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Springwater looking at Integrity Commissioner options

In Council Watch
Mar 5th, 2020
Jennifer Coughlin

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin

By Kate Harries Springwater News

Springwater Township is taking a hard look at its Integrity Commissioner’s functions.

A motion put forward by Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin at the February 19 2020 meeting of council calls for staff to seek proposals for the services of an Integrity Commissioner and report back by July. It was passed unanimously.

“I want more information,” Coughlin said in an interview. “I want to know what other options are out there.” She said she has concerns about costs.

At its February 4 2020 meeting, council voted in favour of a motion from Councillor Jack Hanna to eliminate a previously adopted requirement that a two thirds majority is needed to terminate an Integrity Commissioner. This means that now, a simple majority is all that’s needed.

The Integrity Commissioner hired by Springwater is the firm Principles Integrity, headed by former City of Vaughan staffers Jeffrey Abrams and Janice Atwood-Petkovski.

Many local municipalities retained the firm after the County of Simcoe negotiated a group rate.

The Code of Ethics proposed by Principles Integrity was marked by controversy when introduced in 2019, particularly with regard to a clause that would have prevented a councillor from speaking out if his or her opinions went against those of the majority of council. That clause was eliminated.

Further controversy erupted over a Principles Integrity report to the November 6 2019 council meeting that harshly condemned Hanna over remarks allegedly made at a golf tournament dinner. The report was rejected by the majority of council, though Mayor Don Allen and Coughlin voted in favour of it.

Allen declared a conflict February 19 for discussion of Coughlin’s motion because, he explained, there’s a suspended Integrity Commissioner investigation regarding his own conduct.

A report from Principles Integrity, also to the November 6 2019 council meeting, stated that complaints had been received regarding Allen’s conduct at a golf tournament in June 2019, at which it is alleged that he was intoxicated.

The report stated that as Allen faces criminal prosecution on the same set of facts, the investigation is suspended pending disposition.

Allen is to stand trial on September 17 and 23 on charges of impaired and dangerous driving.

At the January 15 2020 council meeting, Councillor Perry Ritchie asked Allen for an update on the charges against him.

Coughlin objected to discussion of an “identifiable and personal item.”

“I just want to know what’s going on, that’s all I’m asking, Mayor Allen,” Ritchie said.

“You can come and talk to me, then,” Allen said, “Personally.”

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