TORONTO - Images of a “shoot-out at the OK Corral” come to mind. For the followers of American Western lore and legend where one gang of thugs settled theirs scores with another outside a barn through adept use of firearms rather than debate in a Court of law. The American way. Or the English custom a’ la War of the Roses. Or American gangsters carving up territory in the inner cities.
Except that the latest developments happened in City Council of Brampton with the protagonists and antagonists being two well defined groups of councillors, each with their own agenda and now fighting through the Courts to advance their dominance.
At the centre is Mayor Patrick Brown, no stranger to controversy.
Brown and four “allies” in Council, call them Group A (Harkirat Singh, Michael Palleschi, Rowena Santos and Paul Vicente), issued a common press release crowing about a Superior Court decision. It quashed a previous Council move orchestrated by rival Councillors, call them Group B (Martin Madeiros, Jeff Bowman, Pat Fortini, Doug Williams, Gurpreet Dhillon and MPP Chairmaine Williams), on May 31, just before the Provincial election, on June2.
This latter group appointed a complicit former Councillor, Elaine Moore, to replace Charmaine Williams on Council. Williams had not yet been elected to the Legislature, nor had the Council vacancy been created. Moreover, she voted to anoint/appoint her replacement. The Municipal Act and City By-Laws call for public consultations and public applications prior to any decision being made to fill a vacancy – after one occurs!
The group forged ahead in a special meeting timed to coincide with Brown’s absence to attend a CPC Leadership event in Western Canada. Councillor Harkirat Singh appealed to the Court on the basis that the Resolution did not comply with the By-Law or with the Municipal Act.
In a decision published July 11, Justice Doi agreed. The Superior Court was “…satisfied that the Resolution and By-law were passed without lawful jurisdiction and should be quashed in their entirety for illegality.” (emphasis added).
Shocking! Municipal officials acting as if the law does not apply to them and a judge who sees through that is remarkable. What next? Will Charmaine Williams be dumped from the Legislature for having committed an Illegal Act? What are the consequences for her partners in that illegality? Will her former fellow Councillors be barred from seeking office in October?
I’m not holding my breath. Nor do I expect that the public will punish them at the polls. However, the entire affair casts a pall on matters of Municipal Councils and the ethics of the incumbents. The odor is so reminiscent of other recent examples seen at several GTA school boards where gangs of trustees and their accommodating Senior Staff are subverting the very purpose of education.
At least in Brampton the City Clerk and the City Solicitor apparently advised the offending Group B that what they were doing was likely illegal and at, a minimum, damaging to the collective reputation of Brampton. “Speaking truth to power” can be costly.
That lawsuit will be interesting to watch. Citizens of Brampton will be holding on to their wallets. On the Brown political front, he can point to one legal/political victory as he contemplates next steps in his political career.
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