Kearns said her breach on a confidential matter was inadvertent - is that enough to get away with it?

By Pepper Parr

September 21st, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Now that the public knows what the budget is to defend the appeal that is now before the Ontario Land Tribunal the city is opening its kimono as wide as it can; they can’t wait to tell you everything.

You can thank ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns for that. After blabbing away about a matter that was discussed in CLOSED session and therefore confidential Kearns ran to the city manager saying she was sorry.

She then read a Statement at the Council meeting on Tuesday and said it was an inadvertent mistake.  What is the definition of inadvertent?  “not resulting from or achieved through deliberate planning”

While Kearns may not, and probably did not set out to reveal how much money was being budgeted, how did she manage to convince herself that it was Ok to tell the BDBA Board members ? Was it because everything they did was confidential. We trust Council members to be responsible and safeguard the interests of the taxpayer.   We will return to that Statement and how Council chose to handle the breach later in the week.

The city communications department put out the following:

At the Sept. 20, 2022 Burlington City Council Meeting, City Staff brought forward report L-46 -22 for Council’s consideration to waive solicitor-client privilege in order to release the initial legal budget approved by Council earlier this year related to ongoing litigation involving the appeals to the Ontario Lands Tribunal for the development applications for 2020 Lakeshore Rd.

Director of Communications Kwab Ako-Adjei

City Council voted earlier this year to refuse the applications for Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Bylaw Amendment submitted by Burlington 2020 Lakeshore Inc., proposing a mixed-use development at the site of the current Waterfront Hotel. This decision by Council led the applicant to appeal to the Ontario Lands Tribunal.

Council accepted the Staff recommendation to waive solicitor-client privilege and release the initial legal budget due to an inadvertent disclosure by Councillor Lisa Kearns of the legal budget.

The initial legal budget for this litigation has been set at $500,000. In all other respects, solicitor-client privilege continues to apply to the legal strategy concerning 2020 Lakeshore Rd.

Upon learning of the inadvertent disclosure, Councillor Kearns took immediate and proactive steps to notify City staff and Council of the breach. Councillor Kearns directly contacted the Integrity Commissioner regarding this matter.

Councillor Kearns also offered an apology to Council for the inadvertent release of this information.

City Council accepted the apology offered by Councillor Kearns.

That’s it – the communications people had nothing more to say.

While her Council colleagues may not care about what Kearns did, her constituents may see it a little differently and the Integrity Commissioner may weigh in on the breach once the election is over.  The rules in place on matters of councillor integrity prevent the Integrity Commissioner from investigating the behaviour of Council members during an election.  After the election – they can and should hold an investigation.  The only thing that will prevent an investigation is if Kearns loses her seat.

Not over yet Ms Kearns.

 

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8 comments to Kearns said her breach on a confidential matter was inadvertent – is that enough to get away with it?

  • Lynn Crosby

    IMO Stolte and Kearns have the most integrity of anyone on council. I won’t ever forget the treatment of Stolte by Nisan and the Mayor as Chair in the 3 hour meeting which, in the opinion of many who have actually watched it, was horrendous and unacceptable, as was the further piling on after.

    In my opinion, people with integrity don’t treat anyone like that. I appreciated Kearns and Sharman as being the only two who offered her any support during that shameful event. Then we had Rory’s 2018 campaign leader/friend jumping in to run in ward 4.

    I shudder to imagine a council next term without the voices of Stolte and Kearns, two hard-working, kind, genuine, thoroughly decent people, and I hope voters think about what sort of council they want.

    I want one filled with as many good people and as little toxic, vindictive nonsense as possible and I support only those candidates whom I think will deliver that. New candidates gleefully rolling around in the toxicity don’t cut it for me either.

  • Let’s not forget that Councillor Stolte stood up for a candidate who was refused a delegation by the Clerk. The Clerk clearly supporting an incumbent not to have to have a candidate for her position say his piece that is capable of being supported by yet another Ward 2 candidate. After Councillor Stolte spoke up, yet again,this time to the Clerk and obviously the city solicitor who was in this up to her eyeballs, the city staff relented – but it was too late and our public engagement charter once more bit the dust. The integrity commissioner complaint must include the Clerk, our lawyer and perhaps Tim Commisso, not totally sure of his involvement along with the lawyer to get the Gazette to take down the truth.

    As Keith Demoe said the Clerk has oversight of our election including certifying the vote count and he did define the Procedural By-law in favour of protecting an incumbent and then changed his mind. This shows we need to be concerned by the decisions he makes on a regular basis as well as all the other issues we have with missing information from the City Website in terms of incumbent performances and relevant records. Do we really want someone who obviously has tried to protect an incumbent from being affected by the truth during an election overseeing our election.

    We will reach out to Keith Demoe and Tim O’Brien in terms of assistance with drafting the complaint given our experience with such. The Clerk, the Lawyer and Tim Commisso will all still be here after the election, unless they decide to resign over this, so regardless of whether Kearns gets returned or not there has to be an integrity commissioner investigation and perhaps more.

    .

  • Bonnie

    Dave, Shawna Stolte ran in 2018 on the promise that she would try to bring more open dialogue to the city of Burlington. She firmly believes the taxpayers have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
    Several years into her term of office, the city made a decision to look into the purchasing of the vacant Bateman property. There was very little in the way of community input, which I know for a fact, as we live in the area and back onto the high school in question. Sharman and Stolte began receiving questions from the residents of wards 4 and 5, as to how much this purchase would cost. Stolte replied with an honest answer, in saying she believed the number would be approximately fifty million dollars. This number did not surprise the residents of the area, but in putting a value on the property, it allowed us to ask further questions as to how the purchase of the property would benefit the community as a whole.

    For the reasons stated above, Stolte did not issue an apology and I for one, given the huge impact this purchase will have on future land purchases by the city, am grateful for her desire to keep the residents informed.

    I will not comment on Lisa Kearn’s situation as the details still remain unclear.

  • Eve St Clair

    What’s the difference here between Councillor Kerns vs Councillor Stolz’s case Seems to be a double standard here ………….

    • Dave Turner

      Councilor Stolte’s breach was a deliberate act for which she was not remorseful. Councilor Kearns’ breach was inadvertent and she immediately apologized.

      Do you see the difference.

      It’s likely the Integrity Commissioner will look into the Kearns matter post election?

      Editor’s note:
      Councillor Stolte did what she did as a matter of principle. We are fortunate to have a Councillor who understands what principles are. Few realize that because of what Stolte did – the city brought in counsel who reported that the city did indeed have to improve on the way it reported to the public when they came out of a closed session.

      As for Kearns – she knew full well that she was not permitted to talk about the amount the city had budgeted for the Waterfront hotel site legal matter. But she did – as soon as she realized what she had done she scrambled to the city manager and the city Solicitor looking for a way to get out of the mess she created.

      As for the Integrity Commissioner – they can’t do anything before the election. My question is how soon after the election can he begin investigating – and can his conclusion be reached before members of the new city council be sworn in.
      He has the power to remove her.

      • Dave Turner

        Note to the Editor’s note I trust you will allow me to respond to your comments.

        So are you saying in Stolte’s case the end justified the means.

        If so that is a dangerous slippery sloap. Why? Because you’re saying it’s OK to break a rule if you think the rule is wrong or it impedes you in achieving what you think is a laudable goal.

        Your description of Kearns’ actions may or may not be correct. Certainly that is your perspective. Mine is different. But we both agree she moved to mitigate the damage and she provided an apology. Neither of those actions were taken by Stolte.

        I do not know the extent or range of sanctions available to the Integrity Commissioner if he determines a sanction is appropriate. But if he thought a loss of 5 days pay for Stolte because of her deliberate and unremorceful breach of confidentiality was appropriate, it seems far fetched to imagine a sanction to remove a duly and just elected councilor would be his sanction for Kearns. Maybe a loss of 2 days pay.

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