Nina Bifolchi

News – Integrity Commissioner Report January 2017

With full respect for the Integrity Commissioner and my understanding in my role as Deputy Mayor of Wasaga Beach and my commitment to openness and transparency I wish to read the following statement.

This evening (Tuesday January 24, 2017) the Integrity Commissioner for the Town of Wasaga Beach, Robert Swayze issued a report to Council concerning certain complaints issued by a senior staff member of the Town (herein known as the “Complainant”).

The Integrity Commissioner previously received a complaint from a fellow council member that I was harassing the Complainant. This complaint was dismissed.

I have been on town council for over ten years. I have a great working relationship with staff from all levels of the organization. I have never been accused of harassment or bullying until three months after the Complainant was employed when I started to receive threatening letters concerning my conduct.
Subsequently, the Complainant filed several complaints against me to the Integrity Commissioner.

Mr. Swayze’s decision on those complaints is being shared tonight. Critically Mr. Swayze has determined that no breach of the code on my part has occurred. No sanctions were imposed.

However, there are components of the Report of the Integrity Commissioner that must raise grave concern to all councillors and their constituents:
First, is the last paragraph of this report, Mr. Swayze states:

”I suggest to her that she meet with the complainant in the presence of the CAO, if requested by him at any time, to allow him to brief her on his future activities”

Mr. Swayze appears to be suggesting that I as Deputy Mayor, a member of council, be at the beck and call of the Complainant “if requested by him at any time.” While this is not part of an order of the Integrity Commissioner, it is obviously disturbing that any elected official be subject to the dictate of Town Staff members. I do not work for the Complainant. I work for the residents of this community.

A second troubling aspect of the report of the Integrity Commissioner, this erroneous legal conclusion that council members must discuss the activities of staff only at in camera meetings from which the public is excluded. My counsel is unable to find any legal authority for such a proposition. The provision of the Code of Conduct to which Mr. Swayze refers as authority for this proposition has no such meaning.

For the Integrity Commissioner to conclude that I, as a member of council, should have to meet with the Complainant to permit him to brief me on his future activities to avoid my questions being asked publicly, is preposterous. Discussion about the town, council and staff activities and the spending of public funds belongs at the council table, in a public transparent forum, not behind closed doors away from the residents we represent.

To date, it is my opinion that the Complainant has taken my questions about town business, as personal criticism. I expect that the next question I ask moving forward that the Complainant doesn’t appreciate, will most likely result in a complaint.

The erroneous conclusions of the Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Swayze, would operate to tie my hands to cripple my ability, and in fact the ability of all elected officials, to effectively and fully do our jobs.

To the residents, I will continue voting on items in what I believe to be the best interest of this community and on your behalf. I will continue to ask questions and share my concerns publicly at the council table concerning all matters including anything that falls under the Complainant’s purview.

I and my counsel view the report of the Integrity Commissioner as a threat to silence me and indeed any other member of council with whom staff may disagree. The public must be aware of this threat and the apparent attempt to silence and control elected members of council.

Again, the report of the Integrity Commissioner attempts to silence on these matters by stating that I cannot discuss staff members’ activities except at in camera meetings. Any breach of this diktat will, I am assured by Mr. Swayze, result in the imposition of monetary sanctions.

I was elected by the residents and that is who I serve and answer to. I will not allow the dark side of politics to affect my personal and professional ethics to condone business being conducted behind closed doors that belongs at the council table.

Any resident who needs further clarification on any matter that I vote on please feel free to contact me. I may now be silenced at the table in certain situations but I am not silenced from speaking with you about any matter that I vote on and why I vote a certain way.

With respect, I have been told by my legal counsel to make no other comment this evening.

Click the link below to read the full report from the Integrity Commissioner
Report McNeill v. Bifolchi – Final