The “Grimsby IC complaint process referred to staff” story in the Dec. 10, 2020 edition of NewsNow contained an error regarding the council vote on the matter of names of those filing Integrity Commission complaints being confidential. The vote to refer to staff was defeated 5-4. A subsequent vote on the motion “That all Integrity Commissioner complaints be made public, and That the identity of complainants that are non-elected officials be kept confidential unless consented.” was passed with an 8-2 recorded vote. NewsNow regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion on the issue.
By Mike Williscraft
UPDATED – updates in bold below
A change to Grimsby council’s code of conduct intended to stifle frivolous Integrity Commissioner complaints got somewhat sidetracked Monday night.
Coun. John Dunstall, who initially voted in favour of Coun. Lianne Vardy’s motion at Committee of the Whole, had second thoughts on the motion which would have made the names of all complainants public.
With this council’s tenure at the two-year mark, the only complaints received by the IC have been levied by members of council. Zero complaints have come from the public.
On this matter, Dunstall broke from his regular voting group – as has been noted by IC Charles Harnick. Monday he introduced an amendment which would have allowed the names of members of the public to remain confidential, should they choose.
Vardy’s view was simple, in any court, the name of an accuser is public knowledge and IC complaints should not be any different.
Generally, many members of council agreed that a councillor’s name should be public if they file a complaint against another councillor.
Instead of supporting the initial motion or the amended version to refer it to staff to have its impact on the Town’s code of conduct assessed with a report pending, council opted to go half-way by approving a motion to allow members of the public to have their names remain confidential should they choose, while councillors who file will be made public.
The motion passed by council reads:
“That all Integrity Commissioner complaints be made public, and
That the identity of complainants that are non-elected officials be kept confidential unless consented.”
Coun. Kevin Ritchie, who wanted no part of names being attached to complaints, called the Town’s code of conduct a working document when it was first approved early in 2020, but he was reluctant to approve any changes now.
While Ritchie noted a review and changes were just done in October, he said council should not be changing directions given by Harnick, who conducted that review.
Mayor Jeff Jordan said tinkering with administrative bylaws is not uncommon and pointed out to Ritchie that council did exactly that – tailoring Harnick’s recommendations to suit its needs during the meeting at which they were passed.
The issues with council turmoil are serious, accusations of lying and bullying are common and – as Coun. Reg Freake noted, some could be considered criminal – they have all on edge.
At one point Monday, Ritchie raised a point of order and objected to Vardy making accusations. However, Vardy had not named any councillor in her comments.
Those voting in favour of the amended motion were: Mayor Jordan, Councillors Dorothy Bothwell, John Dunstall, Reg Freake, Dave Kadwell, Dave Sharpe and Randy Vaine. Those opposed were Councillors Kevin Ritchie and Lianne Vardy.