Coun. Bradley found to have breached municipal Code of Conduct

September 22, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Town Councillor Sylvia Bradley found herself in hot water last week after Orangeville’s Integrity Commissioner, Guy Giorno, determined that she had violated municipal policy earlier this summer in an apparent attempt to rally local residents into supporting the OPP’s costing proposal.

A little more than a week after Council had voted in favour of sticking with its long-term local policing service, Coun. Bradley sent an email from her municipal account to 21 individuals stating those in favour of the OPP and its projected savings “still have time to reverse this bad decision.”

“Hi all, just a heads up that a gentleman will be attending Council on Monday, June 26 to object to the Town’s decision to stay with OPS and ask for the item to come back to Council for a revote. If you would like to attend and show support and potentially speak on this issue, please attend,” the email reads.

“I do know that there are others coming forward as well. Also, if you know of other outraged residents, please inform them and ask them to attend… Since the vote, the community has been very vocal in their disappointment with the decision and with Council… We still have time. I have seen things get reversed when the public demanded it,” the email continued.

The issue centred around the Town’s long-term policing plan. Some members of council, Coun. Bradley included, felt that projected savings of approximately $4.3 million per year from OPP policing were too good to pass up.

Council shot down that option with a 4-3 vote on June 12. Coun. Bradley distributed the email on June 21. Nine of the recipients were members of the Orangeville Sustainability Action Team Committee, which Coun. Bradley chairs, seven were public members of Heritage Orangeville, another committee Coun. Bradley chairs, and five were public members of the Orangeville Public Library Board, which Coun. Bradley sits on.

At 8:55 a.m. the next day, one of the recipients replied to Coun. Bradley’s email, objecting to “a serious breach of privacy”, since their email address was shared with 19 other people. Less than 15 minutes after receiving that email, Coun. Bradley issued a formal apology, stating she had not intended to offend the individual.

By 9:25 a.m. the individual had submitted a formal complaint to Mr. Giorno, claiming Coun. Bradley was in direct violation of the municipality’s Code of Conduct, specifically with section 8.2, which reads; “Members shall not disclose or release verbally, in writing or by any other means, any confidential information acquired by virtue of their office, except when required by law to do so.”

Coun. Bradley claimed she was unaware that email addresses could only be used for committee communications and reached out to Town Clerk Susan Greatrix for further clarification. Later that day, at 1:20 p.m., Ms. Greatrix sent an email to town officials clarifying that email addresses are considered to be personal information and require the consent of account holders to be included in anything other than committee business.

Although Coun. Bradley apologized almost immediately and Ms. Greatrix action to remedy any potential future issues, Mr. Giorno says the complainant wished to pursue a public finding and public report.

“After carefully considering the evidence obtained during the course of my investigation and the submissions of the parties, I find that Coun. Bradley did breach the Code of Conduct, but I recommend no penalty,” Mr. Giorno wrote. “Coun. Bradley takes full responsibility for the email. She notes that she has already apologized to the complainant… Councillor Bradley states that she was not trying to influence any public members of committees; she was simply providing information about what was happening.”

He added, “To be clear, Coun. Bradley has every right to advocate, to persuade and to express her opinion. I am simply noting that I find her advocacy and expression of opinion are unrelated to the committee purposes for which she obtained access to the email addresses in the first place.”

“I agree with the complainant that Coun. Bradley used the email addresses for a political purpose. I do not, however, find that the use was for personal or private gain,” Mr. Giorno concluded.

Coun. Bradley wasn’t the only member of council to be targeted this summer. Mr. Giorno also submitted a report on Coun. Scott Wilson after a local resident alleged he was in a “complete conflict of interest” when he took part in discussions related to the OPP contract proposal.

The complainant contended that Coun. Wilson was not unbiased in the debate because of his position as CAO of Wellington County, which has a contract with OPP for policing services. The individual pointed to Coun. Wilson’s position as a volunteer secretary with the County of Wellington Police Services Board as another reason for his inability to be impartial.

“After carefully considering the evidence contained during the course of my investigation and the submissions of the parties, I find that Coun. Wilson did not breach the Code of Conduct,” Mr. Giorno determined.

He added, “I find that Coun. Wilson did not have a closed mind, had no prejudged the issue and does not have a personal (non-pecuniary) interest in OPP policing. His employment as CAO of Wellington County, which is itself party to an agreement for OPP policing, gives him experience with the OPP, but does not create a personal interest or make him any less objective than other council members who have relied in part on their own experience to consider the policing issue.”

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