The Town of Fort Frances council voted against a resolution brought forward by Coun. Douglas Judson to have the integrity commissioner carry out a technological investigation to find the source of a leaked document provided to the Times.
Instead, four council members and Mayor June Caul voted to seek advice on policy suggestions from the integrity commissioner, since the protocol requires that a specific individual be named as the respondent.
In a recorded vote, Judson voted against the amended resolution. Coun. Wendy Brunetta was not at the meeting.
While five council members agreed that they do not support the leak of the document, they did not support an investigation by the integrity commissioner. However, they questioned the possibility of conducting the investigation in-house.
The document in question, provided to the Times in confidence, was the legal opinion the town sought from Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP on wood rights.
After the article’s publication on Oct. 27, Judson initially asked the town’s CAO Faisal Anwar to conduct an investigation to find the source of the leak.
“Council did not authorize the release of those materials,” Judson said. “Regardless of whether members of council or the public feel that the document in question should have been made public.”
However, Anwar said the administration has no authority to investigate elected officials, and helped Judson draft a resolution to have the integrity commissioner investigate the source of the leak.
Coun. Mike Behan also said it is best to not leave this in administration’s hands when they are not supposed to be dealing with it.
“I can agree with the initial recommendation to take this to the integrity commissioner just to see if this is in fact something he can look at,” Behan said. “I’m not sure if he will or can or should.”
Coun. Andrew Hallikas also said he is not convinced that this needs to go to the integrity Commissioner, agreeing with Coun. John McTaggart on having an internal investigation.
“I feel that if we involve the integrity commissioner again it could be a distraction and an expense to council,” Hallikas said. “I certainly would have no problem whatsoever with some sort of internal technological investigation.”
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft also said while he firmly supports the Code of Conduct and the duty of our members to uphold the confidentiality of privileged material, going to the integrity commissioner will be a waste of time and money which will “ultimately accomplish nothing for the town, when we have so much more important work to do.”
Caul said she does not condone the leak to the press.
“We as councillors are well-versed in how we must present ourselves in the job we have been elected to do,” Caul said. “There are several others who were privy to this information as well. So we cannot just assume it was one of our members of council.”
Caul also suggested having the clerk ask council to meet and review the Code of Conduct and how council should handle themselves. She added that this could be an in-house learning opportunity.
While Anwar said it is not possible for him to investigate council members, he explained to council members that they have already begun an internal technological investigation on staff members, but they have not concluded anything thus far.
“As soon as we receive more information we will share it with council,” Anwar said.