A former Chatham councillor is at odds with the municipal integrity commissioner over what he believes is a flawed process.
Derek Robertson, a member of council from 2010 to 2018, held a press conference today to discuss a complaint filed against him to the integrity commissioner by former mayor Randy Hope on Nov. 6, 2018.
The complaint alleged that Robertson violated the Code of Conduct by unduly influencing the Chief Building Official, Paul Lacina, regarding an issue the owner of the Ten Seven Café and Lounge was having with a building permit.
Coming from a meeting with integrity commissioner Paul Watson Monday afternoon, Robertson said he is “disgusted” with the complaint process and said he did his job as a councillor to represent a constituent with a problem and bring his concerns to council.
“Over the course of the last four months, myself and my family have been subjected to what I believe is an unfair process with the integrity commissioner. It’s based on a complaint made by former mayor Randy Hope. I think he’s done it with political retribution in mind to besmirch my reputation, and I categorically deny all the allegations,” Robertson said.
The allegations related to his work as a councillor on behalf of Ten Seven Café owner Brent DeNure, who he said “went through absolute hell in getting his business open through not red tape… this isn’t about red tape, it’s about improperly and unfairly getting in the way of a local entrepreneur building a business in Chatham-Kent.”
Robertson said he executed his duty as a councillor and sought for DeNure “no other means of fairness other than that which he is granted under the law. The building code was being applied unfairly to Mr. DeNure and I worked tirelessly with senior officials to have fairness brought back to the process.”
The matter was settled between DeNure and the municipality in Superior Court, according to Robertson.
One of the issues that Robertson questioned with the complaint process is the fact that Watson issued his report, complete with findings, without ever having interviewed himself or the four people he put forward as having facts and information on the issue.
In his report, dated Jan. 28, Watson wrote in his introduction that it was “unnecessary” for him to consider that the complaint might be malicious and that his “independent review of the matter quickly led me to the conclusion that the complaint merited investigation. I have not found it necessary to interview the complainant.”
That is the crux of Robertson’s issue with the process Watson has followed.
“Mr. Watson failed to follow the code. Section 19 of the Code of Conduct policy says the integrity commissioner shall, and that means must, interview any relevant individuals, at law and it means all. I don’t know how anyone can make any kind of a valid argument that I’m not a relevant individual,” the former councillor said.
Robertson said Watson drafted his report before speaking to him and it took several requests, including going to the legal office of the municipality to get an interview. He also took issue with the facts in the report as Watson presented them. Robertson’s lawyer Steve Pickard drafted a 36-page rebuttal to refute the allegations made in the report.
Robertson said he will wait to see if the interview has any impact on the report and will discuss next steps with his lawyer. They have asked Watson to recuse himself because of perceived bias, and so far, Watson has not done so.
“My reputation, like that of any council member or businessman, means more than just being able to let something quietly go away, and I wouldn’t have that,” Robertson noted. “After today, I believe that his (Watson) bias is firm and I believe that today … may be a measure in futility, but I’ll be hopeful that the facts will play themselves out appropriately and this will go away in the manner that is should. I have lost faith in the position of the integrity commissioner.”