Opinion: Et tu, Harnick? Not!

By Mike Williscraft

Vindictiveness. Hate.

Childishness. Spite.





When one asks, what would possess the publisher to give up four full pages of space to one silly council story, look no further than this brief list of characteristics which were portrayed for the world to see.

Feb. 16’s Grimsby council meeting was captured on video to be archived so future generations can have a snapshot image of how not to conduct yourself as an elected official.

This meeting was like a season-ended of one of those ridiculous reality TV shows. We have The Real Councillors of Grimsby.

A brief list of characteristics is listed at the head of this piece. It could have been much longer – after all, there were 9.5 hours of one council evening to consider. For our purposes, let’s just consider Act 2…with Act 1 being the near-90-minute closed session which kicked off the proceedings.

There wasn’t a single shock in the whole “debate” regarding just how the Grimsby 5 would put the screws to Mayor Jeff Jordan. There was a bit of a dance, some justification, and then….dun-dun-dun…the hammer!

It was so entertaining, Coun. Dave Sharpe sat back and grinned like the Cheshire Cat while Coun. Randy Vaine was going off and shouting threats at the mayor. It was all quite the display.

If there is a shock, if you can call it that, it would be the audacity of the Grimsby 5 which continues to astound. One really has to wonder what motivates this cast of characters. At different times they have attempted to hide behind cloaks coated in accountability and transparency. As Hans Christian Andersen might say, “These emperors have not clothes”.

But back to the “shock” part. Here is what nobody should be shocked by. If you watched the 9.5-hour extravaganza to the bitter end…and I mean bitter…(and you’ll get to skip over the lengthy closed session portions, you will catch the snippit at the very end where council votes – 5-4 – to have the clerk speak to ADR Chambers, the organization which employs Integrity Commissioner Charles Harnick. The firm is described online as “Canada’s most experienced retired judges & lawyers for arbitration, mediation, and dispute resolution services throughout Canada.”

Dare I say, one might even call them “experts”.

Harnick has been in the sights of Kevin Ritchie since the councillor was busted by the IC for conduct against Coun. Reg Freake deemed, “premeditated action…designed to malign and insult”.

When Mr. Harnick returned his findings on the complaint that Mayor Jordan had breached the code of conduct by making a phone call to the person on the other end of confidential emails which found themselves in the lap of Ritchie, BUT found the matter so trivial he did even prescribe an apology for said action, Ritchie tried repeatedly to talk around Harnick during his presentation. When that failed, the Grimsby 5 went for Plan B.

Plan B was getting staff to research all penalties across the province for breaching closed session confidentiality. Harnick would have none of that idea either and provided the expert (are you listening Mr. Vaine) advice that one could not take a finding in another wholly different set of circumstances and apply it to a set of facts in another case.

BUT, when you have full control of council as the Grimsby 5 do, you can selectively use “expert advice” as a shield, when you choose, or just flat out ignore it – as they did here.

So, The Five opted to inflict a punitive financial penalty on the mayor – when he was clearly acting in the best interests of the community – for calling the person on the other end of the “hacked” emails. You had Sharpe actually giving out added detail from the closed session. You had more erroneous Points of Order than you can shake a stick at. And, it would seem, you have The 5 firing Charles Harnick as Integrity Commissioner because they didn’t like the reality to which he repeatedly tried to ground them.

That’s right, they had a lawyer sit there until nearly 2 a.m. to give them advice on how to phrase dealing with Harnick in the minutes. The sad capper on a sad evening was only topped by Sharpe saying, just before the live stream was cut off, “Mayor Jordan, I am wondering if, before we close the meeting, we could all sing the song Closing Time.”

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