No, it wasn’t a witch hunt

September 29, 2016   ·   0 Comments

It is wonderful news that Mayor Jeremy Williams will not be charged by Peel Regional Police for wrongdoing regarding his expenses. I am sure this is a welcome relief to him and his family. I imagine the burden of his legal woes has been difficult these past few months. Of course, no one in Orangeville would want the Mayor to be charged, either. A leader’s reputation can enhance or tarnish an entire community. The idea of having our Mayor criminally charged would impact so many things negatively (housing prices, business investment, town reputation, ability to attract employment talent, etc.).

It should be noted that the Mayor has never actually been charged with a crime. Peel Police were simply investigating to determine if there was enough evidence to lay charges. The police decision is not a judgment of guilt or innocence; only a judge or jury can do that.

All of this leads to one understanding. That is, policies and procedures were certainly tested throughout this ordeal. Those of us with company credit cards should certainly make note not to charge expenses of a personal nature on them. News reported to the Banner last week was light on details. Councillors actually found out late last Friday that Peel Police had made a decision. An email was sent out by Orangeville CAO Ed Brennan sharing the news. The rest of council were given minimal detail and were committed to not sharing it with the public until after the following council meeting. The decision to disclose the news was made by Mayor Williams, who initially let everyone at the Police Service Board meeting know. After that, someone told the Banner.

To date, the actual police report has not been shared with council or the media. I look forward to its release. I do find it odd that the Banner would publish such an article without official confirmation from Peel Police. The article quoted sources, but lacked concrete information.

It was interesting to watch Orangeville social media learn of the news. Everyone seemed to want to weigh in with their opinion. I would be remiss if I did not comment on at least one reaction.

I wrote a column recently about the excellent leadership being offered by our fine Police Chief, Wayne Kalinski. I also shared my support for the work his officers are doing in the community. That said, police and politics do not necessarily mesh. Police need to remain impartial. They need to be neutral and unbiased when dealing with issues. It is unfortunate that Orangeville Police officer James Giovannetti decided to share with all his opinions of the Orangeville political scene. Mr. Giovannetti, who shows pictures of a police awards ceremony and lists himself as VP of the Orangeville Police Association on his Twitter account, shared his support of the Mayor. I am sure the rest of council and the Town’s administrative team will be interested in his assertion of “Bad Politics”. Based on what Chief Kalinski and his team are trying to accomplish in Orangeville, his comments were ill-timed and inappropriate.

The decision by Council and its lawyer, John Hart, to release his legal advice  to council was appropriate. Some in town are calling the Williams investigation a witch hunt. To me, it is important that council be transparent with the public regarding its decision making. Personally, I follow the situation at town council closely. The release of the “Hart report” filled in a few blanks for me. I will share a few realizations.

Earlier this year, I reported that Mayor Williams was not speaking to town CAO Ed Brennan. Candidly, these things happen on a fairly regular basis. If you say or do things  the Mayor deems inappropriate, he simply decides to stop communicating with that individual. I can give some examples – Councillor Sylvia Bradley, Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock, former Police Board Chair Cynthia Rayburn, and me. The interesting thing is that Ed Brennan is one of the most pleasant people I have ever met. He is a patient former East Coast gentleman with a very pleasant disposition. I certainly asked Ed some blunt questions about how things were going for him, but he never shared that he was on the Mayor’s “no speak to” list.

Why is this behavior relevant? If you read the lawyer’s report, Ed had the unenviable task of confronting the Mayor over his expenses. Imagine meeting with your boss and telling him he needs to do something immediately or you will have to share the situation with others. Poor Mr. Brennan had to meet with the Mayor three times to discuss his boss’s inappropriate spending practices (August 28, January 22, and March 11).

Now think of what would happen if money was involved in the discussion. Fireworks!

I imagine the last year has been a difficult time for him, Ed’s perseverance and dedication to his craft is certainly noteworthy. Orangeville is fortunate to have such a strong Chief Administrative Officer.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Deputy Mayor Maycock. Warren is a long-time leader within our community. He has a strong understanding of how a municipality should work and is extremely dedicated to the town. It is unfair and unfortunate that the Deputy Mayor’s integrity and leadership has been called into question during this crisis.

If you watched the meeting on Monday night, you could feel Mr.Maycock’s pain as he described why council felt they had to release the “Hart” report. It pains him to have Orangeville viewed in a negative fashion. It was important for Warren to ensure those in the community understood why council took the actions he did. His performance was a powerful, heartfelt exposé – very genuine.

Finally, I think the Lawyer’s report shares a few things that the Mayor should think about:

√ Don’t go to China again. Perhaps try Mono or Grand Valley. Or align with your coworkers on a purpose prior to leaving.

√ Pay for personal purchases at Chic a Boom, Staples, and Best Buy with your own money.

√ Submit your gas expenses in the proper fashion. You are paid by the kilometre, not by the tank of gas. ($1700 for gas is a lot of money. Where are you going anyway? We live in a small town!)

√ If the CAO wants to meet with you, heed his advice. Ultimately, it would have saved everyone much time, effort, and pain.

For those of you wondering, there are still other issues behind the scenes. Sadly, the Mayor is personally involved in a few of them.

Is it a witch hunt? No, I don’t think so.

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