Council rethinks integrity commissioner after receiving $81,000 bill for service

News Aug 20, 2009 Ancaster News

Hamilton’s first experience with an integrity commissioner investigation has left some politicians wondering if the position is worth it.

The interim integrity commissioner, Toronto lawyer George Rust D’Eye, recently presented his 30-page report on Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark’s involvement in releasing a tapped conversation between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and a Hamilton Spectator journalist. Not only did politicians criticize the limited investigation Mr. Rust D’Eye conducted, but they were shocked at the cost.

After lengthy discussions between Mr. Rust D’Eye and senior city management, the cost settled on was about $81,000. The cost for Mr. Rust D’Eye to investigate Mr. Eisenberger’s code of conduct violation last year was about $47,000. Mr. Rust D’Eye conducted Mr. Eisenberger’s investigation as an independent person and not under the city’s integrity commissioner bylaw.

“This has definitely gone in the wrong direction,” said Glanbrook councillor David Mitchell. “It’s an embarrassment. We are going in the wrong direction. It raises a lot of legal questions. It is also significantly over budget. This is going to haunt us.”

Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, a member of the Accountability and Transparency committee which crafted the integrity commissioner bylaw, said the report on Mr. Clark contained no interviews with key people, including Ian Dovey, former communications director for the mayor. He also agreed with Mr. Clark’s argument that the integrity commissioner process itself allowed for no cross examination of evidence.

Mr. Clark stated in a letter to council that the city review “our bylaw for improvements.”

He said there was no opportunity during the investigation of his complaint to hear testimony from witnesses, provide rebuttal witnesses, and called the entire process an “Ex Parte Hearing.”

“I think there are bugs,” said Mr. Whitehead. “It is in its infancy.”

Other problems that were revealed by the process include when to release the integrity commissioner’s report. Under the Municipal Act the report must be made public. But it does not state the timeline when the report is to be released. City staff first identified Mr. Rust D’Eye’s report confidential. Then after consulting with the Municipal Act, Kevin Christenson, city clerk, released the report to the public. The report was then distributed to the Aug. 13 council meeting under the correspondence section.

Politicians at their council meeting were equally divided whether to discuss the report’s contents, and the cost of the investigation in camera. In a 7-6 vote, councillors rejected a motion to go behind closed doors.

There was also the problem of how much the integrity commissioner was going to cost taxpayers. Initially the Accountability and Transparency committee suggested a set salary of about $100,000. But then they suggested the position should be part-time, and possibly sharing the commission and its costs with other municipalities.

As for the cost of a potential investigation councillors had agreed last year to approve about $50,000. They were clearly shocked at Mr. Rust D’Eye’s higher amount. The Toronto lawyer billed the city $600 per hour for 107 hours of work.

Brian McHattie, Ward 1 councillor, and an ardent supporter of an integrity commissioner, said keeping the integrity commissioner makes sense.

“The cost is the cost,” he said. The creation of an integrity commissioner, advocated by both Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Mr. Clark in their 2006 election platforms. Mr. Eisenberger said the city should learn from its first commissioner investigation and make any changes needed. He agreed the integrity commissioner bylaw is “ambiguous” in some places.

Mr. Whitehead, who has discussed the issue with Toronto politicians, said its integrity commissioner has created an entirely new set of problems for councillors, while also driving up costs.

Toronto in 2004 created the first integrity commissioner in Canada. The city of Vaughan in March 2009 appointed its own integrity commissioner.

Hamilton is searching for a permanent-part-time integrity commissioner after failing to lure a retired judge to take the position.

Mr. Whitehead advocated inviting Mr. Rust D’Eye to a future Accountability and Transparency subcommittee meeting to discuss the bylaw, as councillors look to fix what some believe is a flawed process.

“We should tighten, amend or modify (the bylaw) and make it better,” said Mr. Whitehead.

Council rethinks integrity commissioner after receiving $81,000 bill for service

News Aug 20, 2009 Ancaster News

Hamilton’s first experience with an integrity commissioner investigation has left some politicians wondering if the position is worth it.

The interim integrity commissioner, Toronto lawyer George Rust D’Eye, recently presented his 30-page report on Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark’s involvement in releasing a tapped conversation between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and a Hamilton Spectator journalist. Not only did politicians criticize the limited investigation Mr. Rust D’Eye conducted, but they were shocked at the cost.

After lengthy discussions between Mr. Rust D’Eye and senior city management, the cost settled on was about $81,000. The cost for Mr. Rust D’Eye to investigate Mr. Eisenberger’s code of conduct violation last year was about $47,000. Mr. Rust D’Eye conducted Mr. Eisenberger’s investigation as an independent person and not under the city’s integrity commissioner bylaw.

“This has definitely gone in the wrong direction,” said Glanbrook councillor David Mitchell. “It’s an embarrassment. We are going in the wrong direction. It raises a lot of legal questions. It is also significantly over budget. This is going to haunt us.”

Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, a member of the Accountability and Transparency committee which crafted the integrity commissioner bylaw, said the report on Mr. Clark contained no interviews with key people, including Ian Dovey, former communications director for the mayor. He also agreed with Mr. Clark’s argument that the integrity commissioner process itself allowed for no cross examination of evidence.

Mr. Clark stated in a letter to council that the city review “our bylaw for improvements.”

He said there was no opportunity during the investigation of his complaint to hear testimony from witnesses, provide rebuttal witnesses, and called the entire process an “Ex Parte Hearing.”

“I think there are bugs,” said Mr. Whitehead. “It is in its infancy.”

Other problems that were revealed by the process include when to release the integrity commissioner’s report. Under the Municipal Act the report must be made public. But it does not state the timeline when the report is to be released. City staff first identified Mr. Rust D’Eye’s report confidential. Then after consulting with the Municipal Act, Kevin Christenson, city clerk, released the report to the public. The report was then distributed to the Aug. 13 council meeting under the correspondence section.

Politicians at their council meeting were equally divided whether to discuss the report’s contents, and the cost of the investigation in camera. In a 7-6 vote, councillors rejected a motion to go behind closed doors.

There was also the problem of how much the integrity commissioner was going to cost taxpayers. Initially the Accountability and Transparency committee suggested a set salary of about $100,000. But then they suggested the position should be part-time, and possibly sharing the commission and its costs with other municipalities.

As for the cost of a potential investigation councillors had agreed last year to approve about $50,000. They were clearly shocked at Mr. Rust D’Eye’s higher amount. The Toronto lawyer billed the city $600 per hour for 107 hours of work.

Brian McHattie, Ward 1 councillor, and an ardent supporter of an integrity commissioner, said keeping the integrity commissioner makes sense.

“The cost is the cost,” he said. The creation of an integrity commissioner, advocated by both Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Mr. Clark in their 2006 election platforms. Mr. Eisenberger said the city should learn from its first commissioner investigation and make any changes needed. He agreed the integrity commissioner bylaw is “ambiguous” in some places.

Mr. Whitehead, who has discussed the issue with Toronto politicians, said its integrity commissioner has created an entirely new set of problems for councillors, while also driving up costs.

Toronto in 2004 created the first integrity commissioner in Canada. The city of Vaughan in March 2009 appointed its own integrity commissioner.

Hamilton is searching for a permanent-part-time integrity commissioner after failing to lure a retired judge to take the position.

Mr. Whitehead advocated inviting Mr. Rust D’Eye to a future Accountability and Transparency subcommittee meeting to discuss the bylaw, as councillors look to fix what some believe is a flawed process.

“We should tighten, amend or modify (the bylaw) and make it better,” said Mr. Whitehead.

Council rethinks integrity commissioner after receiving $81,000 bill for service

News Aug 20, 2009 Ancaster News

Hamilton’s first experience with an integrity commissioner investigation has left some politicians wondering if the position is worth it.

The interim integrity commissioner, Toronto lawyer George Rust D’Eye, recently presented his 30-page report on Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark’s involvement in releasing a tapped conversation between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and a Hamilton Spectator journalist. Not only did politicians criticize the limited investigation Mr. Rust D’Eye conducted, but they were shocked at the cost.

After lengthy discussions between Mr. Rust D’Eye and senior city management, the cost settled on was about $81,000. The cost for Mr. Rust D’Eye to investigate Mr. Eisenberger’s code of conduct violation last year was about $47,000. Mr. Rust D’Eye conducted Mr. Eisenberger’s investigation as an independent person and not under the city’s integrity commissioner bylaw.

“This has definitely gone in the wrong direction,” said Glanbrook councillor David Mitchell. “It’s an embarrassment. We are going in the wrong direction. It raises a lot of legal questions. It is also significantly over budget. This is going to haunt us.”

Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, a member of the Accountability and Transparency committee which crafted the integrity commissioner bylaw, said the report on Mr. Clark contained no interviews with key people, including Ian Dovey, former communications director for the mayor. He also agreed with Mr. Clark’s argument that the integrity commissioner process itself allowed for no cross examination of evidence.

Mr. Clark stated in a letter to council that the city review “our bylaw for improvements.”

He said there was no opportunity during the investigation of his complaint to hear testimony from witnesses, provide rebuttal witnesses, and called the entire process an “Ex Parte Hearing.”

“I think there are bugs,” said Mr. Whitehead. “It is in its infancy.”

Other problems that were revealed by the process include when to release the integrity commissioner’s report. Under the Municipal Act the report must be made public. But it does not state the timeline when the report is to be released. City staff first identified Mr. Rust D’Eye’s report confidential. Then after consulting with the Municipal Act, Kevin Christenson, city clerk, released the report to the public. The report was then distributed to the Aug. 13 council meeting under the correspondence section.

Politicians at their council meeting were equally divided whether to discuss the report’s contents, and the cost of the investigation in camera. In a 7-6 vote, councillors rejected a motion to go behind closed doors.

There was also the problem of how much the integrity commissioner was going to cost taxpayers. Initially the Accountability and Transparency committee suggested a set salary of about $100,000. But then they suggested the position should be part-time, and possibly sharing the commission and its costs with other municipalities.

As for the cost of a potential investigation councillors had agreed last year to approve about $50,000. They were clearly shocked at Mr. Rust D’Eye’s higher amount. The Toronto lawyer billed the city $600 per hour for 107 hours of work.

Brian McHattie, Ward 1 councillor, and an ardent supporter of an integrity commissioner, said keeping the integrity commissioner makes sense.

“The cost is the cost,” he said. The creation of an integrity commissioner, advocated by both Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Mr. Clark in their 2006 election platforms. Mr. Eisenberger said the city should learn from its first commissioner investigation and make any changes needed. He agreed the integrity commissioner bylaw is “ambiguous” in some places.

Mr. Whitehead, who has discussed the issue with Toronto politicians, said its integrity commissioner has created an entirely new set of problems for councillors, while also driving up costs.

Toronto in 2004 created the first integrity commissioner in Canada. The city of Vaughan in March 2009 appointed its own integrity commissioner.

Hamilton is searching for a permanent-part-time integrity commissioner after failing to lure a retired judge to take the position.

Mr. Whitehead advocated inviting Mr. Rust D’Eye to a future Accountability and Transparency subcommittee meeting to discuss the bylaw, as councillors look to fix what some believe is a flawed process.

“We should tighten, amend or modify (the bylaw) and make it better,” said Mr. Whitehead.