FORT FRANCES – NEWS – Councillor Douglas W. Judson made the following statement:
“Tonight Council voted 5-1 to dismiss the unlawful sanction that was recommended against me by the Integrity Commissioner of the Town of Fort Frances. The lone vote of dissent was from Councillor Michael Behan.
“This result was a victory for common sense and the protection of political expression. However, it was only reached after a hearing fraught with significant due process concerns and rampant procedural errors.
“Tonight’s hearing format was orchestrated to prevent me from having any ability to challenge significant legal errors and baseless findings of fact by the Commissioner. I was prohibited from filing a written response to the allegations and the Commissioner refused to answer basic questions about his report from my lawyer. To anyone with knowledge of administrative law, this was a sham.
“Tonight’s proceeding was also a case study in the flawed, wasteful, and abusive structure of municipal codes of conduct. While the Ministry of Municipal Affairs continues to consult to ‘improve’ the framework for codes of conduct under the Municipal Act, 2001, by all reports they are simply dreaming up new ways to punish municipal officials. Code of conduct complaints have become an expensive form of political retribution that has been imposed by the province and is paid for by municipal taxes.
“Minister Steve Clark has not yet indicated whether he will address the basic procedural fairness problems, political reprisal concerns, or the Charter issues that codes of conduct have too often entertained. It is obvious that this experiment in judicializing local government has failed, and the Ministry ought to scrap it in favour of a centralized adjudicator and standardized regulation and procedure for complaints.
“As we move forward from this evening, I will be seeking practical amendments to the Town of Fort Frances Code of Conduct in order to fairly and economically weed out vexatious complaints and attacks on political expression, to clarify procedure, and to save taxpayers money.
“In this case, a vexatious two-sentence complaint from an anonymous person who doesn’t even live in our community was allowed to fester for over 10 months. It was a collateral attack on an important reconciliation initiative for our community. It was allowed to drive up significant legal bills for me and the municipality that taxpayers will now need to pay. This is on top of the fees the Town will be required to pay to the Commissioner, who retained a Bay Street law firm to assist him.
“For the record, I will never apologize for being a strong voice on reconciliation and equity issues facing people in our community.
“I am grateful for the assistance of my lawyers, Asher Honickman of Jordan Honickman Barrister and Peter Howie, Barrister and Solicitor.”