Truth and the Press, a series

On Friday, January 5, 2018, a staff member at Metroland Media’s Caledon Enterprise began to badger me by email with a series of intrusive questions involving a private matter before the Integrity Commissioner (IC) for the Town of Caledon. Not wishing to break the public trust and confidentiality regarding investigations by the IC, I did not answer the questions.

Several more emails followed pressuring me to respond by his editor’s deadline prior to the public release of the IC Report. I informed the “reporter” that I would be happy to consider his requests when the Report of the Integrity Commissioner was released publicly in Council. However, by now I was beginning to feel like I was being pursued by the paparazzi and less cordial about sitting down to a Q & A.

What came to mind immediately was a quote from the inimitable character Howard Prince in the closing lines of the 1976 movie, The Front. Howard had been placed in front of a McCarthy era team of aggressive lawyers to answer questions about his liberal left leanings and writings. Finally having had enough of their badgering, Howard ended the interrogation with the memorable words:

Fellas. . .I don’t recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kinds of questions. And furthermore, you can all go f-ck yourselves.

However, to answer more completely, The Report of the Integrity Commissioner regarding the complaint in question has now been addressed fully in Council. It was the decision of the Town of Caledon’s IC not to pursue this complaint against Regional Councillor Annette Groves. He also decided not to pursue this most recent complaint against the conduct of Regional Councillor Barb Shaughnessy, who has previously had to apologize in Peel Region for racial slurs delivered at an Ontario Heritage Board meeting, and been charged with violating the Code of Conduct at her own Caledon Town Council.

The complainants in this current case were the Mayor of Caledon, and an unnamed member of the public. The report of the Integrity Commissioner found that there was not enough evidence to prove that private in-camera negotiations had been inappropriately discussed at a public meeting. He also determined that misinformation about taxpayer funded transportation discussed at that same meeting had been later clarified. The IC concluded his investigation. And that should have been the end of the story.

But humble pie is not a dish found on many politicians’ plates. Following the Trump mantra of lie, scream and attack until you win, the games began. Either one or both of the Regional Councillors released the name of the “member of the public” from their private Integrity Commissioner Report to the same reporter who had been hounding me.

Now, in the preservation of public confidence, the Integrity Commissioner chose to release the names of the elected officials involved in the complaint. He also chose to keep the name of the member of the public confidential and had it redacted from all of the official documents. The reason for this is simple. By keeping the name confidential, a member of the public can bring forward a complaint against a politician without fear of reprisal.

Members of the general public do not have the stage of the Council chamber from which to address complaints. As witnessed in the histrionic claims of innocence that followed the release of the Report, some politicians take full advantage of that platform by which to perform for their base and the next election.

Therefore, by publishing the suspected name of the “member of the public” in a local newspaper, the reporter in question violated a public trust. If I were the redacted member of the public, it would make no difference to me. I am quite confident in the truth as I see it in my investigative journalism. And my blog entries have made it quite clear about how I feel about grandstanding elected officials who deliberately mislead their constituents. But some quieter, less confident member of the public might now think twice before bringing forward a complaint against an aggressive, abusive, and bullying politician. Not to mention an aggressive, bullying, and abusive member of the paparazzi.

Lastly, to clarify for the relentlessly annoying “reporter”, I will now answer his questions as if I were the member of the public whose name had been redacted for privacy reasons as determined by the wisdom of the Town of Caledon’s Integrity Commissioner.

For my full answer to the Metroland Media Caledon Enterprise staff, see the opening quote by Howard Prince.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

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11 thoughts on “Truth and the Press, a series

  1. Well Skid I must say that you are far more tolerant and engaging then I would be with those who weigh in with their opinions but won’t use their name or identity. Always easy to have an opinion when you stand in the shadows. So typical of what to expect to come over the months leading up to this coming election.

  2. Ah, now I understand. I am going to presume that the “eye-rolling” you refer to was a reflexive unconscious reaction to stupidity, much like my unfortunate WTF expletive at a public meeting over a resident’s stupidity regarding the facts about backyard hens.

    Please be assured, I do not favour one “side” over another. I am in unequivocal favour of informed, respectful dialogue at Council. I am not in favour of using the Council Chambers for political grandstanding, or politicians who show up to meetings not having done their homework and continually having to be corrected by a professional Town Staff.

    Now, to clarify for our readers, on which “side” are you?

  3. From where I sit at council meetings I can tell you that the eye rolling that happens by all of the women councillors towards each other is disturbing. And you can’t tell me you haven’t seen it, especially from where you would be sitting, even if you favour one side over the other.

  4. Honouring your need for anonymity, and having sat in Council at the media desk for the past term, I can assure you without a shadow of doubt that one of our Regional Councillors is the very epitome of a bully in words and deeds. This person has also intimidated another Regional Councillor into being a submissive. Our Town Council meetings would proceed at a respectful and businesslike pace if that one bully were removed from the setting, or if the behaviour “modified” as recommended in the previous ruling by the Integrity Commissioner.

  5. My point exactly. What is going on is not bullying. I think the councillors have buried they heads in the sand with their own agendas and personal quarrels, which is now taking up most of their time and effort, that they have forgotten about the people of Caledon and what is best for the Town of Caledon.

  6. The definition of a bully is very clear: someone perceived to be in a position of superior strength or power intimidates someone else into doing what they want or worse, silences their voice. A bully is not necessarily a bad person, he or she just does bad things. You said it best – we just wish they would all play nice in the Council playground. It is not a question of difference of opinion, or shouldn’t be; it is how that opinion is expressed. Diversity + Empathy = Respectful Dialogue.

  7. I find it very interesting how the word bullying is thrown around by all sides. Just because you don’t like someone’s truth it doesn’t make it bullying. Yes, people do things that they necessarily wouldn’t when they are being attacked, but that does not make them bad people, they are trying to defend themselves. There are good things and bad things about every single council member, as there is for every single human out there, I just wish that they start playing nice in the playground, respecting each other, so that things can actually get done. And yes, I am hiding my name, because there are councillors that will treat you differently just because they don’t like your opinion. Actually, most of them do.

  8. Well, isn’t it so much more respectful when one gets permission from a “member of the public” to publish his or her name, a courtesy which you declined to provide to others. But I must decline – although it is good to know that you can spell, and that reading and writing skills should follow. However, the name most closely aligned with the type of reporting to which I was referring would be
    J-u-d-i-t-h M-i-l-l-e-r.

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