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Text of Springwater councillors’ statements on Principles Integrity report

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In Council Watch
Nov 10th, 2019
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Ccoucillor Jack Hanna and Jeffrey Abrams

Front, integrity commissioner Jeffrey Abrams; rear, Springwater Councillor Jack Hanna. 

During discussion of a Principles Integrity report to Springwater Council November 6 2019, the following statements were read out:

Councillor Jack Hanna

Having read the report and the manner in which information has been kept from me has instilled a strong desire for me to react with direct and pointed condemnation of those responsible. In an effort to maintain a professional decorum I will take the high road.
It is extremely concerning that the process would allow an employee who was not in attendance at an event and was leaving employment of our township the mechanism to lodge this complaint against myself and two other members of council.
The manner in which this was dealt with raises fundamental questions about procedural fairness, natural justice and impartiality. CAO Brindley’s first efforts as set out on page 25, part A the Township Code of Conduct guidelines, should have been to resolve any complaints consistent with the “Informal Complaint Procedures” rather than to lodge a complaint that was based on hearsay.
I first learned on July 12th by email that I been accused of making a disrespectful comment about staff in relation to my not attending the staff barbeque. I was shocked when I got a draft report on October 1st and learned that Mr. Brindley’s complaint had been expanded and now included allegations that were not in the original complaint. This is a complete denial of natural justice and procedural fairness.
I note I was only advised of the additional allegations on October 1st after I advised the Integrity commissioner that I had contact wth the Law Society of Upper Canada to inquire if the failure to provide me full disclose was a violation, unprofessional and or unethical.

Page 28 Section 9.a of the Code of Conduct states that the integrity commissioner must “provide the complainant and supporting material to the member whose conduct is in question and provide the member an opportunity to respond.”
The mandatory disclosure of information has never been provided to me.
I did respond by email immediately to the original complaint on Friday July 12th.
“This is a total exaggeration. When I was asked if I was attending the staff barbecue my response was that I had been doing it for eight years. That staff should be doing it for council.” I was joking
The report states to the effect that while I and two other councillors were having a conversation, I was heard to make this comment. I did state when asked if I was attending the staff BBQ that I was not attending as I have been doing it for eight years and staff should be doing it for council. I have stated that in jest many times as staff that I normally interact with and I have that type of rapport. To be clear, I do not believe that staff should be barbecuing for council.
Had the investigators followed up on some of my information I provided in relation to that, they would have realized that not only I have attended the staff barbecue, that one time when I was unable to attend, my wife took the day off work and she came and did it in my place. The investigator would also have been able to determine that (on) one of those barbecue days I sat and held one of the employees’ babies while she could eat her meal.
Mr. Abrams who is the current integrity commissioner presented his lengthy code of conduct earlier this year. I questioned the need for all the extra rules that exceeded the four rules required by the province. He asked me at that time “are you a lawyer” I took it that unless I was a lawyer I was not qualified to question him. Given our history, Mr. Abrams should have recused himself from this complaint.
The author describes my option to decline an interview as being rebuffed and or being dismayed. The integrity commissioner does not have the authority to force me to be interviewed. I did provide detailed responses. The integrity commissioner’s failure to provide me proper disclosure and on my lawyer’s advice “not to attended without legal representation” which was going to be expensive, I resisted the pressure to be interviewed.
I believe the report includes inflammatory wording by an unidentified author. The findings are not based on facts alone but more on personal assumptions. This and the failure to provide the mandated disclosure violates the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness legislated to protect the rights of all individuals. The report even says that conclusions do not require an opinion based on facts and arbitrarily excludes reasonable doubt which is the normal test for natural justice and procedural fairness
Nowhere in our code or legislation does it suggest that the proof of a complaint is not required. The author seems to take judicial direction which is not granted to him or her.
Not only is this an attempt to discredit me, it has the potential to create impression that staff are not to be trusted and that this is a dysfunctional council. I can assure residents that this is not the case.
The current practice of immediately reporting complaints to an outside agency fuels the problems and generates a waste of tax dollars. The process which includes steps with required threshold mediation to eliminate frivolous and vexatious attack / complaints, which I believe is the basis of the complaint against me needs, to be followed.. Volunteers are also concerned. They and staff need to be protected from similar attacks by resentful individuals. The effects of this process and the 31-page code of conduct for councillors has the potential to control and silence your elected representatives.
In conclusion:
I view this complaint as improper because it is not submitted by a witness of the alleged event and based on hearsay.
I view it as frivolous because the alleged comments are not directed at any particular person or persons, and are claimed to have resulted from eavesdropping on a private conversation
I view it as vexatious because it could be expected to have the effect of silencing me.
I did not make any negative comments about staff.
I do not intend to be silenced.
I believe that the other councillors who were at or in attendance and also accused in the original complaint will confirm that I did not make these allegations
Apologizing would indicate that I did or said something wrong. I did not make the alleged statements and cannot validate the complaint or report by making a false apology.
I want to thank those who are here tonight, I also want to thank those who have provided support during this attempted character assassination.
I will endeavour to persevere.

Councillor George Cabral

I was present at the golf tournament and was also in receipt of a code of conduct complaint – the term review was used at that time as well so I wasn’t really sure if it was a complaint or a review – arising from the same set of circumstances wherein it was alleged that I’d committed a violation of the code of conduct. The allegation struck me as being completely fabricated as the alleged violation was nowhere to be found within the Code of Conduct procedure or bylaw, and yet it demanded that I behave in a specific manner. I felt obliged to respond to the integrity commissioner regarding the complaint and did so.
Part of my response at that time was in regards to alleged comments forming the substance of the Complaint before us now, and as I indicated then in my reply, I do now, I did not hear Councillor Hanna make any of the alleged comments.
To be quite frank, I felt the code of conduct complaint against myself, while based on the same circumstances as the report before us, had been formulated and drafted in such a way to include myself along with another council member by alluding to a violation of a code of conduct rule which simply did not exist. The feeling that I got at that time was that it was somehow retribution for doing something I’d felt morally and ethically compelled to undertake a week prior.
As the substance of the complaint against me did not have any basis as a breach of the code of conduct, I came away believing that the complaint was being vexatious and that the allegation was made against me with malicious intent. I also came away with the opinion that the use of the code of conduct in this manner was a perversion of the intent of the code of conduct and was merely serving to control and silence members of council.
With this in mind, I believe that the submission of the Code of Conduct complaint against Councillor Hanna, as mine, through the formal process Code of Conduct complaint “Part B Formal Complaint Procedure” suffers the same imperfections, as the were ample opportunities to address any of the concerns in a more I believe responsible and respectful manner.

Councillor Anita Moore

As one of the councillors also who was at the table that evening at which the conversation happened, I do take exception to the findings in this report for a couple of reasons
The complainant was not there, as we have heard, nor is he employed by the township any longer. I was named in the complaint as being present but I still don’t know exactly by who or what was said. I was never provided an opportunity to speak to that person or persons who apparently overheard an otherwise private conversation, or reply to why I did not say anything to rebuke councillor Hanna’s statement.
I tell you why i didn’t say anything – because nothing was said and I didn’t hear anything.
I will reiterate again what I advised the integrity commissioner that I did not hear Councillor Hanna say any of the things that he been accused of and I also take exception to the statement that Councillor Hanna was holding court, as if to imply that we were sitting there hanging off every word he was speaking.
Well you can’t have it both ways . Either I was sitting there and listening so intently and focused, therefore could not help but to hear what he was saying and then chose not to confirm or deny Councillor Hanna’s experiences with staff, or we didn’t says anything, because nothing was said and in this case that is exactly what happened
We adopted this new code of conduct as a bar to measure ourselves against and to assure our resident that we would act accordingly with integrity, principle and especially being respectful with each other and staff. This actually feels like the opposite. It feels like a public shaming right now. I feel strongly that the outgoing CAO instead of speaking with Councillor Hanna, Councillor Cabral or myself to help determine if there was any merit in this complaint, took the extreme approach by directly sending his concerns to the I.C.
Did he realize that at the very least, this would cause embarrassment, cause a huge distraction in the great work that this staff and council do on a daily basis? I’m not sure what the intention was. I’ll never know because he’s not here any longer.
But my questions going forward: why is there not an internal process for when complaints come forward that would seem much more reasonable in an attempt to sort through the frivolous and nonsensical complaints such as this one. I’m not sure what this has cost the taxpayers of Springwater Township but I strongly feel that it’s unwarranted, that this expense was not approved by council, or endorsed by council or supported by council.
We did endorse working with Principles Integrity but I assumed those investigations would be very serious and worthy of the expenses incurred. As a councillor, I have the duty and responsibility to request an investigation by the I.C. when a valid concern is brought to me or witnessed by me for example, and especially if the behaviour is so egregious that there is no other alternative. I feel like at the table that evening if a statement was made that was so egregious and so outrageous and harmful that – I would have had no choice but to hear it – then it just didn’t happen. These allegations, I really feel strongly, that are based on non-truths.
From someone who was sitting there, not drinking alcohol and had spent the day with Councillor Hanna, who does not have any other agenda here but maintaining the great momentum we have achieved as a council and will continue to represent Springwater as best I can.

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