Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Friendship (The Epilogue)

I trust that you enjoyed reading my 5-Part Series on "Friendship" in Windsor. In a separate BLOG, below, I am putting all five individual BLOGS together for easier reading for you, dear reader.

I wrote about friends, friendships and business associates and the seeming new issue of how that fits in with conflict of interest. The question arises when and under what circumstances does a member of Council need to recuse himself/herself if a "friend" issue comes up.

It makes it plain, if you read the BLOGs all at once, to understand the issue much better and what the consequences can be to our City. It also provides an approach to solve the problem.

I did not just want to write the BLOGs and leave it. Accordingly, I have completed a "COMPLAINT OF VIOLATION OF CODE OF CONDUCT" and submitted it to the Integrity Commissioner for a decision. It arises out of the actions of a member of Council (not Councillor Jones). He has already acknowledged receipt of it.
  • The Windsor media reported:

    "Appointed to the job last year, Basse said any investigation can reveal new information that requires separate inquiry. "I can’t ignore it," he said.

    "integrity commissioner Earl Basse informed council behind closed doors Monday night that he’s looking into hundreds of phone calls allegedly made by a councillor to a union leader during the civic strike, the news was being reported.

    The Star has learned from a number of sources that the phone log in question lists calls made on Coun. Ron Jones’s cellphone to CUPE Local 543 president Jean Fox."

    My understanding is that the question is whether Councillor Jones should have recused himself during the CUPE strike because of his "friendship" with the Head of one of the striking Windsor CUPE locals.

    The Mayor confirmed the point stating:

    ""The issue in front of us is discussions that were taking place with the head of CUPE in the middle of negotiations. That is an important distinction to be drawn here."

    In other words, mere “friendship” in itself may not be a concern but “friendship” with more such as dealing with the City can result in disqualification from participation in a matter whether it is a strike or a business deal.

    As you know Windsor's Code of Conduct states:"


    No member of Council shall use the influence of her or his office for any purpose other than for the exercise of her or his official duties.

    Examples of prohibited conduct are the use of one’s status as a member of Council to improperly influence the decision of another person to the private advantage of oneself, or one’s parents, children or spouse, staff members, friends, or associates, business or otherwise."

    In addition, BELLAMY INQUIRY RECOMMENDATIONS are incorporated by reference and shall form part of this Code of Conduct


    The recommendations made by Madame Justice Bellamy with respect to Ethics as a result of the "City of Toronto External Contracts Inquiry" as set out in Appendix B to this Code of Conduct [Should it be "SCHEDULE "C" instead] are hereby incorporated by reference and shall form part of this Code of Conduct

    Included are these provision:

    1. The City should expand its current code of conduct for councillors and its conflict of interest policy for staff to include broader ethical considerations.

    2. The codes of conduct should go beyond the minimum standards of behaviour and set out the highest ideals and values toward which all public servants should be working.

    21. Councillors and staff should be made aware that it is unacceptable for them to act on a matter in which they have either a real or an apparent conflict of interest.

    22. Councillors and staff should take steps to avoid as best they can both real and apparent conflicts of interest. For assistance, they should seek the guidance of the office of the integrity commissioner.

    Preferential Treatment

    30. Elected officials and staff should take all necessary steps to avoid preferential treatment or the appearance of preferential treatment for friends or family.

    The standard expected of a member of Windsor Council is very high and goes not only to real conflicts but apparent ones and the appearance of preferential treatment. "Friends" are included in this definition as well which is the basis I assume of the Jones investigation...

    I am not suggesting any illegal activities, any pay-offs, graft, under the table deals or bribes. Rather it is the very narrow matter; it is the issue of being a "friend" or perhaps a "business associate" that you have raised as confirmed by the Mayor. You may receive some guidance from a recent US Supreme Court decision as set out in Part 5 of my BLOG that seems quite applicable to the high standard expected of a Windsor Member of Council as well as the actions of a Judge in that case who recused himself"

    "Maynard withdrawing from Supreme Court case after vacation photos with Blankenship released

    "It is not enough to do justice - justice also must satisfy the appearance of justice," Maynard wrote in a brief memo filed today with the court.

    He added, "I have decided to voluntarily recuse myself from this case. I will recuse myself despite the fact I have no doubt in my own mind and firmly believe I have been and would be fair and impartial in this case. I know that for a certainty."

    Controversy erupted this month over Maynard's majority vote in the court's 3-2 decision that excused Massey from a $50 million verdict after photos surfaced showing the chief justice and Blankenship allegedly vacationing together in the Monte Carlo area...

    At least three of the photos show the men posing and smiling at seaside locations and sitting at an outdoor restaurant...

    In his memo released today, Maynard said he worries that the controversy that the photos have caused is the sole reason he's stepping aside.

    "Above all else, I am very concerned about how the public views this court," Maynard wrote. "Without question, the judicial branch of state government should always be held in the highest public confidence and trust. The mere appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether it is supported by fact, can compromise the public confidence in the courts. For that reason - and that reason alone - I will recuse myself from this case."

Do I expect a quick answer. Hardly, considering how long the complaint about Edgar (aka Eddie) and Kwame took to be resolved and that a Complaint from Chris Schnurr has not been dealt with yet since earlier this year.

In addition, Mr. Basse as the new Hamilton Integrity Commissioner has a new task it seems:

  • "Whitehead conduct to be investigated

    Emma Reilly
    The Hamilton Spectator

    Councillor Terry Whitehead's conduct will be investigated by the city's new integrity commissioner, council ruled yesterday.

    Whitehead's former assistant filed a complaint against the mountain councillor last week, alleging she had been mistreated. The woman, who has declined to comment on the issue, now works in the city's community services department. The decision came at last night's council meeting after a closed-door discussion on the issue."

I doubt if the matter will be completed before after the next municipal election. Perhaps I will be wrong.

In the meantime, members of Council who may be in such a conflict are able now on their own to take the honourable steps to resolve the matter. Let us see if that happens