On Sept. 4 The Current reported on Councillor Ernie Peplinski’s demand made at the Aug. 27 Council meeting that The Current’s owners apologize to taxpayers and write them a cheque for $60,000. The report confirmed that The Current’s publisher had requested the opportunity to attend the next Council meeting so that he could respond on a face-to-face basis. His request was denied. What he would have said had he been given permission was sent to the Township as a written statement with the request that it be read at the meeting. That request was also denied.
Before preparing the statement, The Current’s owners wrote to Peplinski and asked him to provide justification for his slurs, but he declined to do so. That is regrettable because it would provide a public airing of all the facts and circumstances surrounding what Peplinski inaccurately and persistently describes as “frivolous and vexatious” investigations. It might also provide accountability and transparency about the disturbing facts that emerged from the breach of contract lawsuit brought by the Township’s first Integrity Commissioner. It was The Current, and only The Current, through examination of the court file that brought these facts to the public’s attention. This included the Commissioner’s allegation that he was dismissed after he had told a member of Council that he was about to uphold a complaint against her.
Peplinski’s opening words, “Yes thank you, Mayor Love. This is quite a revelation isn’t it,” show that his rant was influenced by his belief that the Wishart Law imputations questioning the honesty of the publisher were about to hit the streets. In other words, that part of the Council meeting seemed to have been pre-scripted so that the Mayor could cue him to deliver what he thought would in all likelihood be a parting insult to The Current’s owners.
It is now public knowledge that Wishart’s discrediting of the publisher was not only baseless but easily avoidable. The lawyer could have contacted the publisher (he had the contact details), whereupon he would have received the documentary proof that was provided after he had authorized the distribution of his erroneous “opinion.” But perhaps more importantly, so too could have any member of Council and the CAO. What is very disturbing is that this is just the latest episode in what appears to be a vendetta against The Current which has existed almost from the day that it started. Remember that during the last election campaign the Mayor, as well as Peplinski, took the extraordinary step of refusing to answer constituents’ questions which were directed to them through The Current’s online Town Hall Forum.
Relying on the ill-fated attempt to discredit The Current through attacking its publisher, at the same meeting Council passed a Resolution limiting his future contact with the Township itself, thereby sending a message to the community that, in the words of his lawyer, he was being treated as if he was a “crackpot” and “chronic complainer.” In other words, this was a repetition of the message sent through the communication ban imposed shortly after The Current began operations. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight The Current’s owners should not have made it public at the start that they were in the business of “speaking truth to power” where warranted by circumstances.
Surely in the light of this, residents are at least entitled to answers to the following questions:
- Whose decision was it to instruct Wishart Law to spend taxpayer money carrying out a cross-Canada investigation of the publisher’s legal career?
- What was the reason for doing so?
- As it was well known locally, including through a permanent statement on The Current’s website, that its publisher had broadcasted that he had practised law in Ontario why did no member of Council or the CAO give him a chance to disprove Wishart Law’s findings before authorizing the release of information which they knew would seriously damage his reputation?
- Now that the ham-fisted attempt to discredit him has been exposed, why has there been no public retraction or apology? Surely the fact that the only other thing he requested was that a donation be made in his name to the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation is not preventing this?
- These events followed the revelation, confirmed by the Township’s latest Integrity Commissioner, that Peplinski acted out profane hostility against a member of the media during a Council meeting who was there for the purpose of reporting it. The only consequence of this has been that this experienced Councillor was felt to be adequately punished by undergoing secret “training.” Really?
The seriousness of these matters cannot be understated including as they do issues of attempted curtailment of press freedom, abuse of power, and inappropriate use of taxpayer funds. The Mayor, as head of Council, needs to step up and, in the interests of complying with her obligations of transparency and accountability, make full disclosure by answering the above questions and giving an explanation for resorting to such conduct.
Photo above: Mayor Kim Love makes the oath of office December 2018