Only the tip of the iceberg

OPINION

Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno presented two reports to MV Council on Nov. 5 regarding complaints made against Councillors Peplinski and Maika. Giorno’s opinion was that neither councillor had breached the Code of Conduct. During the public question period afterwards some individuals urged the township to bring legal claims against the complainants for recovery of legal costs.

These folks should be careful what they wish for. This is because it was Council itself that was responsible for starting the Integrity Commissioner (IC) investigation about Peplinski in the first place. Minutes of a Council meeting dated May 16, 2016 confirm this. After coming out of closed session, Mayor Love reported:

“Council reviewed the Ontario Human Rights Commission Violation (Policy A-04) Report and has not determined whether a breach of the Code of Conduct had occurred therefore will appoint and integrity commission.” [sic]

Following that statement a motion was passed directing “staff to begin the process for the appointment of an integrity commission.” [sic] It is clear therefore that those individuals at Monday’s meeting who harassed the complainant, who was present, chose the wrong target.

The complainant believes that Council took this step in 2016 in order to stop the Township’s CAO from accepting the findings which required him to then uphold the employee’s complaint that had given rise to him hiring the human rights investigator in February 2016 when Peplinski refused to apologize. In other words, he was stopped from complying with the Township’s own Human Resources Policy as well as the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Policy Guidelines. The complainant suggests,

If that is the case, then taxpayers must ask themselves if this is what amounts to Accountability and Integrity in action in this community.

As for Giorno’s “investigation” itself, nobody asked him on Monday why he failed to interview one single witness or the complainant or Peplinski. This is in contrast to the independent investigator who interviewed all relevant witnesses including the Mayor and members of Council who were present at the “precipitating incident.” The investigator also listened to the recording of the incident and familiarized herself with the local demographics so as to understand the impact of Peplinski’s comments. Giorno did none of these things but has presented a bill to the Township for $12,206.90 fees incurred to date. The independent investigator herself has been shown Giorno’s report and commented:

“I am surprised and disappointed that Mr. Giorno took such a limited view of the definition.  And… if I had to call the situation again, I would call it exactly the same way.”

The complainant is critical of Mayor Love’s conduct at Monday’s Council meeting, particularly because of her comments following Giorno’s presentation and her responses to those who were demanding recovery of costs:

She was fully aware of how the Integrity Commissioner process started and yet she sat back and took no steps to place on the record even the basic fact of how the process began. The Mayor should stop “cherry-picking” the parts of this sordid saga that best suit her purposes.

When the fees of the IC were announced, there were gasps from the public gallery. The complainant says that the IC’s fees are just the tip of the iceberg because they do not include the legal fees and other costs that were incurred in defending the HRTO proceedings all the way to the courtroom door. She points out that if the apology Peplinski gave her twenty months later had been given when she first requested it in January 2016, it would have avoided the expenditure of even one cent.

When Councillor Peplinski claimed reimbursement for some of his HRTO expenses in October 2017, he said the public should know the “consequences and costs.” Since then, this reporter has been trying to obtain disclosure of all costs, but the municipality and its lawyers as well as Peplinski himself are not cooperating.

Surely it is time that the Mayor and Council comply with their statutory requirements of “Transparency and Accountability” and make complete disclosure to the taxpayers of not just the “consequences and costs” but the complete facts surrounding the HRTO proceedings and the IC investigation.

 

Photomontage: Uwe Kils ecoscope.com

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