A squabble over a finding of misconduct against the Chair of Hamilton’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee has turned expensive, with an Ontario Superior Court Judge not only dismissing an appeal of the process by Cameron Kroetsch, but also ordering Kroetsch to pay $15,000 in costs to the city.
The trouble started when Kroetsch had issued a tweet that idetified a private citizen in a motion put forward by the LGBTQ committee to which the Integrity Commissioner found “has improperly publicly disclosed personal information about an identifiable individual when he posted an unredacted motion contrary to the advice of the Clerk and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act.” This was in reference to a tweet Kroetsch posted in which he identified two individuals by their titles, after being explicitly cautioned by City Clerk not to do so. One of the persons identified was a member of the Police Services Board, whose appointment Kroetsch opposed; the other was the a former city employee who had been accused of having white supremacist connections in his past. Both names had previously appeared in public in the media and in posted city documents.
Council accepted the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation that a formal reprimand be issued to Kroetsch but rejected a recommendation that he be removed as chair. Kroetsch appealed the finding arguing that his committee was not a “local board” as defined in the Municipal Act and therefor the Integrity Commissioner had no jurisdiction to investigate the matter. In a 13-page judgment, Justice Favreau rejected that argument, writing: “In my view…the definition of “local board” is broad enough to support this conclusion and allowing the Integrity Commissioner to conduct such investigations fits with the purpose of (the Municipal Act).”
Kroetsch had also argued that the process was unfair in that he did not have time to properly respond to the IC findings which had been provided to him for response in advance of their release to council.
The judge disagreed writing, “While the final report is very similar to the draft report, it does refer to the applicant’s submissions. Notably, the applicant does not dispute the facts on which the Commissioner’s findings are founded. With respect to the recommended penalties, the Commissioner does not have the authority to impose any penalties; this is left up to Council. As reviewed below, it was open to the applicant to comment on the proposed penalty.”
Responding to the ruling. Kroetsch issued a statement that reads in part. “The focus of our legal team was never on trying to prove whether or not I did what the City said I did, but on trying to ensure that the Integrity Commissioner could not continue to be weaponized by members of Council against members of Advisory Committees in the future.
With the court’s decision, members of Council may now decide to come after volunteers on any of its citizen committees. It’s a legitimate source of concern and it’s clear that there needs to be legislative change to prevent this from continuing to happen. I don’t regret taking the actions that I took and I continue to believe that our municipal government should be open, transparent, and accountable.”
The ruling calls for the $15,000 in costs to be settled within 30 days. A gofund.me account has been set up to raise the money.
The full text of the ruling can be accessed here.