December 18, 2013

Mayor says he is a victim of ‘witch hunt’

As published in The Erin Advocate

Mayor Lou Maieron has accused Integrity Commissioner John Craig of bias in his investigation of Code of Conduct complaints, suggesting there is the perception of collusion against him.

In the commentary published with the December 3 agenda, the mayor implies a connection between CAO Kathryn Ironmonger and Craig, since they are former clerks, acquainted by previously being active in the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. Ironmonger also presented him to council as the only candidate for the job.

Maieron wrote to Craig during the investigation: “even if a direct conflict of interest does not exist, the perception of a conflict existing, given your draft conclusions in this matter and how these conclusions have been discredited on the evidence I have provided, all seem to lead to the conclusion that this is a well organized witch hunt to discredit the Mayor and make sure he is un-electable next term.”

At the December 3 meeting, council voted 3-2 to accept Craig’s report and recommendations, including a one-month pay suspension for the mayor, funding a leadership training course for him and hiring a facilitator to improve Town working relationships.

After that meeting, Craig said while he may have met Ironmonger as part of his work, the mayor’s allegation is not valid.

“He is really grasping at straws. If there was anything that would be a conflict, I would not have taken the job,” said Craig.

“The allegation that I have a personal connection with Mr. Craig is simply speculative and unfounded,” said Ironmonger. She said Craig was recommended by another municipality at a time when the Town of Erin had a deadline to get an investigation done quickly.

Normally, the Town would have a regular Integrity Commissioner, who would be obliged by the Code to investigate a complaint and report to Town Council within 90 days.

Council has now hired Robert Williams as the regular commissioner, but at the time of the complaint against the mayor, the first since the Code was adopted in March, there was no commissioner.

The complaint was made July 4, and Craig was not hired until late that month, initially leaving only two months for the investigation. The deadline was later extended, primarily to allow the mayor to prepare his defense, so the process eventually spanned 5 months.

Integrity Commissioners have broad powers through the Code of Ethics to “exercise the powers of a commission” under the Public Inquiries Act. While not judges, they have authority to gather evidence and weigh its value.