Brampton councilors say Mayor Patrick Brown is instigating a lawsuit against the City of Brampton to overturn council’s previous decision to select Elaine Moore as councilor for Wards 7 and 8 for the remainder of the term .
A judicial review, which was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by Cond. Harkirat Singh, one of Brown’s closest allies, says Moore’s nomination, after Charmaine Williams won a provincial seat in the recent election, did not follow the proper process.
However, the five advisers, who voted with Williams to select his replacement in a majority decision, said they had received a legal opinion saying there was nothing wrong with their conditional selection of a replacement in case Williams would succeed.
Brown and County. Rowena Santos is at the center of a series of ongoing investigations into alleged wrongdoing in City Hall hirings and purchases over the past three years. The same group of councilors who voted for Moore to join the council have consistently voted in favor of the investigations, after allegations were made by current and former employees.
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Brown, Santos and their three board allies have not supported the investigations (it remains unclear why Brown and Santos did not declare a conflict of interest during the votes; Santos voted against them when he was at the center of two of the investigations, one for his alleged involvement in a lucrative contract for his mentor and political ally, and another for his alleged harassment of a senior executive who raised concerns about contract work).
Advisers told The Pointer that Brown was the driving force behind the legal action to block Moore’s replacement.
“The mayor’s attempt to override council is a sign to me that there’s so much more to this,” the councilor said. says Jeff Bowman.
“It is clear that the mayor and his team are behind this legal action,” the councilman said. said Gurpreet Dhillon.
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A June 16 press release signed by Brown, Santos, Singh, Paul Vicente and Michael Palleschi stated: “Unfortunately, prior to the June 2 provincial election, on May 31, at a special last minute council meeting called by a group of six councillors, an unprecedented motion contrary to the Ontario Municipalities Act was brought forward to preallocate the seat for Wards 7 and 8 even though the seat was not yet vacant.
The Pointer asked Brown to provide the section of the Municipalities Act that supports his claim. He did not answer.
Singh did not respond to The Pointer’s request for comment on other members’ involvement in the judicial review application.
“We have been advised that the Municipalities Act is silent on the selection of a person to replace a sitting councilor in the event of a future declared vacancy,” Bowman said, referring to the advice of a legal expert. municipal that has been received. “Actually, I would consider it succession planning. She (Moore) has not been and will not be “appointed” to the position until the vacancy is declared, which is in accordance with the Municipalities Act. »
Bowman commented on the recent attacks on Moore, whom Brown named as one of her campaign advisers during her 2018 mayoral campaign. She has since spoken openly about the misconduct at City Hall that has took place under Brown’s direction and publicly criticized him for hiring inexperienced senior executives with conservative political ties to Brown who were involved in a fraudulent hiring scheme in Niagara before being recruited by the mayor. .
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“Elaine Moore was a very close trusted advisor to the mayor during his campaign to become mayor, and now she is absolutely the wrong person to hold a council seat for the remaining 3 months, in her opinion?”
Dhillon said Moore is clearly a concern for Brown, Santos and the others, because of his strong record of fierce advocacy for taxpayer protection. She was instrumental in exposing widespread taxpayer abuse by former Mayor Susan Fennell.
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“It is unfortunate that the mayor is trying to block the nomination of Elaine Moore when she was one of his senior advisors for his campaign to become mayor.”
Because Moore’s nomination would automatically be triggered at the next board meeting following Williams’ official retirement, Brown and his four allies refused to attend any of the since-scheduled meetings, forcing their cancellation. Without Williams on council, only five other councilors remain, one short of the quorum needed to hold a council meeting and vote to run city business. Instead, this deal doesn’t get done because of Brown, Santos, Vicente, Palleschi and Singh refusing to show up for work.
Now, to keep Moore from being named, Brown and the others are backing a lawsuit.
During the council chamber debate over Moore’s selection, Santos claimed, “…there is a very significant effort for a certain group of six councilors to keep control over this council”, suggesting that Moore would vote with them to continue their efforts to restore accountability within the city. Hall. The six members who supported his selection have been pushing for the ongoing series of investigations, some involving allegations of wrongdoing by Santos and Brown. Santos dismissed their efforts amid the “silly season” of elections.
Bowman said city business, including ongoing investigations into allegations of widespread wrongdoing under Brown, is being held up by the legal tactic.
“As councilors, we are elected to make decisions on behalf of residents, it is our responsibility to ensure that the business of the City moves and that bylaws are enacted.”
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On May 31, when the vote took place and all six members backed him, days before Williams officially resigned after his victory, Brown, Singh, Santos, Palleschi and Vicente lost their bid to block the pick of Moore.
Brown and the others claim that Williams should not have been allowed to participate in the vote to decide his replacement.
Bowman disagrees and pointed out that nothing in the Municipalities Act prevents this.
“As for Charmaine’s involvement in the selection process for her replacement, as I have said before, the residents of her neighborhoods elected her and put their faith in her being a strong leader. , able to articulate well on important issues and was bold enough to take a stand,” he said. “She was totally supportive of someone to replace for her who she felt embodied those same characteristics, and would support her residents. the same way she had for three and a half years.”
Toronto’s recent problems with its nomination process have highlighted one of the downsides of not allowing the board to decide a replacement in advance. After Michael Ford vacated his seat following his provincial win, the woman ultimately opted to replace him through a process that removed the council from much of the decision-making, was forced to resign immediately when her homophobic posts spent on social networks were presented.
Mississauga recently chose a path more similar to that of Brampton, when council members chose former veteran councilor Pat Mullin to replace Karen Ras, who stepped down earlier this year for personal reasons.
The Municipalities Act states that after a councilor resigns, “Council shall, at its next meeting, declare the office vacant”. Moore has already been chosen to be the replacement at a meeting under the May 31 motion which stated that she would replace if Williams wins her race in the provincial election. Moore will step in once the vacancy is declared, but that can’t happen if Brown and his four allies refuse to allow a meeting to take place.
Filed by Sullivan Mahoney LLP, Singh’s application argues that under the provisions of the Municipalities Act, a council does not have the power to conditionally fill the vacancy, and that the legislation is “clear” and “without ambiguity” according to which a vacancy must be declared before the appointment.
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Bowman said it is clear from the legal advice received that this is not the case and anyone can read the Municipalities Act for themselves.
The Pointer found no language in the legislation that prevents a majority of councilors from choosing a replacement before an election and then appointing that person after the vacancy is declared. There is no provision prohibiting a member from participating in a vote to conditionally select their replacement, should the member win a future election.
The same six members who backed the vote to select Moore have previously vowed to restore good local government to the city following a series of scandals involving former CAO David Barrick.
He was recruited by Brown, with whom he shared a number of close Tory ties, before being fired in February when the six members grew frustrated with the way Barrick and Brown were running City Hall. Barrick had been embroiled in a number of scandals at Niagara, where he was fired from his role before Brown brought him to Brampton. Shortly after his arrival, Barrick was accused of nepotism, intimidation and embezzlement of public funds, sparking the ongoing investigations ordered by the six other council members, including Williams.
The next board meeting is scheduled for July 4, followed by another on July 6. They will also be canceled if Brown, Santos, Vicente, Singh and Palleschi continue to refuse to show up.
As long as the board has not reached a quorum, the items on the agenda are automatically postponed to the next meeting.
Moore’s request to have the nomination overturned was heard Thursday in Brampton.
— With files from Global News
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