouses. Clearly you’ve decided that I am at fault and I’m not sure why that would be, or what motive I would have to do so. Your decision to physically attend (or not) was unlikely to have any impact on my life, whereas leaking information to the media or causing embarrassment to one or all of my bosses would not further my career prospects. So no incentive for me to leak, but plenty of incentive not to do so. A review of my email account shows that I responded to your email at 2:01 pm. The metadata shows that the message was not forwarded, nor was anyone blind copied on my response. I don’t know who leaked that piece of information, but the Town’s email system supports that it did not come from me...It feels like you are trying to pick a fight with me after failing to have a fight with the mayor. I’m not interested in fighting with one of my bosses, but please know that I am offended and feel that I deserve better.”

Asked by the Voice to explain what Kore “failing to have a fight with the mayor” referred to, the CAO declined to do so, responding, “The message in question was meant to be a private message between my office and my superior, in which both parties could safely express their positions, without further escalation of any underlying dispute...healthy differences of opinion are common within democratic institutions.”

The Voice has learned, however, that the missed “fight” opportunity likely referred to an item on the April 6 meeting agenda, intended to be discussed behind closed doors.

Several weeks earlier, in mid-January, the Mayor and the Pelham Library board held a public meeting at the Fonthill library branch to discuss council’s request that the Director of Recreation, Culture, and Wellness, Vickie vanRavenswaay, be appointed CEO of the library. Speaking with his customary bluntness, the Mayor apologized to the Library board for council’s failure to take the library’s views into better account. Later, Kore allegedly objected to Junkin’s message to the board, and in the intervening weeks had lobbied council to debate whether to reprimand Junkin—though on what grounds remains unclear. In any event, with Kore absent on April 6 the matter was dropped and has not resurfaced.

Kore leaks Junkin’s email

In Mayor Junkin’s April 7 email to Kore explaining why it was a good idea for council to meet by video conference, he referred to Mike Ciolfi’s illness.

“Is it just a coincidence that Mike got sick after our [March 23] Council meeting, when he was sitting on the same side of the room as you??? Maybe, maybe not. We will never know. I will not take that chance. A big healthy guy like Mike has been sicker than a dog for over a week, with fever, aches and pains. Why should any of us take that risk, when the technology is available to completely eliminate it.”

At various points, Councillor Ron Kore can be seen wiping his nose and appearing to cough during a recording of a March 23 Pelham Town Council meeting. Councillor Lisa Haun is visible behind him on the video conference screen. YOUTUBE

(It would later become known that three others in council chambers on March 23, including Kore, would also test positive for the coronavirus, suffering various degrees of illness, none fatally apart from Ciolfi.)

By the end of the week of April 6—after challenging the Town’s authority to hold council meetings by video, after the incidents with the Town staffer and the Fire Chief at his store, and after requesting that email from the Mayor and the Fire Chief be blocked—Kore was still upset, as described above, writing to Cribbs, “I haven’t been myself for the last 3 to 4 days because the mayor accuses me of putting someone in harms way.”

In the first FOI results provided by the Town, the Voice noticed that Kore had emailed Junkin’s April 7 email to himself, likely to a personal email address. This can be a method for elected officials to mask the fact that they are sharing privileged information with outsiders. By forwarding internal email to a personal address, and then forwarding it on from there—to a reporter, for example, or to a political confidante—there is no electronic trail. Freedom of Information requests only apply to government, not private, email accounts.

Approximately five hours after receiving it, Kore forwards Junkin's email to himself, presumably to a personal email address. FOI requests do not extend to elected officials' personal email accounts, which can provide a means for them to share internal communications without being detected. VOICE GRAPHIC

On a hunch, the Voice filed a second FOI request in late May, specifically asking for any instances of Kore forwarding the Mayor’s April 7 email to any outside party from his Town email account.

The Town found five such instances.

The first was sent on Saturday, April 11, and the remaining four were sent on Sunday, April 12. The Voice has elected not to identify the recipients, who are Pelham residents.

Stripped from the forwarded message was any indication that Junkin had originally sent his email not just to Kore, but to all of council and the CAO.

Kore’s cover note to each recipient except one (where none appeared) was the same:

Good afternoon, I appreciate those kind words, I really needed it this week. This is what the mayor sent me this week. If you want to pass this to your friends to show how means spirited he is, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much, Ron

One recipient of the leaked email, employed by the City of Welland, declined a Voice request for comment, saying, “My communications with Ron Kore are between Ron and me and I have nothing to say about those communications.”

The remaining recipients did not acknowledge the newspaper’s request for comment.

Kore did not acknowledge a request to explain what he hoped to accomplish by leaking the Mayor’s email, what was factually incorrect or “mean spirited” about it, and why he apparently deleted evidence that Junkin sent it to all of council, not just to Kore.

He also did not respond when asked whether it was hypocritical to leak internal council information to third parties, when days earlier he had accused the CAO of doing the same thing.

Mike Ciolfi’s death, Kore’s positive test

Within 24 hours of Kore appearing to solicit sympathy for the Mayor’s comments, Councillor Mike Ciolfi had died. He passed away overnight Sunday into Monday, April 13. (No official cause of death has been released.)

The same day, Kore was contacted by Niagara Public Health and told that he had been in the presence of someone who later tested positive for COVID-19, but that enough time had passed that he did not need to quarantine.

Tuesday morning, April 14, Kore emailed the CAO to request an indefinite leave of absence, and to request that all email to his Town account be “turned off.” The CAO responded, saying, “I will be happy to work towards a gradual reintegration at a later date if such is of interest.”

Kore was tested for COVID-19 on Friday, April 17, and was informed on Monday, April 20, that he was positive, but no longer infectious, the illness having run its course over the previous weeks. On Wednesday, April 22, Sobeys employees upset that Kore had continued to come into work while obviously ill contacted the Voice to say that Sobeys corporate personnel were in Fonthill, informing store staff of Kore’s status.

Shopping carts block the entrance of Sobey's Fonthill, Thursday, April 23. An employee informed shoppers approaching from the parking lot that the store was closed for steam cleaning, and would reopen Friday, 7 AM. DON RICKERS

The Voice has asked Kore why he chose to take a leave of absence from Town Council four days before he was tested for the virus, and nearly a week before he received news that he was positive. He has not replied.

Senior Town staff reaction

In confirming the timeline of events for this article, it became evident that many Town staff—particularly among those who were present in council chambers on March 23, when Kore was visibly unwell—were deeply upset by Kore’s conduct and by his initial refusal to accept responsibility for his actions. The Voice learned that some staff made inquiries about filing a grievance through Human Resources.

Also evident was an undercurrent of frustration with Kore’s conduct prior to the pandemic, during the first year of the new council’s term. The Voice reached out to everyone present in council chambers on March 23—councillors and staff—to request their perspective on Kore’s actions, including whether they were satisfied with his statements regarding working while ill, whether they planned to file official HR complaints, and whether Kore remained fit to serve as a councillor.

In order not to risk their employment, the Voice has agreed not to disclose the names of those who do not wish to be identified. Two senior staff agreed to be quoted without being named, a third agreed that their general views could be included, without being quoted verbatim. The combined municipal work experience among those who agreed to speak is measured in several decades.

Members of the Town of Pelham’s senior management team. From left, Treasurer Teresa Quinlin, Fire Chief Bob Lymburner, Public Works Director Jason Marr, Town Clerk Nancy Bozatto, former CAO Darren Ottaway (dismissed in early 2019), Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens, Director of Recreation, Culture, and Wellness Vickie vanRavenswaay. SUPPLIED

“Ron Kore is part of the Town of Pelham’s work family and I am certain that all staff are happy to hear that he has returned to health,” said CAO David Cribbs. “The Town has no comment to offer with respect to any potential complaints.”

“In response to your request regarding the meeting of March 23rd,” responded Councillor John Wink, “fortunately for myself, I chose to attend the meeting via video conference, so at the time I was unaware of Councilor Kore’s symptoms and did not observe his symptoms during the live streaming. Through your request for Freedom of Information you have been able to surmise the exchange of emails between Councilor Kore and staff, which copied all of council regarding the April 6th meeting. In hindsight, it is regrettable that all of council did not accept using video conferencing. In all honesty, under the current pandemic, video conferencing is efficient in social distancing while still moving forward the work of council...I am not comfortable in making comments against fellow councillors but leave it up to our citizens if and when Councillor Kore decides to run in the next election. This is speculation, however I am sure in hindsight Councillor Kore regrets some of his choices that he made.”

No other councillor acknowledged the Voice’s request for comment.

Speaking generally, one senior staffer alleged that Kore’s treatment of staff by email before the pandemic had bordered on the abusive, and that the public at large was not aware of Kore’s full personality, seeing only his sales side inside Sobeys.

Another senior staffer commented at length, and additionally cited what they termed the CAO’s failure to stop the March 23 meeting in the face of Kore’s obvious illness.

“We have been through a lot at the Town with people not being open and transparent with the staff. I was not aware [beforehand] that Kore wanted to attend the April 6 council meeting. I found this out the next day when the question was asked ‘Where were Councillors Kore and Ciolfi last night?’ This was the first time we heard that Councillor Ciolfi was sick. I thought that he must really be sick since he had excellent attendance and he was a very engaged councillor. For him to miss the meeting it must have been serious. We did not know that he had the virus. No one told us. On Tuesday, April 7, Public Health called to find out who was at the March 23 council meeting since someone tested positive with COVID. I thought it was Councillor Kore, since he was so sick on March 23—coughing and blowing his nose all night. The next day on April 8 we found out it was Ciolfi who was sick. It was very upsetting to know that Councillor Ciolfi had been tested positive and we were all in the same room and no one told us. The question is when did the CAO know that Ciolfi was getting tested? The Mayor admitted that he knew on Friday April 3 that Mike was tested but did not think that he should have told staff. He apologized. It wasn't his role to notify staff. It was the CAO's role. The CAO said that he did not know anything about Mike being sick. Another senior staff member [who later tested positive] said they were sick on Friday April 3, but no one told this individual that Mike Ciolfi was tested on April 1 and was waiting for results. The deep cleaning to Town Hall was done on April 15 or 16 [after Ciolfi’s death]. Why did it take so long to do? David Cribbs was sitting across from Ron Kore on March 23. He was in a meeting with him for over 4.5 hours and now he is saying that he did not notice Kore coughing and blowing his nose. It was so obvious. [Other] senior staff only went into the room for a short time to present their sections of the agenda and they all noticed how sick Kore was. The meeting should have been stopped and Kore should have been asked to leave. We were all exposed to his sickness. The Premier was correct in saying that someone infectious like Kore was walking around with a loaded gun. But in the end, nothing was done about it. That's the sad part. I heard that there are over 200 complaints with the Ministry of Labour on incidents like this, people being sick at work and exposing others to the virus, and nothing is done about it.”

The Voice asked why, if it was clear that Kore was ill, the staff who were in and out of the room didn’t attempt to bring this to Cribbs’ attention.

They answered: “We were social distancing at the March 23 meeting and only ten people were allowed in council chambers at one time. Senior staff went into chambers, did their presentation, and left. No one was in there for the whole meeting. We assumed the CAO noticed the situation since he sat across from Councillor Kore and he would advise the Mayor if he felt it necessary to stop the meeting.”

Asked to respond, Cribbs told the Voice that his authority does not include the power to stop a council meeting. However, with hindsight, he acknowledged that he did not meet his duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide a safe working environment for the staff who were present.

“I have already apologized for this at an all-staff meeting, and also apologized directly to senior staff who were in the room.”

Cribbs said that he was engrossed in the substance of the meeting and did not notice the symptoms being exhibited by Kore until moments before the meeting’s end.

The bottom line is that there were health guidelines which were violated that night...given that he was exhibiting symptoms, Ron Kore should not have attended that meeting

“Should I have noticed earlier? Yes. Would I like a redo of that evening? Yes. I was physically present for the entire meeting, and so was personally put at risk, which would have spurred me to action had I been cognizant of the health threat. The bottom line is that there were health guidelines which were violated that night, and ultimately that is something for which we are all supposed to be accountable. Given that he was exhibiting symptoms, Ron Kore should not have attended that meeting. Frankly every person in council chambers should have raised the issue, and none of us did. I bear more responsibility for this than other staff members because of my position, but those who noticed should have brought it to my attention. The events of March 23 do not reflect well on anyone involved...This entire ordeal has been a real learning curve for many, including myself. Were a similar situation to occur today, I suspect that multiple people, including myself, would likely raise concerns, take steps to cancel the meeting and vacate the room immediately.”

Asked to account for the delay in informing staff of Councillor Ciolfi's test result, and for the belated deep cleaning of Town Hall, Cribbs pointed to poor tracing and notification by Niagara Public Health.

“Looking back, we now know that four people who were present at that meeting ended up with or already had the coronavirus. We don’t know for certain if it was transmitted at that meeting. What I can say is that I remain extremely unimpressed with Niagara Public Health’s contact tracing parameters. I did not receive a phone call from Niagara Public Health about my own exposure until the 15th day— one day after the quarantine period would have ended. In the midst of a pandemic, that is pathetic at best. The Town has never been informed that exposure occurred—or may have occurred— in its facility. NPH only informs hospitals and long-term care facilities if they believe transmission occurs in those workplaces—the rest of us are left in the dark. What knowledge the Town possesses is a result of phone calls taken by myself and other senior leaders in our personal capacities. The Senior Leadership Team had already put many measures in place — people were working from home, distancing was established in work stations, one person per motor vehicle, and Town Hall was already closed to the public, and Town Hall is and was at the time being cleaned three times per day— twice on the high contact points, and once at night when staff are absent, which is an increase from the prior cleaning regime. The deep clean was ordered out of an abundance of caution, as much for staff morale as for health concerns. I think it is likely that we will continue with periodic deep cleaning of Town Hall, Tice Road, and the MCC, regardless of whether or not the Town has knowledge of coronavirus being present in its facilities.”

Finally, a senior Town staffer who has dealt closely with Kore said that his conduct has remained predictably constant while in office.

He put his self-interest above that of the community, and that means he's lost the moral authority to govern...

“Personally, I wasn’t surprised when I found out about his insistence on attending the April 6th meeting. He was angry and offended at basically being denied entry and he seemed to take it as a challenge to his power, rather than a public health issue, which was stupid. Ron Kore is a rude man who never prepares for council meetings. He asks basic questions, and the answers are already in the reports. After over a year in office he’s shown no growth in knowledge or skill—it’s like he just started yesterday. He put his self-interest above that of the community, and that means he’s lost the moral authority to govern, which he wasn’t doing well at anyway. There’s no point in launching a formal [Human Resources] complaint. The maximum penalty is losing two weeks of wages, and Ron is already wealthy. Clearly he should resign, but the problem is that would require him to admit fault, so none of us really see that happening. We’ll count on the residents to fix the problem at the ballot box come the next election. Until then, we’ll just continue dealing with his mean-spiritedness and stupidity. The real difference for me, when it comes to my job, is that I no longer care at all what he thinks or what he says.”

After being absent from council since April 6, Kore returned to attend the June 1 meeting by video conference. Emails to him from the Mayor and Fire Chief are no longer being blocked.

With files from Dave Burket, Sam Piccolo, Don Rickers, and John Chick.