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November 28, 2013

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Good grief sir, we're not actually asking you if you're supportive of it.

This statement is troubling, especially from someone claiming to be a neutral examiner for recommending further legal intervention or not:
["Councillor Guthrie's had it in for me I guess," said Swayze, who also serves as integrity commissioner for eight other Ontario municipalities. "I don't know why he was critical of me for settling that (Coun.) Laidlaw complaint." ]

Playing the victim is hardly a neutral response.

["I don't know why he was critical of me for settling that (Coun.) Laidlaw complaint." ]

He wasn't critical of you sir, he was observing how a function of government (you by mercenary extension) appears to be both somewhat legally redundant and an expense not needed.

It's called "Efficiency in Government" by left and right alike.

Guthrie made very clear in his statements in the press that he has nothing personal what-so-ever, in fact I thought Guthrie was being beyond diplomatic. The council voted unanimously for this move. Best I quote:

From the Tribune:
[“I actually don’t know if we should keep the position,” Guthrie said in an interview after the meeting. “Some would argue that we have received no value at all” from the position so far, he added.
Guthrie said he hopes the evaluation process that city hall will look at developing for the integrity commissioner “can help us determine if it’s a position we should have.”
His resolution was approved unanimously by council. ][...]
http://www.guelphtribune.ca/news/integrity-commissioner-under-review/

All quite contentious until the last sentence.

Perhaps Swayze could argue "good value" for the City by offering *competitive service* for his skills?

What is the retainer for? Here's an idea for a deal: There be no retainer and each situation is put out to bid? (Council might then find a backbone and do it with the powers they have under the Muni Act.)

And...a big one...The Province rewrites sections of a number of Acts pertaining to legal structure and process in Ontario munis?

Nothing demonstrates that more acutely than the farce that unfolded in Toronto. The Toronto Act is same as the Muni Act save a few sections on mayoral power and levying of taxes etc.

All the Acts pertaining to Ontario munis are vague in spots, some of them glaring.

They have to be refreshed with more defined powers

Seems to me there's some very 'sharp' Municipal Lawyers out there looking for work.

The 'dean' of the club features in the TorStar:
[He’s a man who gets brought in to clean things up.

George Rust-D’Eye, the veteran lawyer retained by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford this week, has spent his career, spanning four decades, in municipal law.

He’s often hired by municipalities to act as an integrity commissioner or independent investigator, probing allegations of harassment in Brantford, enforcing a council code of conduct in Mississauga, leading an investigation into a contentious land deal in Oshawa. ][...]
http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2013/11/15/rob_ford_hires_dean_of_ontario_municipal_law_for_council_fight.html

I think Guelph is timely in the examination of needing an Integrity Commish retained or not.

I think a few more cities will be doing same.

Clarification per prior post:
[What is the retainer for? Here's an idea for a deal: There be no retainer and each situation is put out to bid? (Council might then find a backbone and do it * with the powers they have under the Muni Act.)

* = themselves.

Thanks for your posts, stephen s.

From what you write about Swayze's reaction to the review and specifically to Guthrie, it would seem he is taking it personally ... and as such, he has to go.

Yes, good post Stephen and yes, his statement regarding Cam (as quoted) is inconsistent with his role.

In my observations of him before council, it has seemed that it's really about him and his role. His self-importance is hard to miss, but that's my opinion. Thanks for bringing one more elevated consultant into our city.

I know of at least one instance where we used Rust D'Eye, in the previous term, to give council a primer on conflict of interest.

But I will go one more and ask how many of those municipalities that don't have an integrity commission will ever have one and having examined it, won't ever... and how many of those who have one now end up dropping them.

One more municipal gravy train to hitch onto.

I keep going back to where there is accountability, which is with our elected official, and the appropriate council committee for this sort of thing, which is Governance.

So...

Mr. Swayze, I'm not sure that Councillor Guthrie actually "had it in" for you.

But I have. Earnestly. This role has been the governance Frankenstein of this council. It allows our elected officials, especially the Chair of the Governance Committee to escape wearing political responsibility for disciplinary actions on council members.

Accountability, folks, not smoke and mirrors, which what we have now.

Thank you for kind words, DC, Craig.

Craig has inside knowledge of how various cmtes work on Council, and I defer to his posting in another blog some months back on which cmte has responsibility for overseeing situations like Cnclr Laidlaw's gaffe.

Again, I find Swayze's quoted reaction to the outcome puzzling:
["I don't know why he was critical of me for settling that (Coun.) Laidlaw complaint."

He said the investigation would have continued, incurring more cost, if Laidlaw had not agreed to apologize. ]

Odd position to state as an attorney. In other words, he would have charged even more to do nothing.

Author Chris writes:
[Until now, Swayze was subject to the Council Code of Conduct, a code he said should be a "living document" changed when new situations warrant. ]
A bit misleading. Council was subject to the Code of Conduct, Swayze is subject (in his role as Commish) to the Municipal and Conflict of Interest Acts (perhaps the Election Act and some others too, there's a number of Acts that pertain to Muni powers).

Those powers came under close scrutiny during Ford's Con of Int trial, that was dismissed by a very frustrated and chagrined Justice on a technicality. The written judgement was scathing of Ford.

One more instance of where the Province has a responsibility....a *duty* to clarify sections that would render retained Commissioners even more redundant.

It's excellent in Canada that the courts step in where statutes are vague, but ultimately, it's a very expensive, time-consuming and sometimes unfair way of doing things.

Guelph could make a good name for herself by Council petitioning Queen's Park to clarify a number of Acts. Ford fell afoul of the Toronto Act, but the Municipal Act is almost identical save for some Toronto specific sections.

I'll dig on and post some other aspects later, but meantime, here's some excellent reading at a Ontario Municipal Law blog:

http://www.mcanshlaw.com/municipal/

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Joanne

Joanne Shuttleworth is the newsroom lead in municipal affairs coverage for the Guelph Mercury. She is a former Guelph YWCA Woman of Distinction honouree and a past winner of an Ontario Newspapers Award for her work as an editor. You can reach her at jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com

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About Chris

  • Chris Herhalt
    covers municipal affairs and politics for the Guelph Mercury. Prior to joining the Mercury he worked at The Record of Waterloo Region and at The Canadian Press. He can be reached at cherhalt@guelphmercury.com