Response to today’s Tay Valley Township press releaseJune 22, 2020
Dear Tay Valley Township Councillors,
Today’s press release contains a few errors that ought to be corrected. Do you mind if I draw these points to your attention?
Incorrect statement #1:
“In Mr. Reid’s recent blog post on his federal government website, he makes a number of allegations ….”
Correction: Actually, the website (www.scottreid.ca) was purchased by me independently, before I became an MP, and is maintained at my own expense. Government of Canada-funded websites are available to MPs, but I choose not to use one, and am careful never to pay for any of the expenses associated with this website out of government funds.
Incorrect statement #2:
“It should be noted that Mr Reid’s calculations [as to the cost of responding to MFIPPA requests] are inaccurate.”
Correction: These estimates are simply a restatement of figures provided to me by Amanda Mabo, in response to MFIPPA requests that I had made as to the costs for these expense. If the information is inaccurate, that could only be because Ms Mabo provided me with incorrect information. Ms Mabo’s response letters are posted on my website, HERE.
Having publicly asserted that the numbers are wrong, it is incumbent upon TVT Council and staff to provide the right numbers, so as to correct the error for which Ms. Mabo is solely responsible.
Incorrect statement #3:
“The second issue raised by Mr. Reid includes allegations that the Township Clerk is performing duties outside the scope of her authority under MFIPPA. These allegations are incorrect and unwarranted. Tay Valley has assured itself that the Clerk is properly acting within the scope of her role and the authority granted by MFIPPA. The Township reviewed this allegation back in 2019 when it was first raised by Mr. Reid. It was then and remains true today, that the allegation is completely unfounded.”
Correction: I am most emphatically not asserting that Ms. Mabo is “performing duties outside the scope of her authority under MFIPPA.” On the contrary, the “MFIPPA Head” (which is the term used, under Ontario’s Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, for the person or committee, in any municipality, charged with administering responses to MFIPPA requests) is entirely within their rights to decide, on a document-by-document basis, which records must be withheld from a citizen who has asked to see this information. MFIPPA Heads may even be justified, in some cases, in following Ms. Mabo’s approach, withholding everything she can, including dozens of records that she could have chosen to release.
What I am asserting is that Ms. Mabo is that some of the MFIPPA requests I have filed involve a search for records which may provide evidence of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Ms. Mabo’s superior, Larry Donaldson. I therefore asserted, in a presentation to TVT Council on January 22, 2019, that in refusing to recuse herself from the role of MFIPPA Head when dealing with these specific MFIPPA requests, Ms. Mabo is in a direct conflict of interest.
The existence of such a direct and obvious conflict of interest should not be hard to spot, in a Township that just spent $16,000 to prosecute a Councillor for an “indirect” conflict of interest so vague and indefinite that it takes a microscope to detect the purported transgression.
When I drew Council’s attention to this conflict of interest 17 months ago, Council’s reaction was to send me a lawyer’s letter (from your solicitor, Jock Climie), which I received on April 9, 2019.
Mr Climie’s response is exactly what a solicitor would find himself forced to write, when he has been directed by his client to defend a position that has—quite literally—no evidence in its favour. Instead of citing even a single piece of evidence in support of his position, he stated,
We can also advise you that your suggestion that Ms. Mabo is in a conflict of interest is unfounded. Ms Mabo has been appropriately exercising the authority that was delegated to her and there is no evidence that she has a personal interest in any of the issues before her.
Note that Mr. Climie failed to address (or even mention the existence of) the three specific points raised in the January 22 presentation to which he was responding. It might be helpful for me to repeat these points below, using the exact words I used in the January presentation:
Ms. Mabo may be in a conflict of interest, in examining these records at all. All the records I am seeking relate to evidence that senior TVT staff acted improperly or without proper Council authorization, in the following three areas:
- I believe it may be the case that TVT staff may have acted in violation of their professional obligations by inventing an insincere claim that Blueberry Creek is violating TVT zoning law, and that this was done in order to divert attention from the fact that they are liable for the costs associated with having erroneously issued Building Permit 2017-15.
- I believe it may be the case that TVT staff may have acted inappropriately, including, in the case of one senior staff member, lying to Integrity Commissioner John Ewart, during the course of Mr. Ewart’s investigation into whether Judy Farrell violated the Code of Conduct.
- I believe that staff may have engaged in unjustifiable claims for overtime hours—amounting to something in the neighbourhood of 40 hours in the case of your CAO.
If Council were to examine these records, Council might well conclude that it is not in the public interest to fight to keep this information secret. Council might further conclude, as I have, that Ms Mabo is in a conflict of interest, which she ought to have declared, in choosing to withhold records that might reveal improper behaviour on the part of the CAO who is conducting her own performance review.
I was so taken aback when I received Mr. Climie’s letter, with its evidence-free blanket dismissal, that I asked my own solicitor to look into the matter. My solicitor acquired a copy of TVT’s Employee Code of Conduct, and determined that Ms Mabo is clearly in violation of her responsibilities under that Code. Lawyers only communicate solicitor-to-solicitor, so he prepared a letter setting out in detail how Ms Mabo is in clear violation of this Code of Conduct. This letter was sent to Mr. Climie on May 30, 2019; a copy of the letter is attached to this email.
[LINK to May 30, 2019 letter from A Riddell to J Climie]
Mr Climie’s professional ethics do not permit him to withhold such a letter from his client. So I assume that he must have given the letter to TVT staff, and that your staff, recognizing the urgency of informing Council of these allegations, would have put it on the agenda at the next available closed-session meeting. For your staff to have failed to pass on correspondence to Council would have been inappropriate behavior of the highest order—so I am therefore confident that you were all shown this document at an in-camera meeting.
I therefore blame Council itself for the inexcusable fact that year went by, during which time my solicitor simply never heard back from Council. (Such a response would have been conveyed to him, solicitor-to-solicitor, via Mr. Climie.)
There is a limit to how long a citizen can be expected to tolerate such serious matters being disregarded, and a year really is too long to wait for the courtesy of a reasoned response (or indeed, for any response at all), to an allegation as serious and as well-documented as this one.
So on May 8 of this year, I filed a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman about the ongoing failure to deal with Ms Mabo’s continuing breaches of the Tay Valley Township Employee Code of Conduct, and of her refusal to adhere to the well-established norm that any public servant, elected or at the staff level, who is involved in a conflict of interest, must recuse himself or herself.
Now that this matter has been sent to the Ontario Ombudsman, I anticipate that at last, it has been placed in the hands of a public authority who will give a thoughtful and reasonable response to this protracted period of inappropriate behaviour.
As is my practice with Tay Valley Township, I will be posting this letter on my website at ScottReid.ca
—–TODAY’S PRESS RELEASE FROM TAY VALLEY TOWNSHIP——
June 22, 2020
Response to MP Scott Reid’s Recent Blog Posts
Tay Valley Township is aware of recent public blog posts from Mr. Scott Reid, Member of Parliament for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston in which he makes various allegations regarding the conduct of the Township and its employees. While the Township does not normally respond to such matters in a public forum, the sustained nature of the criticism of the Township’s processes and particularly the targeted personal attacks on Township employees requires that we do so in this case.
In Mr. Reid’s recent blog post on his federal government website, he makes a number of allegations regarding the costs accumulated by the Township in responding to his numerous requests and appeals under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). It should be noted that Mr. Reid’s calculations are inaccurate. We respect that it is Mr. Reid’s choice to appeal the Township’s ruling on his requests. However, we fail to understand how an individual can launch numerous legal appeals and then complain about the use of taxpayer funds to defend against them
The second issue raised by Mr. Reid includes allegations that the Township Clerk is performing duties outside the scope of her authority under MFIPPA. These allegations are incorrect and unwarranted. Tay Valley has assured itself that the Clerk is properly acting within the scope of her role and the authority granted by MFIPPA. The Township reviewed this allegation back in 2019 when it was first raised by Mr. Reid. It was then and remains true today, that the allegation is completely unfounded.
Mr. Reid also takes issue with the costs the Township has incurred dealing with two separate Integrity Commissioner investigations following complaints lodged by members of the public. The Township, like every other municipality in Ontario, is legally required to have a Code of Conduct for members of Council. They are also required to appoint an Integrity Commissioner whose duty it is to investigate complaints filed under the Code of Conduct. It is a process specifically intended to be carried out impartially and at arms-length to Council. Neither Council nor its staff have the power to ignore these legislative requirements nor can the costs associated with applying the law be avoided.
In essence, Mr. Reid is of the view that if Tay Valley simply acceded to his demands, there would be no need to spend money on legal fees. This position negates the fact that Tay Valley has a legal responsibility to uphold the laws of the province of Ontario and ensure they are being properly applied.
Township Reeve, Brian Campbell has stated, and reiterates, that he and members of council fully support the staff who have endured various unfair attacks by Mr. Reid. At all times Tay Valley staff have and continue to perform their respective roles with professionalism and due diligence.
The Township has been, and continues to be, willing to work with Mr. Reid on potential solutions to his issues and looks forward to doing so in a constructive way. The Township’s offer to discuss a way forward presented to Mr. Reid last June is still open.
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