Motion to manage Integrity Commissioner investigations shot down by Town Council

November 3, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

Despite the best efforts of Mayor Jeremy Williams, Orangeville Council will have no say over which investigations the Town’s integrity commissioner can look into.

At Monday night’s regular bi-weekly meeting of Council, Mayor Williams introduced a motion suggesting that any Code of Conduct complaint made against a member or members of Council first be reviewed by Council for approval before being sent to Guy Giorno, Orangeville’s Ottawa-based integrity commissioner.

The mayor stated he was “very concerned” that the municipality currently has no control over how often the integrity commissioner is used, stating, “for all we know, he could be looking into 20 or 30 of these complaints at a time”. He cited what he described as frivolous investigations into Councillors Scott Wilson and Sylvia Bradley earlier this year as the perfect example of why he believes the current system is flawed. The Town was billed $6,000 for the two probes.

“Those particular investigations, which, quite frankly, I believe to have been fairly insignificant, cost us a great deal of money,” Mayor Williams said. “I’m troubled that we cannot get a good grip on the number of complaints coming in. My intent here is to support the integrity commissioner, but to include checks and balances into the system.”

Currently, any Code of Conduct complaints submitted by a member of the community must be investigated by Mr. Giorno. The identity of the complainant remains confidential unless otherwise agreed upon.

Despite being the subject of one of the two investigations, Coun. Wilson was highly critical of the mayor’s motion.

“You mentioned in your notice of motion that you are introducing this in an attempt to reduce the burden on taxpayers. I believe the best way to do that is for all of us to act within the municipal code of conduct,” Coun. Wilson stated.

“The fact of the matter is, the way municipal governance in Ontario is directed to go is to be open and transparent and if suggestions of misconduct arise, I believe they should be diverted to an unbiased third party,”

Coun. Wilson continued. “In other words, that means no potential interference from those exercising misconduct. If this were to come to Council first, we would be judging ourselves.”

“I feel, sir, that this motion cuts the legs out of the integrity commissioner and the entire process. I also believe it clouds our goal to be open and transparent,” Coun. Wilson added.

He also said Council should be “very pleased” with the fact they have secured such a high-calibre integrity commissioner, going on record to applaud him for his work. That was a comment that apparently did not sit well with the Mayor.

“I cannot applaud spending $4,000 (the cost of the Coun. Wilson investigation) on what was wasted time for all involved. It is not in anyone’s advantage to spend thousands of dollars on something like that, but everyone has the right to an opinion,” Mayor Williams responded.

Coun. Nick Garisto pressed home his belief that the municipality should rid themselves of their integrity commissioner and instead rely on the Ontario ombudsman for his guidance should an issue arise. Due to new provincial regulations, all municipalities in Ontario must have an integrity commissioner by March 2019, but Coun. Garisto felt Orangeville could do without one until then.

“Having the Ombudsman would not cost taxpayers anything, at least not at the municipal level,” Coun. Garisto stated.

Town Clerk Susan Greatrix clarified that the provincial Ombudsman would only investigate post-meeting complaints against members of Council, pointing out the Ombudsman wouldn’t investigate other code of conduct complaints.

The Williams motion was defeated 5-2, with only Coun. Garisto and the Mayor in favour.

Currently, Mr. Giorno is investigating a complaint by a member of Town Staff alleging that a member of Council has violated numerous clauses in the code of conduct, claiming he or she has interfered with, or unduly influenced staff in the performance of their duties, while also breaching the duty to treat members of staff appropriately and without abuse, bullying or intimidation. Mr. Giorno is looking into 10 of the 13 alleged violations, stating he was working to complete the investigation “as soon as possible”. More details will be available once his final report is issued.

The code of conduct was approved by Council in April of 2016.

Town Clerk Susan Greatrix told the Citizen Wednesday that thus far this year Mr. Giorno has received three complaints.

“In 2017, the Integrity Commissioner has investigated two complaints and issued  two final reports and is in the process of investigating a third complaint and issued an interim report on that outstanding complaint.

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