The Wiarton Echo ran a story January 20 titled: “OMB Questions SBP Councillor’s Role At Hearing”.
I was interviewed by editor Zoe Kessler on January 17th and again on January 19th about the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) “report” cited in the article.
I explained to Zoe that OMB board member Duncan’s duty was to focus on the planning matter before him and I explained that OMB board member Duncan had no business opining on an alleged conflict of interest at a council meeting that he was not involved in.
Zoe chose to leave all that out of the article.
I also explained to Zoe that the Law Society of Upper Canada had no authority to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate, or anything, and I challenged her to find otherwise in the Law Society Act.
She did not find anything. I doubt if she even looked.
I explained to Zoe that the real story is that someone (not me) took closed session information from the June 7, 2016 closed council meeting about the OMB case and gave it to a witness in the August 12 OMB hearing, in clear breach of council’s code of ethics. I explained to Zoe that the witness actually swore to the closed session information. I also told Zoe who leaked the information.
Zoe left that out too. She told me she wasn’t going to touch that one.
Concerned that the article was inaccurate because of too many omissions, I decided to present the other perspective using the comments provisions on the Wiarton Echo Facebook page. And I did.
I posted comments, and replied to comments by others.
It was a good conversation on the Facebook page. There was no name calling, no defamation. All reasonably civil.
But on Sunday the Facebook page and the comments disappeared.
It appears that the Echo is taking a page from someone’s manual and is censoring comments. (Or maybe the Minister of Propaganda is exerting control of the press.)
For those who were following the Facebook conversation, and for those who weren’t but are interested, I have recreated the Echo Facebook page and all the comments.
My comments are verbatim; I had saved a copy. Comments of others are from my memory.
Here’s the Echo Article:
OMB Questions SBP Councillor’s Role At Hearing
TOWN OF SOUTH BRUCE PENINSULA – In a recent decision and order by the Ontario Municipal Board, Justin Duncan, board member, said the OMB found it “very concerning” that Craig Gammie, a councillor for the town of South Bruce Peninsula, failed to see a potential conflict of interest when he acted as a representative for a town resident at an OMB appeal hearing.
Duncan raised several concerns in his Dec. 16 decision regarding an appeal of a minor variance granted to the owners of 600 Mallory Beach Road in the town of South Bruce Peninsula.
Duncan said, “It was only during the course of the evidence of the last witness to be heard…that it became known to the Board that Mr. Gammie is a Town Councillor who participated in an in-camera session of Town Council where it was decided that legal counsel would not be sent to this hearing to represent the town.”
Duncan said after this information was revealed, Gammie was asked to consider “whether his role as representative of the Appellant was in conflict with his role as City [sic] Councillor.”
According to Duncan’s report, Gammie had responded there was no conflict as he had not received financial remuneration.
Duncan’s report said while the board was “not charged specifically with making a finding under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” it was “responsible for controlling the integrity of its own process.”
Duncan continued, “the Board finds it very concerning that a Town Councillor would fail to see the potential for a real conflict in this situation, which gives rise to the question of whether his vote at the Council meeting was as a member of Council or as agent for the Appellant.”
Duncan stressed Counc. Gammie’s “potential conflict” would not be taken into account in the assessment of the appeal.
At an interview Jan. 17 at SBP council chambers in Wiarton, Gammie questioned how Duncan had received information from a closed council session, adding, “I have never been an agent for the Appellant until the very day of the [OMB] hearing.
“On the day of the hearing, I became an agent of the Appellant.”
Gammie added, “When I was in that council meeting, everything I said, everything I did, every vote I did, was as a member of council.”
Gammie reiterated his belief that, “there are a dozen reasons why it’s not a breach of the Municipal Conflict of Interest [Act]. The fact that there was no money is only one of them.”
In contrast to Gammie’s position, Duncan’s report echoes concerns previously expressed by Gammie’s fellow council members.
In a letter from the town’s legal counsel dated Aug. 31, Steven O’Melia of Miller Thomson LLP raised concerns that Gammie may have contravened the Law Society Act in representing and/or giving advice to residents at the Aug. 12 OMB appeal hearing.
O’Melia added legal counsel was concerned “about the appearance of potential impropriety given that you may have, or be perceived to have, information that could assist a private participant in a legal proceeding.”
At a Sept. 20 council meeting, council voted to make a complaint to The Law Society of Upper Canada on behalf of the town in regard to the matter (Counc. Gammie declared a conflict of interest and refrained from voting).
In an interview Jan. 17, Mayor Janice Jackson said The Law Society has confirmed receipt of the information and said it will assign an investigator “in the new year.”
“We’re taking that as any time now,” Jackson said, adding she expects to hear a decision within the next three or four months.
Jackson said, should Counc. Gammie be found guilty, he would face a fine of up to $25,000 for a first offence. A second offence would include a fine of up to $50,000, she said.
As for the outcome, in an interview Jan. 19 Counc. Gammie said, “I quite frankly believe when the Law Society actually looks at this on the surface they will decline to investigate any further. They will realize it is frivolous and vexatious and they will tell the town so.”
Gammie said he did not believe the Law Society had any authority to investigate in the first place as he is not a member of the Law Society.
Here are the Facebook comments Thread 1 –
Craig Gammie replied to the main article:
Regarding Mr. Duncan’s thinly veiled allegation that I breached the Municipal Conflict of interest Act:
For there to be a finding that I breached the act, there must be a pecuniary interest. In other words I have to benefit financially if a particular decision goes my way. And the conflict of interest must be present at the time of the meeting where the breach is alleged. If a conflict arises after the meeting it does not count, because a conflict that arises after a decision is made cannot possible influence or change that decision.
There is no decision that could have been made June 7 that I could have benefitted financially from. And the alleged conflict arose after the meeting. Two clear reasons why there was no potential conflict, and no actual conflict of interest.
OMB panelist Justin Duncan stated as a fact that there was a “potential” conflict and claimed by strong innuendo that there was an actual conflict and that I breached the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
He was wrong. He set himself up as another Kangaroo court. Not as bad as Janice Jackson’s Kangaroo court, but still improper. If Duncan wants to accuse me of breach of the Municipal Conflict of interest act, or of having a “potential” conflict, he should go to the proper authority, which is not the OMB, and is not Justin Duncan, but is the Superior Court of Justice. But Duncan won’t do that. Because he knows that his allegations are groundless and vexatious and he knows that there are serious consequences for making unsupportable or vexatious or frivolous claims to the Superior Court of Justice.
Unless a competent adjudicator says otherwise, I am not guilty of the allegations levelled against me.
Regarding the possible breach of the code of conduct June 7, 2016:
The municipal act provides for any resident to petition council to commission an inquiry into whether a member of council has contravened the code of conduct, and provides for council to assign an integrity commissioner to conduct such an inquiry.
Concerned that a member had breached the code on June 7, 2016 by leaking closed session information, I requested, via a report to council, that council commission such an inquiry.
Mayor Janice Jackson, exercising authority she does not legitimately possess, censored my report, and prevented my petition from coming before council, and prevented my concerns from being put to a proper adjudicator :
Regarding the allegation by lawyer O’Melia that I contravened the Law Society Act:
The council made similar allegations at the September 20, 2016 council meeting. I called it a Kangaroo court and challenged any or all of my accusers to take their allegations before someone with the legitimate authority to adjudicate the allegations. They did not do that. Instead they got the town lawyer, at great expense to the taxpayer, to make a complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada.
But the law society of Upper Canada has no legitimate authority to adjudicate or to try me or to charge me or to prosecute me. They have the authority to discipline their members, but I am not a member, so they cannot try or discipline me.
They don’t even have any real investigative powers. They can ask people to give statements, but they cannot summon them. They can ask for documentary evidence (like closed minutes), but they cannot compel them. Their powers are extremely limited.
I predict that none of my accusers will take their accusations before someone who has the legitimate authority to adjudicate on the merits of the accusations. Because the people who have that authority do not take kindly to people making unsupportable or frivolous or vexations allegations. And the allegation that I breached the Law society act is just that – unsupportable, frivolous and vexatious.
The law society act section allegedly contravened is there so unscrupulous people don’t pretend to be lawyers and take people’s money for providing legal services that they are not qualified or authorized to provide. The section is there to protect the public.
I have not been accused of taking people’s money for providing legal services that I am not authorized to provide. I am not accused of taking people’s money at all. I am not accused of contravening the purpose of the act.
It is clear that Omelai is not going after me to protect the public.
So he must be going after me for some other reason.
In his allegation, when Omelia paraphrased the law that he claims I contravened, he left out a key part of the law. He left out the part that says “subject to section 2…, . He left out the part that says — if the exception in section 2 is available, you can provide legal services without a licence.
The only plausible reason for leaving that part out is because if you leave it in it quickly becomes clear that I have not contravened the law. And if I have not contravened then there are no grounds for the accusation. So I can deduce that the allegations are made not to protect the public, which is a proper purpose, but rather to harm me, which is an improper purpose, which makes the allegations vexatious.
Unless a competent adjudicator says otherwise, I am not guilty of the allegations levelled against me.
I ask how you would feel if a serious but false allegation were levelled at you in a very public forum. I ask how you would feel if there was a never-ending barrage of false allegations levelled at you.
I had no idea municipal politics could be so rough. I had no idea how dirty some of the players can play.
I know better now. But I won’t back down.
Here’s the reader’s digest version from the Charter of Freedoms and Rights
Proceedings in criminal and penal matters
- Any person charged with an offence has the right ……. (d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
MaryAnn Wilhelm replied to Craig Gammie:
I commend you for stepping up to the plate to defend your position. It’s a good read.
MaryAnn Wilhelm responded to the main article:
They got elected by attacking the Indians. Just likeTrump got elected by going after immigrants.
Craig Gammie replied: The first nations sued us for the beach. I was defending against the lawsuit. Not at all like Trump.
MaryAnn Wilhelm replied to C. Gammie: And how is that going?
Craig replied to MaryAnn Wilhelm:
Janice Jackson is trying to make sure I am kept out of the picture. She has even resorted to lying about my involvement.
She told a reporter that I have phoned TSBP Lawyer Lisus “on a daily basis” since his engagement in February 2015.
On my blog I said that her claim was a “huge, ridiculous, malicious, and obvious lie”:
Mid-December Jackson told me she had proof that I phoned TSBP Lawyer Lisus “on a daily basis”.
I said “show me”.
She has not provided the proof.
I maintain my submission that she lied.
Other blog postings regarding the land claim:
How is that going? Not as well as I had hoped. But I will find ways to go around the roadblock.
Doug Jordan replied to Craig Gammie: I remind you that a letter was read at your Amabel Property Owners October 8th land claim meeting from lawyer Jonathan Lisus… that’s the proof. If you want more proof you should pay Lisus to give you proof.
Craig Gammie replied to Doug Jordan:
The October 7th lawyer’s letter proves nothing. It’s not even evidence of anything. The person who made the claim (that Gammie phones the lawyer daily) and promised to back it up with phone records is the one who must supply the evidence/ proof.
Doug Jordan responded to main article: The whole world, not just TSBP, should be concerned about this behavior.
Craig Gammie responded to Jordan: No .. the world should be concerned about some people assuming that allegations are facts.
Jon Turner responded to main article: About as expected lol