Just as I was beginning to have some respect for the local political landscape,
another somewhat questionable deal goes down. In order to gain back some lost respect
several years ago, Politicians decided that a Code of Conduct was some great terminology
to use to polish up their sagging political image. The whole scheme from a distance
seemed really impressive, especially when they used some great terminology like
"Code of Conduct", "Integrity Commissioner", etc., etc., but when the whole scheme
gets tested, fails, and produces a lemon, well that's just not right, send it back,
it still might be under warranty.
As a taxpayer I never thought that I needed this Code of Conduct stuff, but those
pesky politicians just had to have it, and by the way it does not run on hot air,
so it's not free, and it does cost us several dollars to run. But yet again as a
taxpayer, (I hate using that word as it makes me feel worthless!), there is one
thing that really bothers me about all this Code Of Conduct stuff because I just
don't seem to understand how such a simple case brought before the Integrity Commissioner
could break this Code Of Conduct thing. But yet again as a taxpayer, I just hate
paying for something that doesn't really work. Is there a refund policy?
While looking at the Integrity Commissioner's Report that we as taxpayers will pay
for, I can only wonder how a simple phrase "F--- off" and that infamous flying bird
could have caused such a commotion, and having to pay for that invoice for four
and half hours of Integrity Commissioner's time for an altercation that took less
than 30 seconds to commit, just seems a little outrageous to me, but maybe I'm wrong,
and I will admit to that, I think?
Also I'm passing along some interesting information about the current Integrity
Commissioner's position that may become more or less useful to any interested parties
for that position of Central Elgin's Integrity Commissioner which could become available
in the very near future.
From the Report Regarding the Conduct of Councillor Dan McNeil dated February 14,
On February 8th, 2018 I received, via Central Elgin' s Deputy Clerk, an unopened
and sealed envelope containing a formal complaint and Affidavit from Mr. David Harding,
resident of Sparta, Ontario. Mr. Harding has granted permission to use his name
in this public report.
Mr. Harding through his complaint alleged that at Central Elgin' s Open House on
its proposed sign by- law held on January 16, 2018 he had an altercation with Councillor
Dan McNeil. In his statement, Mr. Harding claimed that he approached Mr. McNeil
and stated " Dan you know I still don' t trust you." Councillor McNeil, it is alleged,
" stood tall" and said: " F--- off and raised his middle finger."
Mr. Harding claims to have been taken aback by Councillor McNeil's loud voice and
aggressive, intimidating manner and Mr. Harding immediately left the building.
The following day at a K.C. C. A. meeting Mr. Harding approached Mayor Marr and
explained his interaction with Councillor McNeil the previous evening. Mr. Harding
alleged that Mayor Marr said nothing and displayed no reaction". He, the Mayor,
offered no direction to the complaint process or" how to seek remedy".
As Integrity Commissioner, I immediately began the investigation by reviewing Central
Elgin's Code of Conduct and other relevant policies such as Harassment Prevention
followed by telephone interviews with Mayor Marr, Councillor McNeil and Mr. Harding.
Mayor Marr reported that he did not witness the altercation on January 16th, 2018
at the Open House for the sign by- law. He did acknowledge that Mr. Harding approached
him just before the in- camera portion of the meeting at K.C. C. A. the following
day and relayed the specifics of the alleged violation. Mayor Marr subsequently
notified Central Elgin' s CAO/ Clerk that a complaint from Mr. Harding may be forthcoming.
Councillor McNeil admitted matter of factly that he did indeed swear at Mr.Harding
and that he considered Mr. Harding's assertion that he did not trust him as an affront
to his integrity. Councillor McNeil claimed that Mr. Harding was asking to speak
to him about a matter that the Councillor told him many times was off limits. As
Integrity Commissioner, I reiterated that the Councillor's conduct was a clear violation
of the Code of Conduct to which Councillor McNeil said " I couldn't care less about
the Code of Conduct and would react the same way in similar circumstances."
Given Councillor McNeil' s admission of conduct and behaviour on January 16, 2018
there is no disputing the contents of Mr. Harding's Affidavit and account of the
altercation. What is concerning is Councillor McNeil's total disregard for Council's
Code of Conduct and his behaviour, tone and substance of interpersonal interactions.
Specifically, Councillor McNeil has violated several Sections of Council' s Code
of Conduct as follows:
- Section A: General Standards of Conduct
- Members SHALL conduct themselves at all times in a manner that: (vi) is consistent
with the legal deliverables governing interpersonal interactions( i.e. civil and
respectful and free from harassment..)
- Section C: Interpersonal Conduct and Communications: Requirements General:
- Members have important legal responsibilities and accountabilities in connection
with the tone and substance of interpersonal interactions, conduct or communications
pursued in the context of carrying out the activity attending a Member's office."
One of the main purposes of the Code is to ensure that Members understand and comply
with standards of conduct required at law such as the complete avoidance of harassment.
" Failure to adhere to the required Standards of Conduct can expose both the municipality
and individual Members to potential liabilities," in this case exposure to a Human
- Harassment includes making unwelcome remarks, and insulting gestures which cause
embarrassment or awkwardness. In fact, Section 2. Personal and Psychological Harassment:
Includes unwelcome words and or actions that are known or ought reasonably to be
known to be embarrassing, humiliating or demeaning.
- Section f): Compliance/ Accountability/Enforcement
- The Municipality recognizes that the Municipality and the Members have a mutual
interest in providing and encouraging access to compliance/ enforcement mechanisms
in connection with the conduct required by this Code that deliver objective, independent,
skilled and efficient determination in connection with the alleged misconduct by
any member." There is a duty to assist complainants in regard to alleged non-compliance
by a Member which is further emphasized in Section E below.
- Section E: Other Compliance/ Enforcement Rights Beyond the Referral to the Integrity
- The Municipality has an obligation and commitment to support complainants or potential
complainants access to .... processes in connection with allegations of prohibited
activity, conduct or communications.
The facts are indisputable and have been corroborated by the honest admission of
Councillor McNeil. While Councillor McNeil asserted that Mr. Harding attacked his
integrity by challenging his trustworthiness, Councillor McNeil had other options
to respond rather than to swear and gesture provocatively. He could have expressed
his displeasure with Mr. Harding by telling him that those comments are hurtful
and unwelcome or he could have walked away, among other options. He chose none of
the less offensive routes and, in fact, admitted that he would do it again under
similar circumstance while also admitting that" he couldn't care less about the
In addition the Mayor and, for that matter, all Members of Council, have an important
obligation to treat complaints or potential complaints seriously and refer the complainant
to the remedies available. For example, in this case, the Mayor who advised the
CAO/ Clerk that a complaint may be forthcoming could have asked the CAO/Clerk to
contact the complainant directly to explain the procedure(s) available to him. I
wish to highlight the importance and obligation of all Members to inform complainants
of remedies available to them and to refresh their understanding of the Code.
I do not recommend any remedial actions in this instance. Remedial actions require
participation of the Member which seems unlikely.
Even though this is Councillor McNeil' s first reported violation of the Code of
Conduct, his actions and admitted disregard for the Code are sufficient to warrant
the following recommendations:
That Councillor Dan McNeil be reprimanded; and,
That Councillor Dan McNeil' s remuneration be suspended with respect to services
for a period of 30 days.
All of which is respectfully submitted,
Mark G. McDonald, Integrity Commissioner
Independent Resolutions Inc.