Township settles Rosien litigation – questions remain

Photo Evan Dennis

Opinion

As reported exclusively by The Current, Madawaska Valley’s former Integrity Commissioner Jack Rosien earlier this year commenced a claim for damages against the Township in the Superior Court at Pembroke. A municipality being sued by its own Integrity Commissioner is not an everyday occurrence so The Current has continued to follow this story closely. This has included accessing the contents of the Pembroke court file including the witness statements and the opinion of the independent expert who Rosien retained. The picture painted by Rosien of the treatment he received, culminating in being fired by Mayor Kim Love, and the reasons why he believed he was so treated, are concerning to say the least.

Why was Rosien fired?

The events leading up to his firing, as disclosed in the sworn evidence, speak for themselves. In early February 2017, he met with a member of Council and told her that he was going to uphold a complaint made against her. As he was required to do, he gave her 14 days in which to make submissions to him in order to try and change his mind. A few days later, he received an email from the Township’s lawyer requesting that he suspend that investigation for “medical reasons.” The lawyer advised Rosien that she was acting for the councillor in question. Having taken confirmatory advice from other Integrity Commissioners, Rosien replied stating that it was improper for the Township’s solicitor to represent a councillor under investigation by an Integrity Commissioner as this offended the independence requirements of the Municipal Act. The lawyer replied disputing this and refused to cease representing the councillor. Rosien continued to object to this conduct when, out of the blue in early April, he received an email from Love advising him that his services were being dispensed with. This despite, as he claimed in the lawsuit, his contract having just been automatically renewed for a further year.

Rosien’s report to Council on April 18 2017

Shortly after having been fired, Rosien attended a Council meeting and presented his Final Report. In this report he recommended that it would be sensible, and in the taxpayers’ interests, that he be allowed to complete his three outstanding investigations rather than have his successor cover the same ground thereby incurring unnecessary costs. This report was presented at a public meeting to the Mayor and all members of Council. He was not asked a single question and Love restricted her comments to saying the report would be accepted as information whilst reminding him that he was attending at his own cost. He was not afforded the courtesy of gratitude for his services, let alone a response to his recommendation aimed at saving public funds.

What, then, could be the reason for this treatment of him? The Township’s Defence filed with the Court says that the reason his services were dispensed with was in order that the Township would have access to a “wider range of services.” This makes the picture even murkier. The only requirement of an Integrity Commissioner under the Municipal Act and the Township By-Law appointing him is that he conduct investigations into Code of Conduct complaints in an independent manner. This excuse, therefore, has an extremely hollow ring about it. Were the true reasons, as is implied by Rosien’s evidence, that it was a cynical move to end his involvement in the three investigations and especially the one that he had almost completed; also, because of his valid objections about the Township lawyer’s breach of the independence requirement?

Settlement at the courtroom door

When we last reported (Click HERE to read Rosien asks Court to fire Township’s lawyer) we disclosed that Rosien had asked the Court to remove the Township’s lawyers from the case because of “unprofessional conduct.” This, too, is an unusual occurrence. The request was supported by a leading municipal law expert following his review of the evidence that had been submitted to that point in time. The only evidence responding to the expert’s opinion that appeared in the Court file was an affidavit by Love. Rosien responded to this with an affidavit of his own identifying facts and documents upon which he relied to accuse Love of several key misstatements.

The application to remove the Township’s lawyers was scheduled to be decided by a Judge in Pembroke on the morning of April 26. Because of the interest generated by our previous reports on this legal claim, contact had been maintained with Rosien directly about the progress of his lawsuit. This contact continued into the morning of the scheduled hearing. At one point while he was waiting for the hearing to commence, Rosien emailed to say that he had just been approached by the Township’s lawyer with an invitation to discuss settlement.

Confidentiality obligations imposed

Later that same day Rosien emailed to say that a settlement had been reached but because the Township had imposed a condition of secrecy he was not able to disclose its terms. A distinct possibility, therefore, is that the Township paid Rosien compensation in order to make the legal proceedings go away. If that is the case then, as it would involve using public funds, the ratepayers of Madawaska Valley might, with justification, be aggrieved and might seek explanations. Sweeping the result under a carpet in any event seems to be a blatant disregard for obligations of accountability and transparency.

Questions asked but not answered

The Current wrote to Love about Rosien’s evidence. We asked her a number of questions focussing on the alleged treatment of him, the reasons for his dismissal and the failure to respond to his suggestion of completing his investigations. The Current received no answer to that letter. The Current also contacted CAO Sue Klatt about the settlement. Klatt responded stating that she was not able to provide information about these matters as these events occurred before she was appointed CAO.

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