The report from the Integrity Commissioner, Fred Dean dated March 16, 2012 was provided in response to a request submitted by Councillor Craig Kerr on November 8, 2011. The cost to taxpayers for this 10 page report was $22,771.85. Although the Integrity Commissioner found that Councillor Kerr, Councillor Martinello and Mayor Walas breached the Municipal Code of Conduct, he concluded that no penalty should be imposed by council. So my question is, what did we actually get for our $2,300 per page?
What I find very odd and concerning in this report is that in the section titled “Nature of Complaints” it simply states that “The alleged breaches are known to all members of council. I do not intend to detail each allegation”. If we are paying $23K for a report, surely we should be provided with the details of what is being investigated? Without the details of the complaint as a point of reference, what sense can be made of any findings?
Also, looking at the Municipal Code of Conduct it would seem that the Integrity Commissioner in filing this report was also in breach of the Code of Conduct, as the final report is required within 90 days of the complaint.
With regard to some of the findings in Mr. Dean’s report:
Councillors Craig and Martinello
Anyone that has attended a Brighton Council meeting could deduce that these two councillors “do not get along”, so no news there. Not sure why Mr. Dean is referencing Councillor Kerr on a first name basis?
Without knowing the specific evidence of the complaint (not provided by Mr. Dean) it is hard for me to understand what is the problem with asking questions of staff? Councillors are the elected officials and need to understand the specifics of a particular situation as they are ultimately responsible for it and to the taxpayers that have enquired about a particular issue.
Councillor Rittwage confirmed this in a recent council meeting when he mentioned that if he had questions he would send an email or phone staff to get the answer. Again without seeing the complaint, this would seem a bit of a double standard. Appropriate for some councillors, but not for others?
Also I fail to see how emailing questions to staff (lengthy or otherwise) could be equated to “directing staff”. If indeed councillor Martinello was “micromanaging staff” Mr. Dean has not detailed how this was happening.
I would be interested to see Brighton’s Purchasing By-law as recently council elected to award a sole source contract to LAS for the purpose of providing closed meeting investigation services. The Purchasing by-law was not available in either the By-Laws or the Purchasing/ Tenders/ Bids sections of the Municipal website.
The Integrity Commissioner states that “There is no inherent right in any member of council or staff to commit the municipality to a purchase unless that official is specifically authorized to do so.”
If there was more supporting evidence it should have been presented, as beginning a negotiation does not constitute a commitment to purchase. In fact the code of conduct requires that “Council Members will use rational, objective decision-making processes that are supported by appropriate research of options“.
Conflict of Interest
This section is confusing as well and according to my interpretation of the Code of Conduct, conflict of interest claims are outside of the Integrity Commissioner’s mandate. 5.2.2. iii “(b) if the complaint on its face is with respect to non-compliance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the complainant shall be advised to review the matter with the complainant’s own legal counsel”. So if understand this correctly, the integrity Commissioner should not have investigated and billed the Municipality for this portion of the complaint.
This report seems very vague and certainly lacks the detail I would have expected considering that it cost close to $23,000, which based on an hourly rate of $300.00 works out to almost 77 hours. I will let you make your own conclusions as to whether the report was money well spent.
What does appear clear is that a majority of council seems to be very happy with the substance of the report. I say this because they accepted Mr. Fred Dean’s recommendation and hired an Integrity Commissioner for a term of five years. They hired Amberley Gavel, a company in which Fred Dean is a principal.
CAO Frost advised Council that a number of people who act as municipal Integrity Commissioners had been contacted, but only one proposal had been received. On November 6th, 2013 (exactly a month ago today) I emailed CAO Frost asking her several questions including “The names of all contractors contacted to bid on the Integrity Commissioner contract“. Although I have received a reply to some of the questions, this one has not yet been answered.
Councillors Kerr, Rittwage, Rowley and Vandertoorn voted in favour of paying Amberley Gavel $5,000.00 to have them assume the role of Integrity Commissioner for 5 years and perform one day of training. Also as part of this agreement, taxpayers will be paying $300.00 per hour to receive similar reports as the one discussed above.
There is currently an investigation under way and who knows what the cost of that will be as it has been ongoing for months.
It should also be noted that even if the Integrity Commissioner finds that there is a serious breach of the Code of Conduct, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is to deduct three months pay from the councillor at fault. To me it would make more sense to have the information regarding an alleged infraction made public, with evidence from both sides and then let the public decide who is at fault. At least that way we can avoid tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees being spent with no real penalty, even when fault is found.
Payments made to Amberley Gavel and the Integrity Commissioner in 2012 alone are as follows:
Amberley Gavel – 2012 – $5,000.00 – Retainer
Fred Dean – 2012 – $22,771.85 – Code of Conduct complaint investigation
Brenda Glover – 2012 – $14,178.48 – Personnel matter referred to the Integrity Commissioner. Brenda Glover is a member of the Amberley Gavel group that Fred Dean delegated the matter to.
Total: $ 41,950.33