TORONTO - It does not seem like a winning tactic. HCDSB trustee, represented by her Counsel Stephen Bernstein, was scheduled to appear in Hamilton Court (December 21) before a judge to dispose of twelve charges of fraud – ten of them under $5,000 and two over that amount.
She had been arrested almost a year ago, January 21, 2021, on charges dating from 2017 and 2018, prior to her election as Trustee. Her former employer LiUNA Local 3000 had prompted Hamilton police to act. Some suggest this may be a breach of trust.
At previous appearances before the Court, her counsel had succeeded in having the case deferred to a resolution meeting, a Crown Pretrial (CPT), for “disposition” before the trial. This time her counsel was himself represented by an agent but with no indication of what the outcome of the resolution meeting may have been.
That tactic by Guzzo’s lawyer may have tested the court’s patience to the limit. At the start of the hearing, the court clerk indicated that “there was a bench warrant to hold on the last appearance and the Crown elects to proceed by indictment”.
That would lead to serious consequences for Guzzo. Her counsel’s agent, a Mr. Edward asked to have the discretionary bench warrant extended for the purposes of this appearance…again.
Crown Counsel, Kimberly Rogers, protested that the matter had been before the Court for eleven months with no action. She pointed to six other occasions where counsel for Guzzo asked for the same rescheduling to another CPT, when there had been no outcome.
Edward put his own reputation on the line, this time promising to provide the Court with results: “I’m undertaking to do that in the interim”. He asked for another CPT on January 13 and an adjournment to January 18 “to conduct that CPT to obtain client instructions”.
Rogers detailed the previous futility of these CPT, expressing impatience with these requests: “This matter needs to move forward. [Defense] is spinning its wheels in this court and clogging up our already busy dockets for no good reason”.
Moreover, she expressed skepticism in the utility of yet another CPT. She told the courts that at the last resolution meeting “we were told that Defense would be contacting the trail coordinator to get trial dates […] Whatever extra flogging of the horse was done on November 29 did not result in any changes in the Crown’s position […] its time Defense schedules the matter for a guilty plea or for trial”.
To a lay observer, it began to sound like Guzzo’s team needs to “pull a rabbit out of the hat” at the next hearing. Justice Bouchard acknowledged the apparent low utility in another CPT but that the process was not yet within the “window (time frame) where we would be looking to escalate this to intensive case management”. So, he reluctantly granted adjournment to January 13 for another CPT and bring that matter back to the courts on January 18.
Crown counsel Rogers would not let up: “Defense repeatedly returned… to seek further adjournments and they are granted[...] I’ll be putting the defence on notice. I will be asking for case management data on that date if Defense returns without dates (for trial).”
Justice Bouchard appeared to concur: “the Court understands the points you’re raising. I share some of those concerns, the dates have been set”. With respect to the bench warrant to hold, he turned to Guzzo’s lawyer and said, “I’m not in favour of endless bench warrant to hold extensions. Talk to your client about filing a designation (details of the plea bargain), either that or appear on January 18.
Corriere reached out to Guzzo’s counsel and LiUNA, there were no responses as at going to print. Previously, LiUNA indicated “we take any and all allegations of impropriety filed against Ms. Guzzo of highest concern”. Former HSDBC Chair Patrick Murphy saw no reason for Guzzo to recuse herself from Board deliberations.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter