The Municipal Act has provisions designed to ensure that council conducts business in a manner that is open and transparent. Included is the requirement that council discussions must be open to the public unless they fall within exceptions listed in the Act.
On the Town of South Bruce Peninsula (“TSBP”) March 20, 2018 council agenda is a closed session item entitled MC15-41. The agenda claims that the matter qualifies to be in closed session because it meets two Municipal Act criteria, namely “litigation” and “solicitor-client privilege”.
I am familiar with the matter on the agenda and I am confident that the matter meets neither the “litigation” nor the “solicitor-client” criteria, and as such is not legally allowed in closed session. I am also confident that the matter is being discussed in closed to hide from the residents the July 16, 2015 illegal action of the town clerk Angie Cathrae that brought us to this point.
The situation should not be hidden from the residents. Accordingly I describe the situation.
On June 9, 2015 a resident, Dan Kerr, asked Clerk Cathrae for information regarding court matters that I was involved in. Ms. Cathrae knows or reasonably ought to know that the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“MFIPPA”) prohibits her from giving out my personal information without my permission. Yet that is exactly what she did. She gave out my personal information. I submit that the release of my personal information was not inadvertent, but was rather wilful and malicious.
The requesting resident, Dan Kerr, then used the information to slander me in emails sent broadly, including to the press. Even some press members slandered me, albeit apparently inadvertently.
I could have asked that Clerk Cathrae be charged under the provincial offences act. But Ms. Cathrae was at the time in control of the TSBP legal budget, and would have paid her legal costs and any fines out of that budget, forcing the taxpayers to pay and holding herself harmless. Instead of prosecuting, I went to the office of the Ontario Freedom Of Information And Protection Of Privacy Commissioner (“IPC”), complaining on July 16, 2015 that by disclosing my personal information Clerk Cathrae had violated MFIPPA section 48, and the TSBP had violated section 32. (Ms. Cathre racked up significant legal bills anyway, paid for by taxpayers.)
The IPC investigated and found that the town had indeed contravened section 32 of MFIPPA by releasing my personal information.
The full IPC report is at:
The report summary reads as follows:
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario (IPC) received a privacy complaint from an individual involving the Town of South Bruce Peninsula (the town). The complainant was concerned that the town had improperly disclosed his personal information to another individual, without notice, in contravention of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act . This Report finds that the town’s disclosure of the complainant’s personal information was not in accordance with section 32 of the Act..
The report wording “the town’s disclosure .. was not in accordance with section 32 of the Act” is softspeak for “the town’s disclosure .. was in contravention of the Act”. The IPC report clearly found that release of my personal information was in contravention of MFIPPA.
But the IPC refused to investigate my allegation that Ms. Cathrae had contravened section 48.
Nevertheless, the finding that the town contravened section 32, combined with the fact that Clerk Cathrae acted for the town, is a finding, by implication, that Ms. Cathrea personally contravened MFIPPA section 48.
I submitted to the IPC that Ms. Cathrae’s violation of section 48 was wilful and malicious, and I stand by that submission.
Ms. Cathrae has been gunning for me ever since I exposed her manipulation of the minutes of the committee of the whole meeting of May 17, 2011 so as to make it look like I had violated the Professional Engineers Act, a manipulation by Ms. Cathrae that got me charged with seven counts of breach of that Act, and had me facing fines of over $150,000, and jail time too. (The charges were dropped after I exposed Ms. Cathrae’s wilful misrepresentations.)
The intensity of Ms. Cathrae’s animosity towards me is apparent in the audio recording of the September 20, 2016 council meeting, which is at:
The agenda item starts at 1:47:00 on the audio recording. Ms. Cathrae’s tirade starts at 2:02:48.
In the September 20, 2016 council meeting I was accused of: 1) practicing law without a licence (contravening the Law Society Act), 2) breach of conflict of interest law, and 3) harassment of the clerk. I challenged my accusers to put their allegations before a competent adjudicator. They declined. But they put the allegation of practicing law without a licence before the Law Society of Upper Canada, which is not an adjudicator, but which nonetheless found that I did not breach the Law Society Act. Details of that fiasco are at:
The IPC cover-up
My complaint to the IPC was lodged July 16, 2015.
About October 2016 IPC investigator Natalie Rioux indicated to me that she had completed her investigation and that she had found that Clerk Cathrae had breached MFIPPA. Ms. Rioux indicated that she planned on releasing her report before the end of 2016.
The expected release date was missed. I called Ms. Rioux several times after December 31, 2016 asking when the report would be issued, always getting a reply of “soon”.
When Ms. Rioux and I chatted on September 15, 2017 Ms. Rioux told me that the IPC had received a call from Mayor Janice Jackson in December 2016 regarding the investigation.
A draft report was issued by Ms. Rioux to the parties on September 29, 2017, (9 months after the end-of-2016 expectation). There was not even a hint in the draft report that my allegation that Clerk Cathrae had violated section 48 had been heard, acknowledged, investigated, considered, decided, or anything else. My complaint that the clerk had contravened section 48 was completely sanitized out.
In an October 11, 2017 letter to Ms. Rioux I vigorously protested the sanitization.
The final report, issued February 22, 2018, more than 31 months after my complaint was lodged, spoke to my protest (that my allegation that Clerk Cathrae had breached section 48 was conspicuously missing).
In Ms. Rioux’s report paragraph 45 my protest was acknowledged. Then in paragraph 46 Ms. Rioux said:
[MFIPPA section 48(1)(a)] requires the consent of the Attorney General to commence a prosecution.
That is false. Section 48(3) of MFIPPA makes clear that only sections 48(1) (d), (e) or (f) require consent of the Attorney General, and makes clear that prosecution under section 48(1)(a) does not require consent of the Attorney General. (Did they really think I wouldn’t check?)
Also Ms. Rioux’s statement is irrelevant because I did not request commencement of a prosecution, and I made very clear to Ms. Rioux at the outset that I had chosen not to proceed along the prosecution route.
Ms. Rioux also said:
This investigation is not an appropriate forum to consider whether a person has committed an offence under the Act and the IPC has no jurisdiction to conduct a trial of a provincial offence. That jurisdiction is with the Ontario Court of Justice, and I therefore decline to make a finding on this issue.
The flaw in this rationalization is that the IPC could have applied the same “reasoning” to the issue of whether section 32 was breached, but clearly did not. Also I did not request a “trial of a provincial offence” or any trial.
The IPC rationale for not investing my allegation that Ms. Cathrae breached section 48(1)(a) is patently absurd.
The evidence before me includes:
1) the report that mayor Janice Jackson called the IPC in December 16 about the matter,
2) the sanitization of section 48 from the September 29, 2017 draft report,
3) the extreme delay in producing the final report, and
4) the absurd and groundless rationalization in the final February 22, 2018 IPC report for not investigating or finding on my allegation that Ms. Cathrae had breached MFIPPA section 48,
Given that compelling (albeit circumstantial) evidence the only conclusion that I can reach is that there must have been political interference brought to bear in order to protect Ms. Cathrae.
I believe that the IPC act of sanitizing out and then circumventing my allegation that Ms. Cathrae contravened section 48 was a cover-up.
Is a council cover-up under way?
I further submit that the plan to hold the TSBP council discussion of the IPC report on March 20, 2018 in closed session, out of sight of the residents, shielded from scrutiny, and immune to criticism, is nothing less than a council execution of another cover-up.
I expect that in closed session a majority of council will declare by resolution:
1) that Ms. Cathrae was accused of breach of MFIPPA,
2) that the IPC investigated the allegation,
3) that the IPC did not find that Ms. Cathrae breached MFIPPA, and,
4) that therefore Ms. Cathrae is vindicated.
But if it stays in closed session we will never know, will we?
Bullying of those who in good faith criticize a staff member or a council member is becoming all too common. It is my hope that residents will expose the bullying, and stand up to the bullies.
Craig Gammie, Councillor-in-Exile