Whitby Councillor asks province to remove politics from Integrity Commissioner process after voting against his own reprimand


Published January 13, 2022 at 11:18 am

Councillor Christopher Leahy called for the province to remove politics from the integrity commissioner process days after Whitby Council, and Leahy himself, voted not to reprimand Leahy for a hot-mic body-shaming comment he made in an October 4 public meeting.

In a Special Council meeting on Monday, Council voted against the reprimand, simply “a written statement of admonishment” according to Whitby Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno, after discussion regarding Leahy’s character, apologies and actions he’s taken to address the harm caused by his comments.

Half of council argued or voted in support of Leahy’s character and public works as reasons to pass Councillor Deirdre Newman’s motion, “that council take no further action.”

Meanwhile, the other half of council argued for the reprimand, not because of Leahy’s character, but to reinforce public trust and as a general deterrent, reasons Giorno called the “outward looking” criteria behind his recommendation to reprimand Leahy.

Ultimately, the council vote tied. Mayor Don Mitchell broke the stalemate by voting not to reprimand Leahy. Allegations of workplace impropriety against Mitchell will not be investigated after council vetoed a code of conduct extension.

Now, Leahy is calling on the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark to amend the Municipal Act, “to remove elected officials from the code of conduct investigation process.”

When the Municipal Act was put together in 2001, under the Mike Harris government, local councils strongly supported the idea that they alone would decide disciplinary matters, relegating integrity commissioners to an advisory role, according to Giorno in Monday’s meeting.

“There is no other court or tribunal in the country, where the complainant, the witness, the subject of the investigation, and all their coworkers get to decide on the punishment for some one found in breach of the code of conduct,” Leahy said in a statement.

Leahy said when he asked Giorno about conflict of interest, he was assured that all members were legally allowed to vote.

“Most residents wonder why politicians are the only professionals with this type of privilege,” he said, “If a nurse had a complaint filed against her at the Ontario College of Nurses, they wouldn’t get a vote on their own punishment. It wouldn’t be a allowed for teachers, lawyers or engineers.”

Finally, Leahy recounted a story from the Durham District School Board, which last year fired their integrity commissioner after she asked the board not to meddle in her investigation. The board later found the whistleblowing trustee in breach of the code of conduct.

“Some residents say the trustees politically interfered,” said Leahy, “I will allow you to draw your own conclusions.”

Leahy concluded by saying will ask for a meeting with Clark too discuss solutions, such as an “arms length” provincial body.

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