At a City Council meeting today in Brampton, some Councillors questioned the need for an Integrity Commissioner to deal with complaints from the public against elected officials.
The discussion was sparked by a report from Brampton’s Integrity Commissioner, Guy Giorno, who found a complaint filed by six members of Council alleging a seventh member of Council contravened the Code of Conduct was without merit.
The allegation stated that the seventh member of Council breached the Code of Conduct when confidential information was revealed during a media interview. In his report, Giorno wrote that he could not find that the rules were contravened.
Over the past three years, Brampton’s two Integrity Commissioners have handled at least six complaints filed against Members of Council, many of which were filed by their own colleagues who also sit on Council. Prior to that, eight complaints were filed with the Integrity Commissioner in 2014 alone.
Regional Councillor John Sprovieri, himself, on the receiving end of several Integrity Commissioner investigations in this past term of office and before, stated that the taxpayers were not being well served by the Integrity Commissioner process.
“That really hasn’t achieved much, having an Integrity Commissioner,” said Sprovieri. “This report is very similar to past ones that we have dealt with, where the Commissioner states that there wasn’t enough evidence to find that the person violated the rules.”
Sprovieri tabled a motion that City Staff should provide a report to Council on the cost of the Integrity Commissioner, and whether or not, in Staff’s opinion, there is value in having an Integrity Commissioner. The motion passed 10-1 in a recorded vote, with Councillor Grant Gibson voting against the request.
According to Peter Fay, the City’s Clerk, the question is a mute issue as the Ontario Municipal Act requires that all municipalities must have an Integrity Commissioner by March, 2019.
“The Municipal Act was amended last year, and it will take effect in March 2019, making Integrity Commissioners mandatory for all 444 municipalities in the Province of Ontario with additional powers, and that law is in effect,” Fay explained.
Regional Councillor Elaine Moore agreed that a different process is needed at the City, saying that she believes a mediator might be a better option to assist Members of Council handle their differences.
“Councillor Sprovieri isn’t wrong when he makes the statement that it’s caused tension between Members of Council,” said Moore. “There needs to be a better way to resolve disagreements than the Integrity Commissioner.”
Not all were questioning the need for the Integrity Commissioner. Regional Councillor Gael Miles indicated that the Code of Conduct needs a check to hold Councillors accountable for their actions, citing situations in the past when Members of Council revealed confidential information or behaved badly.
“I totally support having a Code of Conduct and an Integrity Commissioner,” said Miles. “It makes each and every one of us think twice about our own actions, and it makes us accountable not only to each other, but to the public as well.”
Guy Giorno is a lawyer with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, one of the largest municipal law firms in Canada. He became the City’s Integrity Commisioner last April, under a contract valued at approximately $187,500 over three years that was approved by Council in early 2017. Giorno replaced Robert Swayze, who, during his time in the role, handled several complaints for the City including some made against Sprovieri.
In 2015, Swayze found Councillor Sprovieri guilty of breaking the Code of Conduct for disclosing confidential information, and recommended that his pay be suspended for 60 days. At the time, Councillor Moore moved for receipt of the report from Swayze, while ignoring the recommendation for suspension of pay. Sprovieri famously remained seated in Council Chambers during the tabling of that report, even though conflict of interest rules would have required him to leave the room.
Despite the pending legislation that requires municipalities must have an Integrity Commissioner, Sprovieri insisted that Staff should provide a report, requesting that they provide information on all the costs associated with the hiring of an Integrity Commissioner, and their opinion on the value of having one.
“As far as I am concerned, it hasn’t really worked,” replied Sprovieri. “All it’s caused is a lot of aggravation and animosity amongst us. It really kills the teamwork effort.”
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