December 04, 2013

Commissioner says mayor broke Code of Ethics

As published in The Erin Advocate

An Integrity Commissioner hired by the Town of Erin says Mayor Lou Maieron is a “bully” who repeatedly violated the Town’s Code of Ethics.

John Craig recommends that Town Council suspend Maieron without pay for one month as a sanction for various breaches of the Code, the most serious of which involve the abuse of Town staff.

“I judge the pattern of his transgressions to be harmful on a personal, corporate and community level demanding immediate corrective action,” said Craig.

Maieron strongly denies this conclusion, saying in a published commentary that it is “very disturbing and destructive without any basis in fact.”

Craig investigated five allegations made by Councillor Josie Wintersinger and found Maieron in violation of the Code on three of them.

He also suggests that the Town pay for a leadership training course for the mayor, and that they hire a facilitator to help council and staff “set a path to a more cooperative working relationship”.

The mayor rejects all of the complaints as “frivolous, vexatious and a waste of everyone’s time”. He said the Commissioner, by identifying which provisions of the Code had allegedly been broken, became the “accuser as well as judge, jury and executioner”.

The investigation under the Code was informal, with no public hearings or examination of witnesses as would happen in a court case. Details including the name of the complainant were secret until now. Authority rests with Town Council regarding penalties or other actions.

Craig’s report and Maieron’s commentary form a section of the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, held after this issue of The Advocate went to press. The agenda and the Code itself are available on the Town website,

It was alleged that statements and emails by the mayor were intimidating, demeaning and harmful to the reputation of staff and others. Craig said while the offenses could be “considered somewhat low on the range of misconduct, the Mayor's behaviour repeatedly crossed the line into forbidden territory.”

He cited several instances of criticizing staff in public, questioning their integrity, suggesting they be replaced or excluding those who disagree with him from discussions of Town business. Some staff have feared for their jobs after communicating with him, while some others said he was “simply annoying”.

“Mayor Maieron's contrarian and argumentative style in his email messages and personal interactions is relentless,” said Craig. “It has been reported to me by multiple independent sources that he can be condescending (particularly towards females) and sometimes intimidating. Evidence supports the fact that much of the poor behaviour displayed by the Mayor has been ongoing for quite some time and continues.”

Craig acknowledged that some communications to the mayor have been “disrespectful and inappropriate”. While it is not in his mandate to judge the behaviour of others, he said, “There is plenty of ill will to go around at Town Hall ... evidence reveals a serious and persistent level of tension and grinding frustration in the workplace (including at the council table).

“It is probable that information is not being fully and properly shared with the Mayor because of the anguish caused by anticipation of another potentially relentless round of contrarian argument and criticism. Consequently, it is highly likely that informed public debate on important matters is being suppressed.”

On an allegation that the mayor revealed confidential information to the public on June 25 by discussing the firing of former CAO Frank Miele, Craig said he “technically” breached the Code. “It was not a significant transgression and most likely due to an error in judgment,” he said noting that the term “confidential” is not properly defined in the Code.

On an allegation that the mayor accepted an improper payment as a gift relating to the costs of a trip to China, Craig ruled that he had not done so, since local governments in China paid for the meals and accommodations, as permitted in the Code.

He recommended that council “review its expense policy to clarify the definition of the term ‘conference’, and consider requiring members to seek council permission for extraordinary expenses.”

On an allegation that the mayor improperly left the June 25 council meeting in progress, after a dispute over procedures, Craig ruled that he violated the Code. The mayor argued that his action was legal under the Municipal Act and did not violate council’s procedure bylaw.

“Just because doing something is legal does not mean that it is therefore the right thing to do,” said Craig, ruling that the mayor failed to meet the Code requirement to “provide leadership, build consensus, avoid discouraging and destructive conflict, and conduct himself with decorum.”

On an allegation that the mayor knowingly provided false information to the public on the process for recruiting a new CAO, Craig ruled that while he almost broke the Code, he did not actually do so.
Maieron allegedly said the selection process, which resulted in the hiring of Kathryn Ironmonger as CAO, had not been discussed, when in fact it had been discussed at a closed meeting. Craig agreed that the mayor had simply said the process had not been discussed at an open meeting.

“This is a well organized witch hunt to discredit the Mayor and make sure he is un-electable next term,” said Maieron, who sent Craig more than 65 emails and about 200 pages of of material in response to a draft report sent to him.

“There were attempts to intimidate with insulting accusations about my independence and integrity, citing completely fictitious personal and outrageous references,” said Craig in his report.

“In fact, of the nearly two hundred pages of his responses to the allegations and my findings, only several paragraphs were actually relevant to the allegations. Most of the evidence in his defence came from elsewhere.

“When called to account for his behaviour, he immediately becomes argumentative, aggressively denying everything, then counter-attacks with distorted or fabricated criticisms and allegations; if this is insufficient, he quickly feigns victimhood to evade accountability by trying to manipulate others through the use of guilt.

“It is clear that he does not care in the least to examine his own behaviour, even as it may be seen by others. To me, his responses indicate an overbearing belief in his qualities of leadership but he seems unable to distinguish between the true qualities of leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, trust and integrity) and traits of a bully (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, distrust and deceitfulness).”

Craig was hired for this case only. He is charging $175 per hour, plus expenses. The Town has since hired Robert Williams, a retired political science professor, as its regular Integrity Commissioner. Maieron has sent a copy of the accusations and evidence in this case to yet another Integrity Commissioner to get a second opinion.

Craig noted that the mayor feels he has been treated in a “condescending and demeaning way” by staff and “described his frequent frustration with the responsiveness to citizen complaints”. Maieron said in his commentary that while the Town does have “some good staff”, in general he has been “unwanted, unwelcome, and disrespected” since he was elected in 2010.

“I will not cover up for Staff inadequacies any longer, nor keep all the secrets from the public,” he said. “This has been on-going for more than 10 years but public scrutiny is finally coming to bear. So now we need to shoot the messenger, the Mayor. Nice try.”

Maieron had submitted 12 resident letters to Craig, similar to character references, which the mayor said, “Identify a very dysfunctional council, but they don't blame the Mayor for this dysfunctionality. These resident letters also point to a power struggle between a former Mayor and the currently elected Mayor and a sense of entitled behaviour that exists in the municipal offices.”

Maieron complained that the original plan to have the Integrity Commissioner provide training and advice for councillors was not carried out. Craig recommended that with the permanent commissioner, “Council and senior staff be provided training on the application of the Code of Ethics.”

The bylaw to adopt a Code of Ethics was passed in March this year by a vote of 4-1, with only Maieron voting against, arguing that council's procedural bylaw and existing laws on conflict of interest, elections and privacy are sufficient to protect the public interest.

He said the code "could become a container full of sticks" that fractious councillors might use against each other, and argued that it was unfair to impose new rules during a council term.