The Madawaska Valley Council is about to consider whether to offer new contracts to its two current Integrity Commissioners, Guy Giorno, and Expertise for Municipalities (E4m). Their current four-year terms end on December 15 which will require CAO Sue Klatt to prepare a report to Council with her recommendations. Above: Shelley Maika (right) listens as Guy Giorno dismisses Christine Darbyson’s complaint against her in May 2019.
As The Current has reported, the initial appointment of Giorno in 2017 was quite controversial. He was parachuted in to replace MV’s first Integrity Commissioner, Jack Rosien, after Rosien was fired by Mayor Kim Love. At the time of his dismissal Rosien was still investigating complaints against Councillors Ernie Peplinski and Shelly Maika, for which he had been paid $9,000. He had reached the stage of reaching a conclusion on the complaint against Maika and had told her that he was going to uphold the complaint subject to any final submissions she might care to make.
Almost immediately Rosien was told to suspend his investigation of Maika because of her ill health. He complied with that request but while his investigation of Maika remained suspended he received notice of his dismissal from Love. At that time MV did not have a CAO following the departure of Craig Kelley.
Just before Council replaced Rosien with Giorno, Rosien had attended a Council meeting during which he suggested that common sense dictated that he should be allowed to complete his outstanding investigations. He told Council that this was in the interests of saving unnecessary costs to ratepayers by avoiding having his successor cover the same ground that he had already covered at a cost of $9,000. All members of Council rejected his suggestion, which included the two members who were being investigated and who did not recuse themselves. Giorno then took over the outstanding investigations and subsequently dismissed the complaint against Maika, and also all Code of Conduct complaints made against Peplinski and Maika. This reporter contacted Giorno in March 2019 seeking his feedback on questions that were being raised about his decisions as well as about his fees. He refused to answer the questions put to him, saying there was a Council direction that “the Integrity Commissioner’s role on a file ends with the reporting to Council.” For particulars of misgivings expressed about those decisions at the time, see the links below to articles in The Current.
As The Current reported exclusively, Rosien sued the Township for wrongful dismissal and his claim was eventually settled on terms that were kept secret. Rosien told The Current at the time that he had been forbidden by the Township to discuss anything about his claim with anybody. He had previously advised the Court through sworn evidence that he had reason to doubt the genuineness of Maika’s alleged sickness saying that it had not prevented her from carrying out all her other duties as a councillor. The gag that Rosien was subject to suggests that he had received a payment to stop him proceeding with his claim.
Recently concerns about Giorno’s possible lack of impartiality have resurfaced. This arises from The Current being made aware that Maika had been allegedly boasting that MV Council had him “in their back pockets because he was a staunch Conservative and sometimes you just have to pull strings.”
Giorno was once Chief of Staff to both Ontario Premier Mike Harris and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. If the allegations are true it means Council, under the leadership of Love, a close friend of Maika, and at a time when MV was without a CAO, removed a conscientious neutral Integrity Comissioner and replaced him with someone who was not. Giorno was paid at three times the hourly rate of Rosien and his law firm went on to receive $54,000 of ratepayers’ money for his investigations which were also subject to very substantial delays.
The Current has recently written to Maika, Giorno and Klatt and invited them to comment on the “back pockets” accusation, but all of them have declined to respond to it. All of this comes at a time when the Province is being urged to take steps to provide a watchdog and some form of regulatory body to monitor the conduct of Integrity Commissioners because of increasing concerns about their own integrity. The Current has reported on the actions of CAOs in other municipalities, including one conscientious and courageous CAO who went public about his concerns about MV’s other Integrity Commissioner, E4m, which caused him to abruptly terminate their contract citing unnecessary investigations resulting in improper fees charged.
LINKS to earlier articles: