integrity commissioner

Town council takes no action on integrity commissioner recommendations

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of reports recommending sanctions against council members in two unrelated integrity commissioner investigations has seen no action taken against either council member.

Integrity commissioner Bruce Elman recommended that Councillor Jason Lavigne’s remuneration be suspended for 45 days with council not only rejecting that but also to suspend his pay for one month.

According to Elman’s report, he investigated alleged leaks that came out of a Sept. 10 in-camera meeting and believed that by “circumstantial information” that it proved to be Lavigne who committed the leak. Lavigne has vehemently denied that accusation.

Elman said two of the four council members at that meeting – councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer -would have had no reason to contact Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB) chair Bob Rozankovic with information. He said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was “outraged” by the leak, leaving only Lavigne.

Elman also referred to two calls placed by Lavigne to clerk Paula Parker about in-camera information and the discussion thereof. He also stated that Lavigne and Rozankovic were not co-operative during the investigation and that Lavigne refused to sign a “Statement of Assurance.”

“Councillor Lavigne’s reluctance to meet to discuss the disclosure of the confidential information – the first time that this has happened to me in the eight years I have been doing integrity work – leads me to the strong inference that Councillor Lavigne was the individual who leaked the information from the in-camera council meeting to Bob Rozankovic,” Elman wrote in his report.

Elman stated in his report that he wrote to Rozankovic by e-mail a total of eight times.

“Each time I was either rebuffed or put off to some future time. Finally, on Oct. 24, he indicated that he would not speak to me on the pretense that ‘the agenda behind this investigation is lacking in legitimacy.’ I responded that “there is no ‘agenda’ behind this investigation; nor is it ‘lacking in legitimacy.’”

Elman told town council he believed the investigation could have been avoided if the information was shared from the beginning.

“Either one of them could have stood up and said this is how it happened and this is why it happened and we’re sorry,” said Elman.

Pouget pointed out that the mayor was supposed to contact an investigator to look into administration’s role but that has not come in yet. She believed it was premature and didn’t think council should be dealing with the issue Monday night.

There was also a meeting in CAO John Miceli’s office before the special Sept. 17 meeting, Pouget claimed, and that Councillor Rick Fryer was on Miceli’s computer. Fryer would put a motion forward at the Sept. 17 meeting to have Lavigne and Rozankovic removed from the APSB but it was defeated.

Fryer said he never touched Miceli’s computer and that there have been “allegations all over the place.” He said he wanted Rozankovic and Lavigne removed from the board for the investigation only, adding something could have been done that night had someone come forward with the information.

Pouget responded that people had already been “publicly lynched” and that “the only thing we didn’t do that night was tar and feather them. They were already found guilty by some.”

Lavigne said he will defend his actions and that of Rozankovic and that “I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.” He said the APSB has been discredited for several months.

In a written statement, Lavigne stated “I would like to take the opportunity to set the record straight. At no time did I divulge any confidential material to Bob Rozankovic.” Lavigne said there was an in-camera meeting of the board in late-August where information was obtained from Windsor Chief Al Frederick. Administration provided council with a report that contained the confidential meeting from the board’s in-camera meeting at an in-camera meeting of council Sept. 10, Lavigne maintained and that he pointed that out to Rozankovic that confidential information that Rozankovic was already aware of was shared with council. Lavigne said Rozankovic then contact DiCarlo with that information.

“The integrity commissioner investigation was designed to find me at fault from the start in my opinion and after seeing how one of these reports was used against Windsor Councillor Rino Bortolin as a political tool, I decided it was not in my best interest to continue to co-operate. There is a a reason these investigations are generally not done during an election and Mr. Elman made our clerk aware of this fact. It was very apparent that there was an attempt to complete an investigation as quickly as possible and, in my opinion, it would have influenced the election and unfairly discredited Mr. Rozankovic and myself,” Lavigne wrote. “I leave this position with my head held high knowing I did not do what some have accused me of.”

Elman’s written report also stated that he believes the new council should be aware of the report for when it makes its committee appointments next term.

In a written statement to the RTT, Rozankovic stated: “By both the Town’s Code of Conduct, and more importantly the Police Service Act Code of Conduct for Police Board Members, neither Mr. Lavigne nor myself have done anything wrong and been the subjects of a ludicrous investigation that had no legitimacy. Mr. Lavigne fulfilled his obligation per Provincial Legislation (Police Service Act), legislation that supersedes any municipal policy. The Integrity Commissioner had no purview to investigate me as a Police Board Member, and he stated this. Yet he decided to pronounce judgement and as such defamed my character in a public forum. This investigation was rooted in vindictiveness on the part of certain individuals.”

Council voted 3-2 not to sanction Lavigne. The motion to suspend his pay failed with Councillor Joan Courtney, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Pouget voting against and Fryer and Meloche being in favour. DiCarlo was not at the meeting due to illness and Lavigne declared conflict during the discussion in council chambers.

As the discussion went into accusations over conduct by Councillor Diane Pouget, Elman noted that he “slowed down the report” as not to have it come out during an election season. Miceli filed the complaint against Pouget over comments made at in-camera meetings both in 2017 and 2018 and comments made at a public meeting in 2018.

“It is clear from the documents filed in this Complaint that there is no love lost between Mr. Miceli and

Councillor Pouget. Councillor Pouget did not vote in favour of Mr. Miceli’s appointment and it is apparent that she still believes that he was the wrong person for the position. Mr. Miceli believes, with some justification,  that the Councillor continues to question his capabilities and his integrity and that she is trying to undermine his authority in those areas of responsibility reserved for the CAO,” Elman’s written report concluded as it relates to the second report on council’s agenda.

Elman added later in his report that “Councillor Pouget may have legitimate questions, for example about hiring of staff, but those questions should be directed to inquiring whether the Council-determined policies have been followed. It is the CAO’s job to hire staff and, if Council policies have been observed, it is not Council’s role to second guess the CAO.”

Pouget did not participate in the discussion during the meeting, but a written response from her was part of the agenda package.

“It is important to note, that Mr. Miceli did not file a complaint about the August 21, 2017 In-camera meeting until July 6, 2018, almost one year after the meeting and only a few weeks before I decided to run for Deputy Mayor,” Pouget wrote. “In Mr. Miceli’s complaint to you, Mr. Miceli provided inaccurate wording and information, that I challenged and corrected. This was verified with a copy of an audio. Further to that, I did not use bad language and I did not raise my voice. In  fact, not one member of Council including the mayor stated, that they found my words ‘insulting’ and not one member of Council commented on this exchange of words. In fact, there were no further comments about this meeting, until a complaint was issued by John Miceli almost one year later, right at election time.”

Pouget was also concerned over the timing of the investigation over her complaints of being harassed and bullied. Another issue was over a discussion over money related to Belle Vue fundraising and that occurred after a motion was passed allowing Miceli controls during the lame duck session.

“This motion was meant to protect our taxpayers, yet Mr. Miceli filed a complaint accusing me of not trusting his professional judgment. I believe it was my right to try and protect our taxpayers during this lame duck period,”  she stated in her written submission to Elman.

Fryer believed by not supporting Elman’s findings, it would send the wrong message to the new council and to the community. Councillor Leo Meloche said he witnessed the events and while “I have the utmost respect for council and staff, everyone needs to be treated with respect.”

Lavigne shot back, stating there are members of council that violate the code of conduct by what they have recently said on social media, referencing Meloche and recent comments on Facebook.

Council voted 3-2 to simply receive the report on the Pouget-related investigation with Courtney, DiPasquale and Lavigne in favour and Meloche and Fryer against.

Miceli stated after the meeting that he will defend his reputation and his staff and would file a complaint again if he felt the need. According to Miceli, he said he has had to endure having his capabilities questioned for the last four years. He said council supports one another and believed the decision not to seek sanctions was “par for the course” with the outgoing council.

 

County, town making new arrangements regarding integrity commissioners

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex is looking at obtaining a new integrity commissioner in light of requirements from the province’s Bill 68.

The bill mandates that municipalities shall have an integrity commissioner by March 1, 2019. Prior to that, according to a report from the county’s director of council services/clerk Mary Birch, integrity commissioners are optional.

“The County of Essex currently contracts the services of an integrity commissioner, however that contract expires in 2018. A joint RFP with some of the local municipalities has recently closed and submissions are being reviewed by a joint evaluation committee,” Birch stated in her report. “Administration will be providing a subsequent report recommending the appointment of an integrity commissioner and propose some amendments to the Council Code of Conduct.”

County council also resolved to continue to prohibit electronic meeting participation, pending further clarification of the definition of “participation” and improvements to technology available; to develop parental leave policy for members of county council and to approve proposed rules for temporary replacement members of county council.

This comes shortly after the Town of Amherstburg voted to continue its relationship with integrity commission Bruce Elman.

Elman, who first began doing work on Amherstburg’s behalf midway through last year, could become the town’s integrity commissioner should a cost sharing agreement be finalized with Windsor.

“All we really did was reappoint him and put in for cost sharing with the City of Windsor to make it more affordable,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We agreed to renew him and see about cost sharing with the city.”

Clerk Paula Parker noted that the previous integrity commissioner was Robert Swayze but that contract was terminated early at the direction of council May 8, 2017.

“On June 12, 2017, administration was directed to seek the expertise of the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate two outstanding integrity complaints and any further complaints that may arise until a new integrity commissioner could be appointed,” said Parker.

“At the time, I believe the city was using Bruce Elman,” added DiCarlo. “We came across him, he’s got a good reputation, so we switched.”

Parker stated that “the new amendments to the Municipal Act and Municipal Conflict of Interest Act brought on by Bill 68, make the appointment of an integrity commissioner mandatory, whereby the municipality has to appoint its own or share the services of another. His/her scope of responsibilities will also increase upon being proclaimed into force on March 1, 2019. In light of these changes and the town’s recent dealings with Professor Bruce Elman, administration recommended that his services be shared between the town and the city.”

Council gets training from integrity commissioner, health and safety officer

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has been given an update on its roles and responsibilities from its integrity commissioner and has also updated its workplace violence, discrimination and harassment training.

Integrity commissioner Robert Swayze outlined his role, and noted he does not report to administration.

“As integrity commissioner, I’m independent of staff and report directly to council,” he said.

Swayze said he tries to have “a balanced approach” when dealing with municipal matters and praised the Ontario municipal political system and those who choose to govern in it. He told council members they are allowed to say “no” to certain people and organizations and that there is nothing wrong with doing that.

Lively political debate is encouraged, he added.

“I appreciate political debate is something I must extend considerable latitude to,” he said. “There is a line that can be crossed but feel free to actively debate things.”

Town hall sign

Council members were urged to “be careful” about accepting gifts from the public and developers. He indicated that it would be a better scenario if gifts were accepted on behalf of the town.

One matter Swayze said he was strict about was the spreading of confidential information. Swayze told council members that “you can’t say anything” about what happens in an in-camera session.

“I might come down on you. It depends on the case,” said Swayze. “It is a very serious offense.”

Swayze also warned council about blurring the lines between council and administration, noting that the CAO has primary responsibility over employees.

“The majority of council runs the town but none of you have executive authority over any member of the staff,” said Swayze. “Don’t think you have executive authority over any member of staff, ever. There is a chain of command over staff that ends with the CAO.”

Council members were encouraged to “be careful about their relationship with staff” but indicated council can discuss things as a group.

Swayze said through his experiences, he has dealt with a lot of politically-motivated complaints but assured council he would look at things fairly if a complaint was filed. While he has dealt with many frivolous complaints over the years, those council members that do violate their code of conduct can face a reprimand or a suspension of remuneration.

Adrien LeBlanc, the town’s recently-hired health and safety officer, noted there are changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Bill 132) that take effect Sept. 8. He noted the town is committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.

LeBlanc played videos demonstrating unacceptable behaviour in order to give council members and those in attendance a look at what not to do or say.

The town has posted that violence or harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated, he said, but noted a single comment might not be considered harassment unless it becomes something that is repeated. If a complaint is made about a member of council, the mayor can determine whether to bring in a third party to investigate the complaint. If the complaint is about the mayor, human resources and the CAO would determine how to investigate.

“My suspicion is they would err on the side of caution and enlist a third party investigation,” said LeBlanc.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned how council members could respond to website and blog posts about themselves or others. Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin, acting in place of vacationing CAO John Miceli, said libel and slander laws come into play if something written or said is inappropriate and said, as a private person, someone could allege libel and seek a reward. According to the town’s code of conduct, the mayor speaks on behalf of council but individual members can speak to the media or others on their positions on issues.