While they say that “politics makes strange bedfellows”, the sleeping arrangements at Brampton City Hall seem to be a colossal version of strange.
You would be forgiven if you missed the details of this story because the local media didn’t report what really happened at a sleepy Council Meeting approximately ten hours after the (in)famous LRT vote at the Rose Theatre, when a Councillor accused of breaking the rules was let go with just a warning.
On that day’s Agenda were two special items for elected officials to deal with; two Integrity Commissioner Reports based on complaints against three Councillors. The first complaint filed by a resident, accused Councillors Moore and Gibson of having a conflict of interest in a decision to hire a facilitator that had donated to their reelection campaigns. In his report, the Integrity Commissioner ruled they had broken no rules and summarily dismissed the complaint; they were free to go. The second complaint, filed by Mayor Linda Jeffrey against Councillor John Sprovieri alleged that the Councillor had broken the Code of Conduct by releasing confidential information that pertained to a $28 Million lawsuit against the City by a local developer.
In his report to Council that day, the Integrity Commissioner agreed with the claim and declared that Councillor Sprovieri had indeed broken the rules and that he had done so to a serious degree, serious enough that the report recommended the Councillor be penalized an amount equal to 60 day’s salary.
Now, earlier in the meeting, Councillors Moore and Gibson had declared a conflict of interest with respect to the Integrity Commissioner’s report on their two cases; however, video recordings reveal that Councillor Sprovieri had not done so, even though the report in his case indicated that he was looking at a financial loss; in other words, he had a pecuniary interest in the outcome of the report’s findings and recommendations. A member of Council is required to declare a conflict of interest in this type of situation.
Not only did Councillor Sprovieri not declare his conflict, to the shock of observers in the room, and despite pleadings from the Mayor that he stop, Councillor Sprovieri proceeded to grill the Integrity Commissioner on items related to his case, which according to the rules, is also not permitted.
Once he was done, the Councillor abruptly rose from his seat and left the room, leaving the remaining members wondering if what had just happened was legal insofar as the rules were concerned. When asked, the City Clerk affirmed that the rules clearly stated that a member of a Council must declare a conflict of interest when they have a pecuniary interest in a matter before Council and that they are not permitted to address Council in any way about it.
What followed was a series of questions back and forth by Councillors, some expressions of regret to see such a serious fine levied against a fellow Councillor, and some clever wordsmithing of the penalty statement which ended in Councillor Sprovieri receiving the equivalent of a slap on the wrist; no financial penalty needed. Despite the recommendations of the report; the only penalty was a warning to the Councillor to never do it again or else next time, a fine would be imposed..
The vote, incredibly, was unanimously passed 10-0. It’s likely now, based on his actions, that we will see another complaint against one of the members of the “Brampton Six” as they are now called. The Mayor herself, in thanking the Integrity Commissioner for his work, expressed that they would all meet again, probably very soon. But one wonders if there is any point to these investigations, because more often than not, nothing ever comes out of them. Despite a strong verdict against one of their own, this Council once again found themselves able to make a decision they could all agree on, and that would suggest that despite their differences, this Council can work together to protect their own interests. It’s warm in that bed, even if there is a long divide right down the middle. Strange indeed.
Will taxpayers be on the hook for the $28 million if this case is lost based on the negligent behaviour of council members? The verdict is still out.