Advertisement

Norfolk council balks at integrity investigation

Article content

Norfolk council is deadlocked on whether it should proceed with a formal investigation of leaks of sensitive information arising from in-camera meetings.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

After a prolonged discussion on July 20, council agreed to receive a report on the matter as information and moved on.

At recent meetings, council members expressed interest in getting to the bottom of leaks that have harmed staff morale while potentially jeopardizing complicated real-estate transactions.

However, when informed that a wide-open investigation might cost as much as $100,000 with no guarantee of results, council balked.

“The idea of how much this might cost us without getting an answer is just too much,” said Simcoe Coun. Ryan Taylor. “We should just drop it and smarten up.”

Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele agreed. Masschaele also doesn’t like the pall a lengthy probe would cast over a council that is supposed to work together for the betterment of Norfolk.

“We have no guarantee this won’t go to $100,000 and get no results,” Masschaele said. “I’m not in favour of investigating my colleagues or spending money on it. That’s it.”

Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman also wants to get to the bottom of the problem. But like many on council, she doesn’t want to have to explain a large legal bill with nothing to show for it to her constituents.

“I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “I would like my name and council as a whole cleared, but I’m also cognizant of money. I’m feeling torn on that.”

Mayor Kristal Chopp bridled at the suggestion that the leaks recorded to date may be innocent or inadvertent.

She cited the example of an in-camera report early last year that contained details of CAO Jason Burgess’s compensation package. The contents of this report made its way to a local citizens’ advocacy website shortly after it was circulated.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Chopp noted the only people who had access to the report were members of Norfolk council and a handful of county staff.

Chopp said leaks like this are bad for staff morale and make it difficult for Norfolk to attract qualified professionals. Given the small number of people who could’ve leaked this information, Chopp suggested an investigation would be limited and comparatively inexpensive.

However, council has no stomach for an open-ended investigation. As well, council could not agree on parameters for a “scoped” investigation that would have set out specific questions to be answered.

“Should council proceed, any conclusions found would not only result in reputational harm to a member but may also reflect on the burden of cost to the (taxpayers) as a result of the member’s inappropriate actions,” clerk Teresa Olsen said in a report to council.

Olsen’s report cited an integrity investigation in Innisfil that cost the municipality $50,000.

She also noted that Ottawa council was in the process of initiating an integrity review when a councillor disclosed that he released confidential information accidently. Olsen said the councillor confessed after hearing how much an integrity probe might cost the city.

Olsen told council the maximum penalty under Ontario law for a municipal council member who discloses confidential information is a 90-day suspension with a commensurate loss of pay and benefits.

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers