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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