An unnecessary cost

The town of Amherstburg, Ontario recently celebrated the opening of a recreation and sports centre.

The opening of the multi-million dollar facility marked the end of a process that began in 2008, when the municipal government purchased property owned by a local resident, Jimmy Massen, on which to build the site.

Massen returned a portion of the money he was paid in order to have naming rights on a road leading to the site and the scoreboard at a baseball diamond for disabled children.

The town has now hit a public-relations disaster concerning the new building, after reporters discovered that Massen is a convicted sex offender.

The 80 year-old pled guilty to one count of sexual touching and two counts of gross indecency in 1990, and served a year in prison.

As the news began to circulate, the local population organized a protest and insisted that the donation be rejected. The town has since announced that it will be returning Massen’s donation and revoking his naming rights.

Whether or not Massen has served his time and atoned for his crimes, the City has made the correct decision.

It isn’t that Massen should continue to be punished for his crimes, but simply that the consequences of his past bar him from certain actions.

Naming a space after an individual makes a strong statement about the value of the contribution that individual has made to a community—a contribution that isn’t always limited to a bank statement.

Massen’s actions had a permanent and negative impact on his victims, and putting his name on a public space—especially one intended for children—is entirely inappropriate.

The City has made serious mistakes by entering into this arrangement with Massen.

The terms of the agreement are still unclear and it’s important to note that reneging on such a deal might have unpleasant consequences in the long-term.

Individuals upset by Massen’s past would likely be equally upset to see the City paying him to settle a lawsuit.

The slew of media attention focusing on this issue also raises other issues if the city wanted to move forward on their arrangement with Massen.

While many might have been previously unaware of his crimes, it’s unlikely that is still the case.

At best, any site bearing Massen’s name would face considerable stigma and at worst, serious and recurring vandalism.

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