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Oro-Medonte council did not breach code: integrity commissioner

Complaint was levied after Oro-Medonte fired its integrity commissioner and reimbursed Coun. Keane for legal expenses in wake of controversy
2021-05-26 Oro-Medonte council
Coun. Cathy Keane, top centre, speaks Wednesday, May 26, 2021, during an Oro-Medonte council meeting.

Many residents were shocked when Oro-Medonte fired its integrity commissioner last year over a controversy involving Coun. Cathy Keane.

Ironically, some citizens were so upset by that move and the council meetings in which the decision was made, they asked the township's interim integrity commissioner to look into the matter.

Earlier this week, Ewart O’Dwyer Barristers and Solicitors — the township's new, interim integrity commissioner — tabled its ruling that Oro-Medonte council should take no further action against Keane in the case that dates back to February 2021.

Keane was originally accused of misconduct by the township’s previous integrity commissioner, Principles Integrity, following an investigation that was sparked by complaints from the Horseshoe Valley Property Owners Association (HVPOA).

Although Principles Integrity concluded Keane had breached the township’s code of conduct, council voted 3-3 on a motion that recommended she be reprimanded. The split vote led to the report simply being received as information. Council then voted to fire Principles Integrity.

It all started when HVPOA claimed Keane took part in and voted at the group’s February 2021 annual general meeting “under cover of anonymity and without authority,” and that she obtained an unauthorized recording of the meeting to which she was not invited.

Following a three-month investigation, the subsequent Principles Integrity report stated Keane had breached the township’s code of conduct and that she should be reprimanded by council, although it was ultimately found Keane's husband had attended and voted at the meeting, with Keane watching a later recording.

Principles Integrity concluded that Keane had attempted to “obfuscate and obstruct” its investigation, and that she had tried to wield her office’s influence against HVPOA.

However, on June 9, 2021, council voted to reimburse Keane for her legal expenses.

After those two meetings, additional complaints were filed to the township’s interim integrity commissioner, Ewart O’Dwyer. In a report presented to council July 6, O'Dwyer concluded that council did not breach the municipal code of conduct during the meetings last May and June.

“Based on review of the events of May 26 and June 9, 2021 meetings of council, it is my finding that neither the member of council or individual members of council referred to in the complaint, engaged in inappropriate behaviour which constituted a breach of the Municipal Code of Conduct for the Township of Oro-Medonte,” the report concluded. 

The report presented to council made reference to an Ombudsman’s report, dated May 18, 2022, which dealt with the same complaints and “determined no further steps would be taken.”

The complainants raised issue with council’s decision (because it was simply 'received', there was no mechanism for council to pursue punitive measures against Keane), its decision to fire Principles Integrity, and its decision to reimburse Keane for her legal expenses.

Ewart O’Dwyer noted that Keane did not move the motion to refuse the report by Principles Integrity. 

“It is important to note that (Keane) did not participate in the deliberations to refuse the report,” noted the Ewart O’Dwyer report. “Furthermore, the motion to refuse the report was made by another member of council. In doing so, such motion was found to be in conformity with the township’s procedural bylaw as determined by the Ombudsman’s Office.”

Ewart O’Dwyer similarly found that council had not breached the municipal code of conduct by firing its integrity commissioner.

“It is recognized that (Keane) did participate in the vote to terminate the integrity commissioner, but such vote occurred after any decision to receive the integrity commissioner report had been the subject of council deliberation and vote,” the report stated.

“Accordingly, I do not find that (Keane) or any other member of council who had voted in support of terminating the services the integrity commissioner had breached in the Municipal Code of Conduct.”

The $8,271 in legal fees reimbursed to Keane at the June 9 council meeting were found to be in compliance with regulations, as well.

“The authority for council’s direction of June 9, 2021 is found in Bylaw No. 2003-052, being a bylaw to provide for remuneration expenses for members of council pursuant to Section 279 of the Municipal Act, 2001,” the report stated. 

The report also noted that the integrity commissioner’s jurisdiction “does not extend to a review of procedures or procedural bylaws adopted by municipal council.” 

“It is important to identify the limitation of jurisdiction and the fact that the contravention of the procedural bylaw, if it had occurred, has no application to the inquiry carried out by myself.”

Council received the report, agreeing not to pursue any punitive action against Keane at this time.

“Thank you very much, sir, for your work on this, and I hope that this will be the end of this issue,” said Coun. Tammy DeSousa.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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