Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 28, 2010

Does Windsor Have Its Own "Guergis" Affair

Oh you know it is going to be juicy by the time it is done.

John Middleton is not someone who is a shrinking violet. He is running for Council again and I suspect that by the time that this is done, the political careers of some Members of Council might be made or broken by the revelations. Is this why the City Solicitor said:
  • "Wilkki said the chance that Middleton’s defamation suit would be settled before election day is “zero.”

Read the Statment of Claim for yourself

If you recall the Guergis affair, her big complaint is that not only was she dumped from the Cabinet and prevented from running for Conservatives but she has never been given the reasons why:

  • "While I was told by the Conservative Party lawyer that some aspersions had also been cast towards me, I was never told by anyone what the specific complaints against me were.

    Since that time, I have asked repeatedly what it was I had supposedly done. As it is claimed that I have already been told, I am at a loss as to why this information cannot be repeated to me, and to everyone who shares my interest in addressing what really matters, the truth.

    Yesterday, the apparent source of the information relating to my alleged improprieties, Mr. Snowdy, swore under oath that he provided no information about illegal or even inappropriate behaviour regarding myself to any representative of the PMO. He also swore that he never had any evidence of illegal or inappropriate behaviour on my part.

    There obviously has been some misunderstanding or disconnect in the relaying of that information to the PMO."

I liked this description given even though by a Harper opponent

  • "Helena Guergis’s career was destroyed by a parliamentary process run amok and a Prime Minister who is out of control, Liberal Party President Alf Apps says...

    Canadians need to get back to a “Parliament that’s respectful of the rights of individuals, a Parliament that’s respectful of natural justice and due process...”

    Mr. Harper, he adds, has not simply expelled her from cabinet and caucus but overseen “her effective demonization, her ostracization, her vilification, the complete destruction of her political career..."

Now take a look at the Middleton situation. From the original Star story:

  • "Crime prevention chair fired by city; Volunteer mystified
    Windsor Star 05-01-2008

    A volunteer removed from the city committee that runs such programs as Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parents said Wednesday he still doesn't know what he did to warrant dismissal.

    Until last week, John Middleton was the chairman of the Windsor Citizens' Crime Prevention Committee, a volunteer committee on which he has served for nearly five years. He said he was summoned to a meeting with city chief administrator John Skorobohacz on April 23 where he was handed a letter saying council had voted to have him removed from the committee.

    "It has been brought to the corporation's attention that your recent behaviour directed toward City of Windsor employees contravenes the spirit of the Respectful Workplace Program," the letter said.

    "I'm racking my brain trying to think what I've done," Middleton said Wednesday. "I had no warning, no nothing ... I have the right to know what someone has said or accused me of."

    Councillors Alan Halberstadt and Bill Marra, members of the crime prevention committee, confirmed Middleton was removed following a discussion at a closed-door city council meeting April 21. "Council had some pretty compelling information," said Marra. He said that during his meeting with Skorobohacz, Middleton was not told the names of his accusers, but that there was "a general disclosure of the contraventions." And, Marra added, "the contraventions were very serious."

    Halberstadt said council determined Middleton treated city employees disrespectfully.

    Middleton said his tenure, of late, on the committee has not been easy. He said city administrators have been "putting up roadblocks" and even contravening city council instructions.

    When asked for specifics, Middleton pointed to the creation of a supervisor of compliance and enforcement in the city's licensing department, replacing the crime prevention co-ordinator his committee hired. Middleton said money was twice taken out of his committee's budget to pay for the new position. In February when he applied to have $28,000 left in his 2007 budget carried over the following year, he was told $20,000 of the money was no longer there. When he asked questions, he was told the books were closed, he said."

Well there you have is supposed to be satisfied with a general discussion about serious contraventions.

Jump forward to the recent Star story "Windsor council candidate John Middleton sues city" and it gets even better. Note the reference to him running in the headline:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and council were made aware of the legal action this week. Francis said the city’s defence will “leave no question as to why council acted the way it did.”

    City solicitor George Wilkki had even stronger words, suggesting Middleton “may want to withdraw his lawsuit at that point...

    Wilkki said the reason Middleton was never given details of what was alleged is because it would have identified city employees. He said the accusations came from “absolutely credible” individuals who will eventually be witnesses in court.”

    Wilkki said council heard of “serious problems” relating to Middleton while he headed the crime prevention committee, which led to a decision to have him removed at an in-camera meeting in April 2008. The WCCPC is an advisory body to council filled with non-paid volunteers appointed at the discretion of council."

I sure hope that they are right since we now have the Mayor and City Solicitor jumping in stating that Middleton has done something wrong but not disclosing it still. In fact, the defence is so damaging to Middleton apparently that he may want to drop his case. Will Middleton's lawyer now seek to have the damages increased and add the 2 people personally as parties in the action for their remarks and argue that there is an ongoing effort to discredit his client?

On the other hand, who knows perhaps they are doing Middleton a favour. Did someone just recently signal the issue in a most bizarre way?

Oh and now we find out that there are "absolutely credible" employees involved. Frankly, I do not understand why they did not reveal all now. Supposedly it will be in the Statement of Defence coming out shortly.

I love the City's defence too:

  • "He said Middleton was never fired or terminated because he was not an employee but a volunteer serving at council’s discretion."

Now maybe there is a case and maybe there is not. That is what lawsuits are all about. However, here is the part that is absolutely mind-boggling about a person who is so disrespectful that he had to be forced off of a City Committee:

  • "[In the original story] Middleton is also the vice-chairman of the city's property standards committee. Marra said there has been no discussion about having Middleton removed from that post."

  • "[In the subsequent story] "He questions why council deems him “unfit” to sit on the WCCPC but continues to allow him to serve as co-chairman of the city’s property standards committee. Asked to explain, Wilkki said it’s because there were no complaints about him on that committee."

Here's the hoot. The Crime Prevention committee positions are volunteer. The Property Standards Committee members get paid!

If there is a jury trial, it could be very interesting. I expect that Middleton's lawyer would quote a Supreme Court of Canada case that would say:

  • "In my opinion, it is time to remove uncertainty and confirm that the law regarding senior civil servants accords with the contemporary understanding of the state’s role and obligations in its dealings with employees. Employment in the civil service is not feudal servitude. The respondent’s position was not a form of monarchical patronage. He was employed to carry out an important function on behalf of the citizens of Newfoundland. The government offered him the position, terms were negotiated, and an agreement reached. It was a contract...

    In a nation governed by the rule of law, we assume that the government will honour its obligations unless it explicitly exercises its power not to. In the absence of a clear express intent to abrogate rights and obligations – rights of the highest importance to the individual – those rights remain in force. To argue the opposite is to say that the government is bound only by its whim, not its word. In Canada this is unacceptable, and does not accord with the nation’s understanding of the relationship between the state and its citizens."