Opinion: When is a report not a report

By Mike Williscraft
NewsNow

If there was a Monday in the week, rest assured something “fun” went down with Grimsby Council.

Now, fun is relative…I get that and I realize full well some of you may be sick and tired of me prattling on about this cast of characters. I know I enjoy a quiet respite by the lake when I get done dealing with their shenanigans.

I got a letter which I will deal with next week in this space from a reader who thinks me too negative. The letter was not signed, so I won’t print it in the usual manner and I do understand the writer’s point. Much of what has transpired is negative, repeatedly so.

I would note that I have also covered many positive things, too, but as in life, it tends to be the negative things which sear into people’s brains.

Monday was nothing special on the dysfunction scale, really. A couple of minor dust-ups which went on too long, but, the major issues in the debates were hidden just below the surface. This is unlike many of the other obvious warts displayed over the last two years.

On a positive note, this transparency has been generally true to 2018 election promises. This group has been far more transparent than their predecessors.

So, yes, there was the matter which plays out on Page 3 regarding the third party investigative report – the one which NewsNow issued an FOI request which was denied and was subsequently appealed with no movement still – but also of note was a report which was a non-report by Integrity Commissioner Charles Harnick.

Harnick attended the virtual meeting to tell council, essentially, he could not not tell them anything.

It was all very 2020.

Harnick said there was an IC complaint issued by one councillor versus another, which basically has zero credibility because he glanced and at it and chucked it out the door.

Coun. Lianne Vardy asked why the investigation was terminated and Harnick was even tentative to call the situation an investigation.

“I don’t want to get into specifics, but it was terminated by me,” Harnick told council.

“I reviewed the info that was put in front of me, I decided not to proceed with an investigation,” Harnick told council.

So here’s the thing, after Harnick came to council with his finding that Coun. Kevin Ritchie contravened the Code of Conduct in dealings with Coun. Reg Freake there was a Kumbaya moment when Ritchie acknowledged the need to work together and move on, turn the page, if you will.

The waste of time brought on by frivolous Integrity Commissioner complaints – not to say anything of the cost – was part of the discussion.

So now Grimsby has claims being made which are not worth the digital paper they are written on apparently.

This prompted an extremely appropriate Notice of Motion from Vardy:

“Whereas as a Council we are committed to openness and transparency;
Whereas Integrity Commissioner complaints are serious undertakings which reflect on the behaviour of Council members;
Whereas frivolous and vexatious complaints are costly to the taxpayer;
Be it resolved that all Integrity Commissioner complaints, whether won, lost, a draw, or withdrawn or deemed not to be further investigated be made public, so that transparency is achieved and frivolous and vexatious complaints are not proffered.”

If a councillor is going to take up other representatives’ time and potentially cost taxpayers thousands of dollars with a complaint, it should absolutely be made public.

Otherwise, you end up with nickel and dime situations which do nothing but waste time and resources.

Harnick told council to get a life, earlier this summer when he noted how silly his office has been used by some. It certainly appears nothing was learned at all.

Or maybe it was and it just can’t be reported. I’ll see what I can find out and get back to you.

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