How did the Integrity Commissioner arrive at 5 days pay as a penalty for breaching the Code of Conduct

By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2022



The stories we published on the Integrity hearing shot readership through the roof. Not as high as the story on the closing of Emmas but very good nevertheless.

It isn’t possible to publish a single story that tells the whole tale – the meeting ran for 3.5 hours.

So we are going to excerpt sections from the transcript we have and run those over the next few days.

The penalty is what seems to interest most people. Why five days and how much money will Councillor Stolte lose.

On the money side her income from the city is what is at risk – the income from the Region couldn’t be touched.

The city portion of the total salary is about $60,000 – assume 260 work days a year – divide the 60,000 by 260 and you get what she has to give up. It won’t put Stolte in a lower tax bracket.

Earlier in the meeting Commissioner Abrams commented on the matter of contrition saying in conversation with Stolte he came away with the impression that she was contrite but when he reads the opinion piece Stolte gave the Spectator he felt that she was not truly contrite and seemed to hint that he would have recommended a 30 day penalty.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan, one of the two Council members who filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner

Councillor Nisan said: “…you mentioned since the report that you’ve not heard the contrition that you heard privately. Does that mean you have an updated recommendation for a penalty for us at this time or are you able to provide some colour as to what you would have recommended had you not received that contrition.”

Abrams: “Let me answer the question this way. It’s in Council’s hands to deal with our recommendation in any way of wishes. And it’s quite reasonably simple to ask if the circumstances warrant something other than what we recommended in the report and I spoke to that so it’s acceptable for Council to take into account the counselors opinion pieces as published in the Spec for example.

“And so in the context of this matter, a sanction anywhere in the range of five to 30 days could be reasonably supported by the contents of the report and the circumstances directly tied to the report after it was finished and provided to the council and to the respondent. So that the counsellor public comments are relevant. “… relevant to councils consideration of the recommendations that appear in our report, simply because contrition did that play a role in our assessment.”

Councillor Bentevegnia said he wanted to “follow up a little bit on that question that Councillor Nisan mentioned in the report he thought was very, very explicit and very detailed.

Angelo Bentivegnia serving as the Chair of a Council Workshop

“The recommendation that you have put forward or I’ll say your office has put forward the circumstances were anything from a reprimand up to as the 90 days you mentioned. I know you’ve given us the situation where we have to make a decision but how does commission decide what is appropriate I know you have that range, but why didn’t you say a reprimand or why didn’t you say 90 days?

Sorry if I’m getting too direct. I’m just curious.”

Jeffrey Abrams responded: “Well, that’s that’s quite a fair question. And in fact that recommending a sanction is more art than science. There’s an important issue, breach of closed session confidentiality is an exceedingly important issue.

A reprimand is not another thing. It’s a statement by counsel that a member of council has fallen short of their ethical responsibilities. We do from time to time, I recommend a reprimand and it’s a meaningful sanction. A monetary penalty is a more significant sanction. And therein lies the question of what is the appropriate sanction. In our view and looking at other Integrity Commissioner reports and considering what we have done elsewhere.

Jeffrey Abrams: a partner in the firm Principles Integrity who serve as the Integrity Commissions for the city of Burlington.

And given what’s happened recently, with respect to this report, it’s not extraneous to the reporters relates to this particular matter. We think that somewhere in the range of five to 30 days is appropriate.

Now, that puts you a bit on the spot and we recognize that it’s very difficult for councils to meet in a disciplinary mode. We recognize that we do have some thoughts on how to do it better, but that is what the legislation requires it at present.

And so as we have indicated this is more art than science and it is now in your hands.

Council voted to accept the recommendation – 5 days with no pay.

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