Township CAO acts to curb Integrity Commissioner costs

OPINION

As announced at the June 4 Council in Committee meeting, in an effort to reduce the high cost of investigations conducted by controversial Integrity Commissioner, Guy Giorno, Madawaska Valley Township has hired Sudbury consulting firm, Expertise for Municipalities (E4M), to oversee the validity of complaints made by citizens against members of Council.

While this move technically means the Township now has two layers of deciding bodies who deal with complaints, E4M services are less than half the cost of Giorno. He is renowned, in this Township at least, for his very time-consuming investigations. Yet despite this in some cases key witnesses say he failed to contact them. Also, he gave some complainants the opportunity to comment on his proposed findings, but not others. The new regime now ensures that all complaints are screened by E4M before ending up in Giorno’s hands.

Giorno’s five investigations did not seem to follow any discernable or consistent investigative process other than that each of them was subject to lengthy delays between the various steps he took along the way. In fact each of the complaints took him more than a year to complete even though his predecessor, Jack Rosien, had made a start on three of them and, it should not be forgotten, was refused permission by the previous Council to finish them. The one consistent thread is that Giorno rejected all five complaints. Among these was the one that Rosien had been about to uphold (which he believes likely contributed to his firing) and the Human Rights complaint based on the findings of the Township’s independent workplace investigator, who is on record as disagreeing with Giorno’s conclusion. Click HERE for that article.

Starting last November, the Township began releasing information concerning the financial burden on taxpayers of Giorno’s services. These services are rendered in his capacity as a partner of the Fasken Martineau law firm in Ottawa and therefore all accounts come from, and are paid to, that firm. Following a review of these accounts by The Current, attempts were made to obtain an explanation for their size from the Township’s CAO/Clerk Sue Klatt. (Photo above) She responded by saying the files had been closed following completion of the investigations so, on advice from Giorno, she was unable to answer any questions.

The Current then wrote to Giorno himself on March 15 and asked him the following questions:

questions-to-giorno-mar-15-2019

Giorno responded by disputing The Current’s entitlement to question him about the contents of his reports. In reply, it was pointed out to him that the questions did not relate to the contents of his reports, but rather the process he followed, the time he took, and the costs to taxpayers of providing them. These have amounted in total to more than $54,000. No further response has been received from him.

Integrity Commissioners are creatures of the Section in the Municipal Act that imposes obligations of transparency and integrity on municipalities. It is unfortunate that Giorno seems not to believe that the requirement of transparency has any application to answering questions about his delays and the fees he has charged MV taxpayers.

CAO Klatt is to be applauded for driving this cost-saving change in the Township’s complaints procedures. Whether she intended it to be the case or not, if it results in a reduced involvement on Giorno’s part, Valley taxpayers should welcome this as they remember that his much less expensive predecessor was dumped at a time when the Township had no CAO.

 

Editor’s Note: In the interests of full disclosure, the “asbestos” complaint was made by The Current’s publisher, Roger Paul, on behalf of himself and other concerned residents in August 2016. The Integrity Commissioner process against Councillor Peplinski arose from a decision of Council itself following the Township’s independent investigator’s report on a human rights complaint brought by The Current’s editor, Danielle Paul, when she was employed by the Township in 2016.

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