Opinion: Integrity Commissioner got an eyeful

By Mike Williscraft

Last week was a tough week for many reasons, but it was the kind of week when you take one for the team. I didn’t average an hour a day for time spent on this edition…I hate these 12-pagers. It’s really hard to get in all we need to but getting downtown reset was far more important than one edition for me, so, here we are.

I was looking forward to a new week, a positive week, a week of accomplishment when I could sit on a Main Street patio and drink until they close, maybe even beyond that.

That whole notion went out the door Monday morning when I walked out my door and headed to the office to find a neighbour sprawled across the ground after a fall. Call 9-1-1, wait for ambulance, eventually, get to work.

Then I got to close Monday with a five-hour-plus Grimsby council extravaganza. They got a little past the halfway point in the agenda before Coun. Dave Sharpe asked how long things were going to go because he had to work in the morning.

A highlight, or lowlight depending on your point of view, of the proceedings was Integrity Commissioner Charles Harnick rolling out his findings on no less than seven complaints – two had been withdrawn.

When the dust settled, two councillors – Randy Vaine and Kevin Ritchie were found in breach of the Town’s Code of Conduct.

Vaine’s infraction related to shouting at Coun. Lianne Vardy, “You’re a bully – you’re the biggest bully on Council,” in a council closed session.

Ritchie’s issue was considerably more serious. It also shows the repetitious pattern of the Grimsby Five group as they seem to show up with predetermined voting patterns, even taking the rare path of voting against the advice of legal counsel.

The whole ouster of Reg Freake from the Grimsby Energy Board was a farce from the beginning. This was proven out in the findings of the Integrity Commissioner who found Ritchie showing up for the session with a pre-written motion was a calculated effort.

“The preamble to the motion was not an angry outburst during the course of heated debate, followed by an immediate apology and withdrawal of remarks; this was a premeditated action, drafted by Councillor Ritchie in advance of the meeting, designed to malign and insult Councillor Freake.”

Game. Set. Match.

And it tells you pretty much all you need to know about Coun. Ritchie and how he approaches his role as an elected official in Grimsby.

A lot of the stuff was just plain silly and school yard.

Coun. Vaine had a long series of complaints against Coun. Dorothy Bothwell which the Integrity Commissioner found right next to zero in terms of credible.

All this stuff is stoking the furnaces of social media trolls like nobody’s business.

People who hear about something through some other ill-informed source and “poof”, you end up with former members of council who abdicated their fiduciary responsibilities to the Town of Grimsby and its taxpayers somehow thinking they have a leg to stand on just to get high enough to look down their collective noses at this bunch.

Let’s just get off that bus right now, people.

As I have said before, you can chew on this bunch all you want. Some of them are sneaky, some downright underhanded in terms of how they have wrested control of the council table but make NO mistake.

This group did not sit idly by and watch millions upon millions of dollars go down the biodigester drain as well as allow the Town’s 25 per cent stake in a fibre optics company – created in Grimsby when Rob Hattin was at the helm – be sold off for another $8.5 million or thereabouts just to have those proceeds dumped into covering more losses on the bio disaster.

Monday’s festivities were capped by Sharpe going off on Mayor Jeff Jordan because Jordan cut him off when he was starting to compare council to his toddlers. It was a nice capper, and quite perfect for the Integrity Commissioner to witness first hand because that is simply how these guys roll.

The chair’s role is to preside/ensure conduct of the meeting including preservation of good order and decorum. The chair also maintains focus on the agenda and items being discussed, ruling on points of order and deciding all questions relating to the orderly procedure of the meeting subject to an appeal by any member of Council of any ruling by the Chair.

To cut off Sharpe’s meandering was more than appropriate.

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