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.

 

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