Brampton Councillor Insists He Didn't Break Code of Conduct
A Brampton councillor insists that he did nothing wrong when he and his colleagues voted to grant $150,000 recently to a locally based community / media group where the councillor once served as a director.
The vote took place during the July 10th meeting of Brampton City Council.
Wards 1 and 5 Regional Coun. Paul Vicente, a founding member of Brampton Focus, said he officially resigned from their board as of December 2017, which he posted on his Facebook page.
Vicente and his colleague Rowena Santos eventually ran and won seats on council in the 2018 municipal elections.
But Bruce Marshall, who also ran for council in 2018, filed a complaint with the city’s new Integrity Commissioner Muneeza Sheikh, alleging that every single member of Brampton City Council breached the code of conduct by awarding the $150,000 sole-source contract to Brampton Focus, citing the close ties the organization has with councillors like Vicente and Santos.
“In the digital economy, there are dozens of reputable firms and individuals who can provide value for money to the taxpayers of Brampton for the services purchased by City Council on July 10, 2019. Council has a fiduciary duty to be prudent managers of taxpayers money in providing services. Most homeowners will compare prices and quality when making a purchase of just $150. Why has Brampton City Council not shown the same prudence and common sense in spending $150,000,” said Marshall in his memo to Sheikh.
Marshall said he wanted the integrity commissioner to recommend councillors be reprimanded and that the purchasing process be restarted with a Request for Proposal (RFP) ‘devoid of political interference by councillors who received a benefit for their vote.’ Specific examples of those benefits include individualized video packages done for Brampton councillors during Canada Day celebrations.
Another issue is the allegation that Vicente voted on the motion to approve the funding for Neighbourhood Watch Brampton and Brampton Focus while still technically being a director, which can be interpreted as a violation under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Even though Vicente announced he resigned back in 2017, Marshall provided documents he said he obtained from Ontario’s Ministry of Government Services showing Vicente still listed as a director, which Marshall said was authentic because “every page was stamped and signed by a government official on every page.”
“The document was produced on July 18, 2019. It is stamped in bold print as a CORPORATION POINT IN TIME REPORT as of July 10, 2019, which was the date of the vote at council. The date suggests at least one of the councillors (Vicente) should have abstained from debating or voting on this issue. His participation calls the whole process into question.”
Below is the document in question showing Vicente as a director:The documents also show the board of Brampton Focus as of July 2019 were:
Donald McLeod (President)
Karla Bailey (Secretary)
Joseph Cassian (Treasurer)
Michael Gyovai (Vice-President)
Fazal Khan (Executive Director)
Hardeep Kalirah (Director)
Paul Vicente (Director)
Khan and McLeod, as of late the two most notable faces of Brampton Focus, recently went on a local radio station to defend the arrangement, citing that community groups do not need to go through an RFP and that the work Brampton Focus and Neighbourhood Watch Brampton were doing was a benefit to the wider Brampton community.
“We need to stop this small minded approach if we’re going to call ourselves the ninth largest city in Canada,” McLeod said on the air, citing a large city like Brampton needs to stop focusing on ‘petty politics’ and look at the bigger picture, adding that Brampton Focus is strictly about covering events and news in Brampton without providing a bias account.
What also makes this case unique is that the allegation is that the entire city council violated conflict of interest guidelines by their July 10 vote. Under the Act, if a member of council is found guilty of violating the conflict of interest rules, a judge can rule that they be removed from office; in this case, that would apply to all of Brampton’s councillors.
Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford faced this predicament when he voted during a Toronto City Council vote approve funds for a charity football foundation he was running, and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion dealt with potential conflicts during two times in her career when she voted on land deals that she had personal ties to (the judge found that, at the time, she did not violate the act, citing ‘error in judgement’).
Brampton’s integrity commissioner has not ruled on any of the allegations as of this time.
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