Town rejects donation from pedophile
Amherstburg town council has reversed its decision to allow a man convicted of sex crimes involving teenage boys to purchase naming rights at the town's new arena.
About two dozen people demonstrated at town hall Thursday morning, demanding the town return the money and keep the farmer and TV repairman's name off a new scoreboard at a children's baseball diamond, and the road leading to the arena.
In 1990 Jim Massen pleaded guilty to two counts of gross indecency and one count of invitation to sexual touching involving three teenage boys. He was later pardoned.
Council held an in-camera meeting Thursday morning, and after about an hour, the motion was made to remove the signage and return Massen's money. Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland said they will be looking to replace the $50,000 donated for a scoreboard at the Miracle League baseball diamond, and $55,000 donated by Massen to name the road leading to the complex.
Sutherland pointed out it was the previous council that made the original decision to accept the money. The old council put a bylaw in place approving the deal, which will be rescinded, he said.
"We felt that we have to move in a different direction," Sutherland said.
Mayor Wayne Hurst was tightlipped on the flip-flop, but said that he will make a statement on the decision at the next council meeting.
By mid-afternoon Thursday the "Massen Drive" road sign had been removed from the front of the Amherstburg arena complex.
Massen told CBC that he doesn't want the money back, and he will likely file a lawsuit against the town.
"This is unbelievable," Massen said Thursday, reacting to the news that people were protesting council's decision.
"I signed the documents," he said. "When I go to the arena, everyone thanks me."
Massen said he doesn't see why his past conviction has become an obstacle to his purchase of naming rights.
"I had a pardon," he said.
The teenage boys in question worked for Massen in his TV repair shop.
"They were people who worked for me. Nobody said no," he told CBC News.
The demonstrators have a Facebook page with more than 300 members on it. Many expressed their relief that council had changed its mind.
"I'm so sorry, but how could [they] think that the money they were receiving, was worth selling out for," wrote Jennifer Fitzpatrick-Levitt on Facebook. "I am just thankful that it's been fixed."
Former councillor Rick Fryer, a vocal opponent of the move to offer naming rights to Massen, said there's a lot of buzz on the Facebook site about renaming the road "Miracle Way". He said people are volunteering money to replace Massen's donations. He wants to set up a Paypal account so people can make contributions to the renaming effort.
Councillor speaks out
Councillor Diane Pouget was emotional on Thursday, coming out of the in-camera meeting. Pouget later told CBC News that she was the only councillor who voted against the bylaw giving Massen naming rights at the arena. That bylaw was passed at the first meeting of the new council on Dec. 13.
She said she was directed not to speak about the in-camera decision, but feels compelled to set the record straight on one point.
"I want the public to know I voted against the bylaw," she said Thursday.
Pouget had received complaints from constituents about Massen, and said she wasn't given access to the contractual agreement, so she voted 'no' to the "ambiguous" bylaw.
As for the move to rescind the agreement with Massen, she said, "I just feel it was the only decision we could make. It was the only fair decision to the people of Amherstburg."