The following is a copy of the correspondence that I sent to Mayor Walas and Brighton Council on September 13, 2016 expressing my concerns regarding the procurement process utilized by CAO Bill Watson in the search for an Integrity Commissioner for Brighton. My correspondence has been added to the agenda of the September 19, 2016 meeting of Brighton Council.
“Dear Mayor Walas and Councillors,
Thank you Mayor Walas for your email below. At the time it was received, I was unsure as to why you had sent it to me. Now that I have had an opportunity to listen to the audio file from the August 15, 2016 meeting of Brighton Council, I understand that you were expecting me to post it on social media for you. If you had indicated this in your email, I would have been happy to help you with this, but ultimately I think that it would be more appropriate for you to setup your own social media account(s) and post such communications yourself. Many mayors have their own social media accounts and use them very effectively in communicating with residents and the public at large.
More importantly, I would like to take this opportunity to address some serious concerns regarding the procurement process utilized in the search for an Integrity Commissioner for Brighton. Sole sourcing does not ensure the best value for taxpayers and is problematic for a variety of reasons, so why was it used by CAO Bill Watson? Especially considering that this is contrary to Brighton’s purchasing by-law. Section 2. of Brighton’s Purchasing By-Law states “PRINCIPLES: To purchase and supply the proper equipment, materials, supplies and services when needed, with the Right Quality, the Right Quantity, at the Right Price, from the Right Source and at the Right Time in a manner that is fair and equitable to all.” Section 4.15 of the Purchasing By-law states that “Purchases may be made from a single source without quotations or tenders” but none of the exceptions apply in this case.
CAO Bill Watson stated at the August 15 Council meeting that “I don’t believe that the purchasing by-law in this particular matter is pertinent, because I believe that it falls within my ability purchase” and he also stated that “it’s my opinion that the purchasing by-law does not require me to get three quotes”. In my opinion the purchasing by-law is pertinent to all purchases by all staff. So how is it that CAO Bill Watson deems himself exempt from the requirements of the Purchasing By-law?
Section 4.8 of the Purchasing By-Law which relates to the delegated authority from Council to the CAO states that three quotes are required and the item must be previously approved in the budget. There was nothing in the 2016 budget for investigations by the integrity commissioner. As such why didn’t CAO Bill Watson’s recommendation to Council include the funding source for his recommendation? Additionally, what action will be taken to ensure that all future purchases will follow the Purchasing By-law?
Another serious concern is why did CAO Watson, Mayor Walas, Councillor Ostrander and Councillor Vink state that the Ontario Ombudsman’s office would appoint an Integrity Commissioner and charge the Municipality of Brighton for services rendered? This is categorically false. There is no cost to municipalities associated with complaints to, or for investigations by the office of the Ontario Ombudsman.
Yet another serious concern is why did CAO Bill Watson place a copy of the following letter (as transcribed below) onto each Council member’s desk shortly before the start of the public meeting on August 15, 2016? This would appear to be a clear attempt by CAO Bill Watson to influence the vote outside of the public eye.
There has been quite a bit of chatter on social media today regarding my recommendation of John Ewart as the Municipal Integrity commissioner. I am concerned that two issues are prevalent in that discussion, the first is that this recommendation is somehow improper and second is that Mr. Ewart’s integrity is in question.
First this is my recommendation on my own experience, Mr. Ewart is one of 28 Municipal law experts recognized by the Law Society of Upper Canada, Mr. Morin is not. Both Mr. Marin and Mr. Ewart have some experience with the Municipality, it is my impression that Mr. Ewart’s involvement has been more constructive.
I have made this recommendation because I believe Mr. Ewart can provide advice to me and to council as we move through issues. In the past Mr. Ewart has offered practical advice to a variety of issues on an as needed basis promptly and at reasonable rates. Given this experience and his relative location it is my opinion that Mr. Ewart is ideal for this appointment.
The statement “Mr. Ewart is one of 28 Municipal law experts recognized by the Law Society of Upper Canada” by CAO Bill Watson is erroneous and misleading. The list provided by LSUC is actually for “Specialists in Local Government”. Regardless, the premise that an Integrity Commissioner must be on the LSUC “Specialists in Local Government” list is nothing more than a red herring.
There is no basis in fact, or law that requires an Integrity Commissioner to be a lawyer, let alone be on some list curated by the Law Society. This is underscored by the fact that Brighton’s last integrity Commissioner, Mr. Nigel Bellchamber is not a lawyer.
There is also no basis in fact, or law that states that an Integrity Commissioner could (or even should) be used for support and counselling purposes as CAO Bill Watson suggests. The sole purpose of an Integrity Commissioner is for the “application of the Code of Conduct and other procedures, rules and policies governing ethical behaviour for Members of Council” (quoted from Brighton’s Code of Conduct, By-Law No. 019-2016). Why would CAO Bill Watson attempt to morph the scope of responsibility for the Integrity Commissioner into a role of support and counselling?
This letter by itself has tainted the procurement process and should be grounds for the removal of CAO Bill Watson from any further dealings in the selection of an Integrity Commissioner for Brighton.
Clearly, public trust has been shaken by these statements, actions and inactions. What specific steps will Council be taking to ensure that the selection of an Integrity Commissioner is fair and equitable to all and conforms to all relevant laws and by-laws?
I look forward to your detailed reply.
My correspondence was sent in response the following email sent to me by Brighton’s Mayor Walas on August 15, 2016.
From: Mayor Mark Walas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, August 15, 2016 10:31 AM
To: Andre Marin; email@example.com; Bill Watson
Cc: Steven Baker; John Martinello; Roger McMurray; Brian Ostrander; Laura Vink; Mary Tadman
Subject: Re: Brighton Integrity Commissioner
Thank you for your email. You are correct, I received your information and replied to you that it would be forwarded to staff. Staff was aware of your subsequent requests and apparently did not reply. That is unfortunate.
As you are aware, as an individual, I am not in a position to hire anyone. Recommendations from staff on the use of professional services are presented to council for discussion and decision, as the case for tonight’s meeting.
The CAO is merely presenting a report to Council and making a recommendation.
This is a public meeting and you are more than welcome to attend.
The fact that this report is being tabled at an opening meeting is a clear example of an open, transparent and accountable process, for you to suggest otherwise is disappointing.
I have no idea what the outcome of this report recommendation will be, but to suggest it is a “fait compli” is simply nonsense.
Municipality of Brighton
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Bell network.
From: Andre Marin
Sent: Sunday, August 14, 2016 4:30 PM
To: Mayor Mark Walas
Cc: Steven Baker; John Martinello; Roger McMurray; Brian Ostrander; Laura Vink; Mary Tadman
Subject: Brighton Integrity Commissioner
Dear Mayor Walas:
I first wrote to you about the above-captioned matter on June 8, 2016 to express interest in the position. You replied immediately indicating you would provide my information to staff to provide a report to Council for consideration.
On June 20, 2016 I emailed you again asking you for an update on the appointment process for the IC. I did not receive a reply.
On June 30, 2016 I emailed you a similar request. No answer either.
I was surprised to see item 10.7 of tomorrow’s council meeting agenda, proposing an IC appointment as a fait accompli.
I have extensive experience as a third party reviewer and advisor, having been in the oversight business for over 2 decades at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. During my 10-year term as Ombudsman of Ontario, I developed a good working relationship with Brighton city council and its citizens and I would have much to bring to the table in enhancing integrity. It is important that the selection of an IC be open, inclusive and held in full public view so that public has trust in the process and trust in any subsequent investigations that the IC performs.
In this vein, I would ask that you support council in deferring the CAO recommended appointment until there has been a proper open and transparent competition where qualified candidates can be vetted on their qualifications.
If you wish, I would be happy to attend tomorrow night’s council meeting to answer any question you might have.
All the best,
Links related to this post:
Brighton CAO Bill Watson recommendation for Brighton’s Integrity Commissioner
Audio file discussing CAO Bill Watson’s recommendation (a MUST listen)
Brighton’s Code of Conduct By-law No. 019-2016
Brighton’s Purchasing By-Law No. 371-2006