Integrity commissioner deems Grimsby mayor’s actions ‘trivial and without consequence’

Grimsby Town Hall Grimsby Town Hall Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After an investigation into an integrity commissioner complaint filed by a Grimsby councillor against Mayor Jeff Jordan suggested no corrective action be taken, council voted to further the investigation.

At the Feb. 1 committee of the whole meeting, council along with the town’s integrity commissioner Charles Harnick discussed a complaint filed against Jordan by Coun. Randy Vaine on Oct. 2, 2020.

While Harnick found that Jordan did contravene the code of conduct, he deemed it “trivial and without consequence” and suggested no penalty should be imposed and made no recommendations for corrective actions.

However, a majority of council members weren’t satisfied with that outcome, directing town staff to look into costs associated with this matter and look into the outcomes from similar cases across the province and report back.

According to Harnick’s report, Coun. Kevin Ritchie presented private documentation/email correspondence to council during a closed meeting on July 13, 2020. The report claims this documentation was given to Ritchie anonymously and it was not provided to other councillors but instead was read and described to them by Richtie.

In his complaint, Vaine alleged Jordan contacted the person he believed to be the author of the email correspondence/documentation and shared details from the closed council meeting.

For his investigation, Harnick interviewed Jordan, chief administrative officer Harry Schlange, Vaine, Ritchie and the person Jordan contacted. According to Harnick, Schlange spoke with the individual who confirmed that he and the mayor had talked about the meeting, however “there is no evidence that Mayor Jordan disclosed anything other than identifying the emails to the Individual who is the author of those emails.”

Jordan later corroborated this in his interview with Harnick, as did the individual.

Harnick found Jordan contacted the individual to determine if he was the person who disclosed the emails to Coun. Ritchie and not for advice regarding a security breach.

After Harnick revealed his findings at the Feb. 1 meeting, Ritchie questioned whether the actions were inconsequential, inquiring if the town suffered any costs as a result of this investigation.

Harnick said although there was a fee associated with investigating the complaint, he didn’t identify other costs.

“I saw no additional (costs) other than the fact that when a complaint is made, it’s referred to me and you pay for my time,” he said.

Ritchie called a motion to direct the clerk, through the office of the CAO, to look at any costs that are affiliated with this matter and report back to the committee of the whole and to look into related cases in Ontario where closed session information has been disclosed and prepare a report for councillors.

The motion was carried with five voting in favour — Ritchie, Vaine, Dunstall, Sharpe and Kadwell — and four against: Jordan, Vardy, Bothwell and Freake.

Harnick told councillors that he currently has three additional complaints before him that he expects to report on in the coming weeks.