November 18, 2021
Issue between Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission, local pilot continues
— By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
The ongoing dispute between Saugeen Municipal Airport Commission (SMAC) and pilot Phil Englishman has taken several twists and turns in recent weeks.
Englishman wrote a letter to the mayor and council of Brockton, noting examination of court documents indicated the Municipality of Brockton was the plaintiff in the court trespassing case. Englishman noted this clearly has legal implications for the municipality.
It should be noted the court decision completely exonerated Englishman.
Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody stated Tuesday, Nov. 9 that he’s contacted the courts and has been told by them the document to which Englishman referred contains a clerical error — it should have been the Crown vs. Englishman, not Brockton vs. Englishman.
The airport issue has been raised numerous times at meetings of Brockton council. Most recently, one council member asked for a list of how much SMAC has spent in the past year on legal expenses.
The issue has also involved another municipality. On July 9, a complaint was made by the chair of SMAC — Dan Gieruszak, who is deputy mayor of Brockton — to the integrity commissioner, against West Grey Coun. Rebecca Hergert.
The complaint alleged that “the respondent (Hergert) has continued to communicate with an individual or his lawyer, who is in a dispute which may result in litigation with the SMA, despite the decision and explicit direction by the SMA commission that all communication with that party should be directed through the chair to the SMA’s lawyer.”
Hergert was, at that point, the West Grey council appointee to SMAC.
A letter was sent Sept. 4 directing all members of SMAC to cease communicating directly with Englishman and/or his lawyer. The integrity commissioner found that Hergert nevertheless continued communication with the pilot and/or his lawyer.
The integrity commissioner determined there was a code of conduct violation and recommended that Hergert be reprimanded and should cease to represent West Grey on the SMAC.
In the meantime, Peabody has been examining the bylaw that governs the Saugeen Municipal Airport. He describes the bylaw as “a complete mess… the bylaw has to be fixed.”
The situation has been exacerbated by the fact an offer to purchase the airport was made to Hanover.
While the offer was turned down, it did raise the issue of the bylaw.
“We have to get this bylaw cleaned up (regarding) who has control over these assets,” said Peabody.
He noted that the airport is a valuable piece of property, and should a valid offer be made, “we need to get to the bottom of this. We need a bylaw that’s clear.”
In the meantime, Englishman has been blocked from accessing his hangar at the airport by large chunks of concrete. He’s becoming frustrated and would like the matter resolved before winter weather sets in.
He said in his letter to Brockton, “You have stated the SMAC is a completely separate body from the municipality and is not under your control. May I suggest that you gain some sort of control over this body/commission by ordering your road crew to proceed to the airport and remove the four concrete blocks in front of my hangar which are impeding my aircraft access and egress.”