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It is long, complicated and very disturbing for those who understand why we have due process and the rule of law.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

October 25th, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 5 and the last of a series

When we left you last – there were two banning notices from city hall.

Neither had even a hint of due process. We live in a society whose foundation is built on the rule of law.

We live in a city where the City Manager, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he left with the rank of Captain after 12 years of service, and is presumed to understand something about the administration of laws, rules and regulations, nevertheless issued a Trespass Notice with no due process.

When the second banning notice was delivered November 20, 2017 there was mention of an email I had sent the then Director of Planning. That email was the pretence the city manager used to issue a second ban that was for an indeterminate length of time.

We searched our email files and found the email.

Tanner email Oct 30

 

 

 

The wording of that email is quite small – It said; “I have had developers tell me that you are using the time off to prepare you witch costume and broom for Tuesday night. Any comment – for attribution?  The spelling error was mine.

I personally didn’t think the email was offensive but Ms Tanner did. I wrote an apology that was sincere. In my world, when a sincere apology is given, adults accept the apology and move on.

The apology wasn’t acknowledged.

When the second banning was issued I retained legal counsel who wrote the city in June of 2018.

This time the city said we should perhaps talk.

August was a period of time when my counsel was away for the month. That got us into September. James Ridge was out of the country for a period of time. Some possible meeting dates were shared.
At this point there is no date for a meeting.

James Ridge did advise us that “We will not be providing the investigation report in advance of the meeting, and are assessing whether it can be redacted in a way that sufficiently protects the identities of the women involved.”

He added: “You should also be aware that while the decision to lift the ban, or defend it in court, is ultimately mine, I would want to brief Council on my decision in camera, and that would occur no earlier than November.”

James Ridge is going back to Council for approval – which suggest to me that he got permission to ban me from city council in the first place.

Our demand of the city was for a copy of the Protocol that was issued to staff as to how they were to handle me and a copy of the Investigation the city had done about the complaints they received. Are those complaints as flimsy as the complaint Ms Tanner had – an email that was sent in jest the day before Halloween.

I felt I was entitled to be made aware of those first complaints. It may not have been necessary to know who made the complaints. For some reason city hall seemed to feel that complaints about behavior can be made in a vacuum; were the people who made the complaints sworn?

The city has a protocol for handling behavior complaints between staff that involves contractors working for and with the city. As a journalist I was neither an employee nor a contractor so the very detailed process didn’t apply.

A more professional approach would have been to call me in and say there were complaints and while I am not an employee or contractor the city was going to apply the staff protocol to me as well.

However, if the objective was to shut me out of city hall and prevent me from talking to staff in an attempt to shut the Gazette down, so far it hasn’t worked but at least we now understand the motive.
It look as if there is a resolution to all this out there somewhere.

My concern isn’t being allowed to walk back into city hall. I don’t have much of an appetite to spend time in the place. I do miss my conversations with the security guard.

The decisions the city manager made totally trashed what I had in the way of working relationships with more than 45 staff members that I admired respected and enjoyed working with.

Another very troubling part of the notice the city manager served on me was his saying I could not meet or talk to elected members of council in their city hall offices or at public events.

Ridge wrote: “When attending City sponsored events such as public meetings, open houses, social events located at places other than City Hall or Sims Square, you are to refrain from interacting with city staff, its representatives or Councillors.”

That one stunned me – hard to believe that people elected to public office would let the man that reports directly to them decide who they can see and who they cannot see. Perhaps this is what city council wanted; did all of them, even Marianne Meed Ward and John Taylor go along with tthis?. For some that was perhaps welcome, they could avoid talking to media with the excuse that ‘James Ridge said I can’t’.

The decision made by James Ridge was one that he put before the members of council in a Closed Session.

We have no idea what the members of city council had to say at the closed meeting; we don’t know who asked questions; we don’t know if the decision to authorize the city manager to issue the Trespass Notice that keeps me out of city hall was unanimous.

Did anyone ask if there was the required due process? The city Solicitor was in the room, she is a Member of the Law Society and has a license to practice law in the province; she knows what due process is. She also knows what the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is and she would, if she were being as professional as she is supposed to be, know that those rights were really trashed.

My issue and overriding concern is: How do I repair the damage that has been done?. I believe that at some point in the not too distant future I will be permitted to return to city hall and to talk to staff with all the conditions James Ridge put in place removed.

My objective from the very beginning has been to get this matter before some level of the judiciary where there is due process, procedure and rules of evidence.

That stuff is expensive.

What I have taken from this experience is the need the current city manager has to control. His default position is to issue edicts that cannot be supported in law.

Requiring media to put their requests to talk to staff before his office allows James Ridge to control what kind of information journalists have access to – that isn’t the way a democracy works.

Unfortunately for me and the citizens of the city, at least a majority of the elected members of council agreed with the city manager.

Media serve a role in a democratic society. As the publisher of the Gazette I certainly didn’t always get it right, I may have been a little too aggressive – but I was transparent and accountable. And everything is on the record, in the archives and searchable.

There are consequences to the decisions the current city council and the city manager have made.

Rule of law graphicThe next step is apparently going to again be done in a Closed Session by a Council that will have no authority, no mandate and very little credibility.

My objective is to get this matter before some level of the judiciary where the rule of law, due process, evidence that can be tested and the people making the decision are concerned about what is right.

I’ll get there somehow.

Part 1 of a series

Part 2 of a series

Part 3 of the series.

Part 4 of a series

Rivers on a Free Press

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16 comments to It is long, complicated and very disturbing for those who understand why we have due process and the rule of law.

  • Don Fletcher

    Pepper: For most of us, reading or responding to posts in the Burlington Gazette is discretionary. Thank you for reminding us in your note to Joe, that these actions have brought into question your reputation and limited access to sources of information, which I assume for a reporter would jeopardize his/ her livelihood/ career. Taking legal action (with potential damage$) appears to be your best recourse at this point!

  • Stephen White

    As a former police officer with the Canadian Army, one would naturally hope the City Manager understands the concept of due process. Having been involved in the drafting and/or approval of the City’s policy on discrimination and harassment one would also hope the City Manager understands how that policy is applied. Having been trained in the law one would expect that the City Manager understands the concept of presumption of innocence. Having been educated in the political process one would presuppose that the City Manager understands, values and appreciates the role of the press in a free and democratic society. Sadly, this is not the case here.

    While the Mayor is the visible political presence in the community, the City Manager is the individual behind the scenes pulling it together and making it all happen. There needs to be symmetry between what is said publicly and what is actioned. You can’t, on one hand, preach sanctimoniously about diversity, inclusion, candour and openness, and then deny people due process. You can’t be extolling the virtues of working in a wonderful organization while simultaneously controlling access to information with an iron fist. And you can’t talk about a fair and free electoral process when a candidate gets maligned in print, disparaged by an outside organization conducting a sham public opinion survey, and then have these allegations of electoral improprieties get white-washed in an ineffectual investigations process. All are indicative of what is wrong at City Hall.

    Burlington voted for change on October 22nd…overwhelmingly! Expecting political change to happen without corresponding changes in the ranks of those entrusted to deliver is, sadly, naive. The leopard doesn’t change its’ spots overnight, and the corporate culture that has evolved in City Hall over the past eight years isn’t going to improve without new faces, fresh perspectives and a different mindset.

  • joe gaetan

    The Magna Carta Libertatum, a.k.a the Magna Carta (15th of June 1215) set out the feudal rights of the barons and stated that the king could continue to rule but must keep to the established laws and customs of the land. OK, the MC does not apply here, but before tarring and feathering the City Manager, lets at least give him the right to due process, if we don’t, we are doing what he was purported to have done.

    • Tom Muir

      I have to agree with joe and say so out loud. I implied it in my comment, but perhaps did not do so strongly enough.

      The City Manager, and down the line, do what they were hired to do, and were told to do along the way.

      I agree that he was over the top in the way he treated Pepper Parr, but the Mayor and Council did not do anything about it.

      And Lancaster broke the rules in making public things discussed in camera.

      What other things do Councilors talk about to others from in camera? I won’t be trusting about this again.

      One of the first orders of business needs to be resolving this injustice and the scrapping of due process in the case of Pepper Parr. If the persons involved can’t or won’t be public, then what has and is being done is a travesty and must be ceased.

      We have a new beginning coming up, let’s call it a new dawn.

      If the City Manager ain’t broken, don’t shoot ourselves in the foot wasting time with the big hassle and dead time of finding someone to replace him and starting them up again up the learning curve.

      Past City managers have come and go over the last 8 years as was noted here the other day, so what is that telling you? One couldn’t wait to get out of here.

      Mr. Ridge understands what is going on and what has happened in this city as well or even better than most. He’s something like the ultimate insider.

      Depending on how much he might want to, he can adapt to the new reality, and so he can likely help find a way out of here to where we want to go.

  • Marshall

    It was evident before the election that much of the problem with the past council was their rejection of an inclusive culture. This culture was also reflected in how the city related to the public. I hope that the new mayor and council will reverse this attitude both in Council and among some of the city staff.

  • Lucy

    Thanks Joe Gaetan for the link to Hamilton’s policy. The document that outlines the procedure for resolving harassment and discrimination issues is also of significant interest. It illustrates how poorly/unfairly Mr. Ridge has dealt with this particular situation. Hamilton sure has their act together with clear steps to dealing with such problems. Perhaps our new mayor and council will see fit to also establish a clear policy to deal with such matters in a just manner—the rights of both the complainant and respondent are important. I have copied some significant statements here that definitely point to Mr. Ridge’s failure to respect the respondent’s rights in Mr. Parr’s case.

    https://www2.hamilton.ca/NR/HRFormsDocs/Procedure-Resolving-Harassment-Discrimination-Issues-2018.pdf

    The Human Rights Specialist works in Human Resources and acts as an impartial advisor to any City Employee (including Management representatives). The Human Rights Specialist maintains a fair and unbiased attitude to all complaints, and to all those involved in complaints, at all times. The Human Rights Specialist is responsible for providing education and information concerning all forms of Harassment and Discrimination, initiating efforts to resolve complaints, and investigating complaints.

    The Human Rights Specialist has discretion to require a signed written complaint from the person making the complaint before an investigation may begin. The written complaint should be submitted to the Human Rights Specialist setting out in detail the nature of the complaint, any information in support of the complaint including the specific incidents of Harassment and the names of possible witnesses.

    Complaints are investigated by interviewing the Complainant(s), the Respondent(s), any witnesses and reviewing any available documentation. An investigation report should normally be completed within 90 days after a written complaint has been filed. The length of an investigation depends on many variables including but not limited to, the number of witnesses, complexity of the investigation, workplace schedules etc. If a report cannot be completed within the established timelines of this procedure, the parties to a complaint will be advised of the delays and any reasons why. It is incumbent on all parties to a complaint to arrange schedules or support persons so as not to delay the process.

    Respondent(s) to any complaint being investigated are entitled to know the allegations against them and have the opportunity to respond in full. A written notice of the complaint will be provided to the Respondent, with the general allegations. If necessary, statements from the Respondent(s) are disclosed back to the Complainant(s). Interviews will be arranged and completed with witnesses and any other individuals who may have information pertinent to the investigation, as deemed necessary by the Human Rights Specialist.

    The Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) will be given a written summary of the findings resulting from the investigation. Any Employee who is found to have violated the City’s policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination may be disciplined according to the severity of the actions, up to and including termination of employment. Such disciplinary action shall be determined in consultation with Labour Relations, Human Resources.

    Either the Complainant(s) and/or the Respondent(s) may make a Request for Review of the findings of the investigation if they have new and relevant information that was not previously available or have substantive reasons why the findings were not reasonable. The intent to file a Request for Review must be made known to the Human Rights Specialist in writing within ten calendar days of the date the parties were notified of the findings. Thereafter, there will be a discussion between the person(s) making the Request for Review, and the Human Rights Specialist as to when the request must be submitted (never to exceed more than 20 calendar days from the date of this discussion). The Request for Review must include a statement of the reasons why the findings of the investigation were not reasonable and should be re-considered.

    • joe gaetan

      In this day and age having a policy to effectively and fairly deal with such matters is a must and I was giving COB the benefit of the doubt, given our website leaves a lot to be desired. The ball is now in the new councils court, this should not be allowed to go on in its present form.

      Editor’s note: My banning issue is not one for a new council to deliberate on – this belongs in front of a court and that is where I am working to take it.

      Never trust a politician – their concern is their own skins – even MMW – who most of you believe can walk on water.

      Pepper

      • joe gaetan

        Council does have a role to play here, as I assume past council was involved at some level, as will the newly elected council. As to the MMW non sequitur? MMW won an election based on her platform as compared to other candidates. Don’t know if MMW can walk on water but I heard she can sing. Taking your case before the courts is your right and the decision will be based on the merits of your case.

  • Tom Muir

    The Mayor hires the City Manager and tells him what he/she wants done. This is the Mayor’s power to lead.

    The City Manager hires or promotes all the senior managers. Among these is the Director of Planning.

    The two of them set the rules for how things work and are done in planning and about the OP and development approvals – and they direct staff and set the tone to do what they and the Mayor wants.

    The Director of Planning was promoted 10 months ago to Deputy City Manager. After a time, a new Director of Planning was hired as a replacement, but I have never heard a peep out of her, not a trace she exists.

    The new Mayor is the new boss and can tell the City Manager what she wants and what to do. She can choose to keep him on, or “hire” him again, if the new arrangement looks to work.

    And in his turn, like before, he can tell everybody else what the Mayor wants, what he wants, and what to do to deliver. He can choose to keep what senior staff he wants.

    So it may all be able to work out if orders are given, and followed, to get to where the Mayor wants to go.

    Make no mistake, the Mayor has the power to set the tone and the direction to go, and things to do. The new Mayor is savvy, so she knows how things work.

    Of course, the Council can give her a rough time, but we are mostly rid of that crowd. But you never know who of the newbies lays in the weeds. Don’t listen to loose talk about what we have to do now because of the Province or the LTAP, and therefore cannot do anything.

    The rule is – the Mayor and Council directs and the City Manager and staff deliver.

    We want to see this promised change delivered in a transparent and responsive way according to the voters wishes as expressed in the election.

    We want to be engaged from the start and to be involved in setting goals and methods of getting there.There are a lot of smart people now woken up to the impacts of crap Councils, and they want a big say in where our city goes.

    Everyone will be watching.

    No excuses for self-interest and infighting taking over again.

    Council is elected to represent and serve the citizens, not their own self-interests and pompous asses.

    All need to know that from the start, or pick up the tune quick. In this duty none shall be allowed to falter.

    I for one of many are waiting and watching.

    • chelsea

      Chelsea

      so the director of planning and building was promoted to deputy city manager and one of her mandates is (and i quote from the news release):
      “Being responsible for the diversity and inclusivity portfolio; ensuring a strategy is developed and implemented across the organization for all services and programs;”

      Where is the strategy? she has been there for almost a year. i haven’t seen any sign of this on the web or through reports to council. What has changed? Where is the citizen engagement on this topic…..nothing? Surely citizens would like to comment on how the city can be more inclusive with its citizens?

      i hope the new council will ask for this document as it is something that has been lacking for years and doesn’t seem to be a priority for our new deputy city manager. perhaps the new council change make it a priority.

  • Don Fletcher

    I’m sorry to hear about this unfortunate, personal saga between you and taxpayer-paid for City Manager, James Ridge. In my opinion, you & the Burlington Gazette provide great value to the community. The jury is still “out” on James Ridge. Good luck!

  • rob n

    Looks like a flimsy excuse to bar a journalist from reporting on what matters. And the Gazette is the ONLY media that TELLS IT LIKE IT IS.

    For Council to initially go along with this ban is preposterous. For them to review this flawed judgement, while all but 2 are lame ducks, further stretches their credibility.

    Mr. Ridge must be taking orders from someone to keep you silent. He hasn’t been very accommodating to the citizens as far as I have seen. That follows the doctrine of the past 8 years – go through the motions of listening, but don’t actually listen. And that may be the design of the ban – to shut you down (as you state).

    Time for Mr. Ridge to follow the other 4 Councillors out the door. (How many

    Time for City Hall to develop an inclusive, trusting culture. How many City Managers has Burlington had in the last 8 years? Five? They come, see the state of the place and leave as soon as they can. Says something that Mr. Ridge has stayed – and nothing positive…

    Let’s see if Mayor elect Meed-Ward can step up and change the culture for the better. I certainly hope so. We deserve better leadership as do the staff at City Hall.

  • joe gaetan

    I tried to find a City of Burlington Policy on how allegations such as those described should be handled and could not find one (If it exists, I could not find it, the City of Burlington site is very difficult to navigate). However a quick Google key word search, located this very comprehensive policy in Hamilton. https://www2.hamilton.ca/NR/HRFormsDocs/Harassment-Discrimination-Prevention-Policy-2018.pdf

  • Hans

    It looks like the captain thinks he is a general :-).
    After the new council takes office, hopefully they will constrain Ridge’s petty vindictiveness. I understand that his contract will end next year. Maybe then Scott Stewart could come back and run city hall like an adult.