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Near unanimous vote to hire New Tec integrity commissioner

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In New Tecumseth
Nov 26th, 2013
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New Tecumseth Free Press November 26, 2013

New Tecumseth councillors voted 9-1 last night to retain John Mascarin of Aird and Berlis as their integrity commissioner effective Dec. 1, 2013 at an hourly rate of $550 billed when asked to investigate complaints.

Mayor Mike MacEachern requested the recorded vote, “because I feel so strongly about it.” Deputy mayor Rick Milne was the lone dissenter.

Ward 7 councillor Bruce Haire opened the discussion prior to the vote with concerns about the rate being charged, which was answered by Ward 2 councillor Jamie Smith, a lawyer himself, with a joke that “the goal of every lawyer is to try and bill more than 24 hours a day if possible.”

“These rates are reasonable given this is a Toronto firm, and downtown Toronto, there’s nothing unusual about them, and I’m sure the larger law firms, like this firm are under a great deal of pressure to keep their fees down because they have to compete with guys like me who charge $1.98 an hour,. They are well aware of the client’s ability to pay and what things should cost, and I’m sure they’re not going to deliberately over-charge us,” said Mr. Smith. “As part of this, I would hope that we’re going to revisit the code of conduct in some way because I think there are a number of issues that have arisen on council since I’ve been on it, which would not be covered by the Code of Conduct, and I think they should be. This isn’t the time to raise those issues, but I think it would be appropriate for council to do that.”

Ward 8 councillor Jim Stone said he was in favour of the concept, so long as it wasn’t intended to go back in time. “I just want to make sure that we’re not going to use this as a hammer for any past indiscretions, and this is something we move forward with, I don’t think that’s been made clear,” said Mr. Stone. “I feel very strongly that we don’t want to be looking for skeletons in the closet or anything like that. I think it’s something that councillors should all be aware of, and we start at this point and knowing that this is in place.”

Deputy mayor Milne, who voted against the position, argued councillors should be able to work out their own differences with each other if the arise. “I’ve been here since 1986, and we’re now having to get an integrity commissioner to govern us as adults that have been elected by the public for a four year term,” he said. “I guess with all that’s going on with Rob Ford, and Brampton, and York Region councillors, people are maybe looking at us more intense, under the microscope. I still have problem with the integrity commissioner. I still judge myself whether it’s right or wrong before I do something. And if I’ve said something out of turn to somebody, a councillor, I would hope that councillor would come to me and say, ‘listen, I just don’t agree with what you’re saying’, or ‘I hear rumours that you’re saying this about me’. I would hope that we as a council, 10 elected officials, could come to one another and tell them face to face.”

Mayor MacEachern, who reserved “the right to speak last” said hiring an integrity commissioner was a step council missed when the code of conduct was passed in 2010. “I think it’s the worst time in the world to try to deal with establishing having an integrity commissioner when you have an issue that needs to be dealt with. I think it makes more sense to do that in the time we are right now,” he said. “We have a code of conduct, if we have allegations, there is no process, no decent way that somebody can have those allegations dealt with, and I think that’s fully unfair. I think what ends up happening now, if people have allegations, or if they want to say something, it just hangs out there because there is no process to be followed to be able to get to the bottom of it. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then there is no reason to be afraid of it. …. Right now, we don’t have that tool. There is no process for an allegation to be appropriately dealt with – whether it’s raised by a member of council or raised by the public. … It’s only fair to everybody.”

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