Ex-councillor violated Code of Conduct: integrity commish

Apr 15 • Feature Story, Local NewsNo Comments on Ex-councillor violated Code of Conduct: integrity commish

Former Chatham-Kent Coun. Derek Robertson.

As council was to consider what to do with a report from its integrity commissioner in regard to the conduct of former councillor Derek Robertson, he was also pondering his next move.

Paul Watson, Chatham-Kent’s integrity commissioner, said in his report to council this week that he finds Robertson in violation of the Code of Conduct, specifically section 14 which relates to Conduct Respecting Staff.

The matter relates to Robertson seeking to resolve an issue between the municipal building department and local businessman Brent DeNure over a building permit last year.

Robertson sought to get the matter resolved, and questioned the conduct of the building department, specifically Paul Lacina, the chief building official (CBO). He believes there were roadblocks placed in front of development at times in the municipality.

On Monday evening, council was to see Watson’s report. It could either receive the report or reject it. Results weren’t available at press time.

Robertson cannot appeal the report, if council received it. He said he’s mulling other options.

“I have a good mind to raise my issues with the Law Society of Upper Canada,” he said.

Robertson believes Watson had written the intended final version of his report before he even opted to interview the former councillor. The report, of which The Chatham Voice obtained a copy, was signed by Watson and said the integrity commissioner had found Robertson in violation of sections 10 and 14 of the Code. Section 10 addresses Improper Use of Influence, and it was dropped from the report that went to council Monday night.

In Watson’s initial letter to Robertson, through the former councillor’s lawyer, Steve Pickard, dated Jan. 28, he said he was “forwarding my report so as to ‘allow the member at least 10 days to respond in writing to the integrity commissioner on his or her findings,’ and the commissioner referred to section 19(e) of the Code.

That subsection, according to the municipality’s Code of Conduct, is titled “Investigative Report,” and it follows 19(d), which is “Investigation Process.”

Robertson said it showed Watson was onto the report stage and that the investigative process was over.

“Then, we said, ‘you haven’t interviewed us yet,” Robertson said. “We pressed to get interviewed and weren’t getting a response.”

Returning from a family vacation on Feb. 8, the former councillor said he contacted John Norton, the general manager of community development, to point out his concerns.

“I said the report has been issued for our response, yet no one who we suggested be interviewed had been interviewed,” Robertson said.

A few days later, he said Watson reached out to interview him.

“So, he brought me in to do the interview for an hour. I came out and talked to the media because I already knew what the result would be,” Robertson said.

Watson’s report to council states, “The councillor believes that he was properly acting as an advocate for a constituent who had a unique business proposal that would benefit the municipality. The councillor believed that the building department, and in particular the CBO, were creating barriers to development in the municipality by being too restrictive or too inflexible in his application of the Building Code when receiving building permit applications from municipal businesses and residents.

“Regardless of the above, I find that the councillor’s actions resulted in a breach of s. 14 of the Code.”

Watson’s report said Robertson told senior management last July that if the building permit issue was not resolved, he’d take the matter to council in closed session, and “the employment status of the CBO would be reviewed.”

The report added that the former councillor told senior staff that the municipality needed “seriously consider replacing the CBO.”

Robertson said the CBO is an appointment of council, and as such is a position that is reviewable by council.

“The only one who can strip him (the CBO) of his position is council,” he said. “By me saying I could bring it to council, that is the proper execution of my duty.”

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