Integrity in short supply says reader

Editor’s note: James Di Fiore’s article referred to by Mr. Winfield is part of a continuing investigation that Di Fiore and Brudenell Lyndoch Raglan resident Mike McCloskey are conducting. Their investigation results from feedback received from Current readers in other municipalities expressing similar concerns as outlined by Winfield. The Current also understands, based on these contacts, that the provincial Ombudsman is investigating multiple complaints made about E4m. A further report will be published in due course.

To the Editor:

I was interested, from my own recent experience, to read topical articles in The Current and also The North Bay Nugget of complaints being voiced at various Renfrew County and Northern Ontario municipal council meetings against Expertise for Municipalities (E4m) Integrity Commissioner, Ms. Peggy Young-Lovelace of Sudbury.  Whatever can be going on to cause quite independent complaints against someone with the prestigious position of an integrity commissioner, from both councillors and ratepayers — all cases involving substantial costs to ratepayers?

My interest was further heightened upon reading Mr. Di Fiore’s May 16 2021 report in The Current that the same Integrity Commissioner (IC) had commenced a Pembroke Superior Court Application for an Order under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA) to remove a Brudenell Lyndoch Raglan (BLR) Councillor from current and potentially future public office.  Mr. Di Fiore reported that Paul Cassan of the Sault Ste. Marie law firm, Wishart Law, represented the IC and that the BLR councillor had undisputedly declared a conflict of interest in advance, at the council meeting in question.

In my municipality that same IC had, in July 2019, recommended the Town of Laurentian Hills obtain a Pembroke Superior Court Application requesting a blanket exemption order for all members of council to discuss and vote on any unspecified matters involving a local private company. Acting as the Town’s counsel was the same Mr. Cassan, presumably as a result of E4m’s advertised “unique affiliation with one of our business partners, Wishart Law.” Mr. Cassan informed the court that all members of council and Mayor had some form of (previously undeclared) conflict with the private company. The intent of the order was then to avoid all of council being found in breach of the MCIA.

The official transcript of the 2019 hearing then sees Mr. Cassan taken to task by Justice James for seeking an MCIA blanket exemption order, without having given public notice. This was despite the fact Justice James had specifically queried Mr. Cassan on procedures for bringing conflict issues to the public’s attention a few weeks before, in a similar conflict case for another municipality, Head Clara Maria, he represented. In response Mr. Cassan informed Justice James that he did not know if notice of his own Application had been advertised in the community, but claimed that direction had been given by a council meeting Resolution to bring the Application to court. A subsequent Freedom of Information request of mine failed to reveal the existence of such a Resolution by council. Justice James refused Mr. Cassan’s blanket exemption request in 2020. Costs billed to Laurentian Hills taxpayers for this legal exercise, recommended by E4m and argued by Mr. Cassan, were just short of $26,000.

The Current had previously reported (April 12 2021) that a BLR Township ratepayer Mike McCloskey had accused E4m of making false statements, misusing its authority to influence council and ultimately overcharging taxpayers as it conducted investigations without exercising due diligence. McCloskey summarized with: “This integrity commissioner doesn’t seem to be acting with integrity.” Quite independently, on April 12 2021, I had also brought to Laurentian Hills’ council attention, my own sorry experience, documented on the public record, as a client of E4m expert services, with the same four complaints against E4m. My overarching complaint related to evidence-free false accusations made by Ms. Young-Lovelace that I had sworn a false affidavit, which statement she included in a public report without consulting with me, the client, in any way to allow me the opportunity of responding to preserve my personal and professional reputation.

Regardless though of the technical or legal merits of these two cases, one wonders why ratepayers of Renfrew County seem to be locked into very expensively supporting the economic wellbeing of legal and municipal advisory ‘services’ being supplied by what appears to be a remote self-interested alliance? 

David J. Winfield

Point Alexander, Laurentian Hills

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