Is Hamilton's integrity commissioner worth the money?

Opinion May 07, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

Are Hamiltonians getting their money’s worth when it comes to the work being done by the integrity commissioner?

It’s an intriguing question considering taxpayers have paid at least $50,000 a year to hold politicians to the highest standards through the city’s integrity commissioner. That will jump to over $70,000 when the new combined commissioner/lobbyist registrar takes office in August.

No doubt Hamilton councillors — and for that matter all politicians — have proved themselves worthy of being kept under a high-powered microscope, but since Hamilton’s integrity commissioner has been in place more often than not, the public has used the position for political retribution rather than to hold politicians to account for their actions.

Sure, there have been gotcha moments when some councillors were caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, such as when a few councillors met with a potential NHL representative at a local restaurant, or when council has used closed-door meetings to hide otherwise public information. However, those incidents were more the responsibility of the Ontario’s ombudsman, who has admonished municipalities for failing to be open and transparent.

For the most part, complaints against councillors reviewed by former integrity commissioner Earl Basse have veered toward the “frivolous and vexatious,” with a side order of political revenge.

The latest two reports, on councillors Maria Pearson and Brenda Johnson, are cases in point. Both were simply not worth the time Basse spent to investigate, taking untold hours, and racking up thousands of dollars in expenses to eventually dismiss the claims as vexatious, or, in common vernacular, without merit and designed to paint the politician in a bad light.

For the most part, citizens have done a poor job of fulfilling their side of the accountability equation by using the public purse to enact politician revenge, or cause embarrassment rather than going after actual wrongdoing.

It’s reminiscent of the little boy who cried wolf. How long will it be before the public and politicians tire of a constant stream of nonsense cases and dismantle the whole system? And knowing that there are wolves in Hamilton’s political forest, if there’s no system in place to protect the people from the ravenous jaws of those who would threaten them, democracy and good governance will be eviscerated. It’ll be back to the bad old days when municipal politicians could do as they pleased only having to answer to the people at election time.

Hamiltonians deserve to be able to hold their elected officials to account, but in order to do that, the system must not be abused, or else everybody loses.

Is Hamilton's integrity commissioner worth the money?

Many complaints brought before ex-comissioner Basse ruled frivolous and/or vexatious

Opinion May 07, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

Are Hamiltonians getting their money’s worth when it comes to the work being done by the integrity commissioner?

It’s an intriguing question considering taxpayers have paid at least $50,000 a year to hold politicians to the highest standards through the city’s integrity commissioner. That will jump to over $70,000 when the new combined commissioner/lobbyist registrar takes office in August.

No doubt Hamilton councillors — and for that matter all politicians — have proved themselves worthy of being kept under a high-powered microscope, but since Hamilton’s integrity commissioner has been in place more often than not, the public has used the position for political retribution rather than to hold politicians to account for their actions.

Sure, there have been gotcha moments when some councillors were caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, such as when a few councillors met with a potential NHL representative at a local restaurant, or when council has used closed-door meetings to hide otherwise public information. However, those incidents were more the responsibility of the Ontario’s ombudsman, who has admonished municipalities for failing to be open and transparent.

For the most part, complaints against councillors reviewed by former integrity commissioner Earl Basse have veered toward the “frivolous and vexatious,” with a side order of political revenge.

The latest two reports, on councillors Maria Pearson and Brenda Johnson, are cases in point. Both were simply not worth the time Basse spent to investigate, taking untold hours, and racking up thousands of dollars in expenses to eventually dismiss the claims as vexatious, or, in common vernacular, without merit and designed to paint the politician in a bad light.

For the most part, citizens have done a poor job of fulfilling their side of the accountability equation by using the public purse to enact politician revenge, or cause embarrassment rather than going after actual wrongdoing.

It’s reminiscent of the little boy who cried wolf. How long will it be before the public and politicians tire of a constant stream of nonsense cases and dismantle the whole system? And knowing that there are wolves in Hamilton’s political forest, if there’s no system in place to protect the people from the ravenous jaws of those who would threaten them, democracy and good governance will be eviscerated. It’ll be back to the bad old days when municipal politicians could do as they pleased only having to answer to the people at election time.

Hamiltonians deserve to be able to hold their elected officials to account, but in order to do that, the system must not be abused, or else everybody loses.

Is Hamilton's integrity commissioner worth the money?

Many complaints brought before ex-comissioner Basse ruled frivolous and/or vexatious

Opinion May 07, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

Are Hamiltonians getting their money’s worth when it comes to the work being done by the integrity commissioner?

It’s an intriguing question considering taxpayers have paid at least $50,000 a year to hold politicians to the highest standards through the city’s integrity commissioner. That will jump to over $70,000 when the new combined commissioner/lobbyist registrar takes office in August.

No doubt Hamilton councillors — and for that matter all politicians — have proved themselves worthy of being kept under a high-powered microscope, but since Hamilton’s integrity commissioner has been in place more often than not, the public has used the position for political retribution rather than to hold politicians to account for their actions.

Sure, there have been gotcha moments when some councillors were caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, such as when a few councillors met with a potential NHL representative at a local restaurant, or when council has used closed-door meetings to hide otherwise public information. However, those incidents were more the responsibility of the Ontario’s ombudsman, who has admonished municipalities for failing to be open and transparent.

For the most part, complaints against councillors reviewed by former integrity commissioner Earl Basse have veered toward the “frivolous and vexatious,” with a side order of political revenge.

The latest two reports, on councillors Maria Pearson and Brenda Johnson, are cases in point. Both were simply not worth the time Basse spent to investigate, taking untold hours, and racking up thousands of dollars in expenses to eventually dismiss the claims as vexatious, or, in common vernacular, without merit and designed to paint the politician in a bad light.

For the most part, citizens have done a poor job of fulfilling their side of the accountability equation by using the public purse to enact politician revenge, or cause embarrassment rather than going after actual wrongdoing.

It’s reminiscent of the little boy who cried wolf. How long will it be before the public and politicians tire of a constant stream of nonsense cases and dismantle the whole system? And knowing that there are wolves in Hamilton’s political forest, if there’s no system in place to protect the people from the ravenous jaws of those who would threaten them, democracy and good governance will be eviscerated. It’ll be back to the bad old days when municipal politicians could do as they pleased only having to answer to the people at election time.

Hamiltonians deserve to be able to hold their elected officials to account, but in order to do that, the system must not be abused, or else everybody loses.