DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Following a request from an ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner H.G. Elston has filed a supplementary report to Scugog Township, in regards to his investigation of Scugog Councillors, Don Kett and Jennifer Back.
After former BIA executive director Kenna Kozak filed a complaint in October, against the two Scugog Councillors, Mr. Elston investigated and found both Councillors had breached the township’s code of conduct. He recommended, both councillors be reprimanded, and their remuneration be suspended for 30 days. The findings were presented to Scugog Council on Monday, March 6th, where it was decided the matter be deferred, until a meeting in May.
However, according to Mr. Elston’s report, a complaint was made to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office which raised the concerns the report was vague and that Ward 3 Councillor Don Kett did not have enough opportunity to respond to the allegations against him.
“...I have agreed to issue this supplementary report, to address the shortcomings noted by the Ombudsman,” Mr. Elston’s report read.
In the report, Mr. Elston summarized the specific allegations against the two councillors. These include: the two councillors “questioned, in an unreasonable manner and without supporting proof, the administration and financial management of the BIA;” the conduct of Councillors Back and Kett “was not of the high standard required by the code”; the pair “did not work with others in the interest of goodwill and common good”; they “directly violated section 4” of the Township’s code of conduct and “used their authority or influence for the purpose of intimidating, threatening, coercing, commanding or influencing the complainant, with the intent of interfering with her duties.”
Mr. Elston stated in the report, he “heard evidence that Councillor Back had personally visited many downtown merchants and made disparaging comments about the management of the BIA.” In regards to Councillor Kett’s actions, Mr. Elston wrote, “in his attendance at meetings, communications with members of the community, and exchanges with past and present staff, [he] regularly attempted to unduly influence and intimidate people.”
Councillors Kett and Back declined comment on the supplementary report.
Mr. Elston’s report also addressed why he decided to consolidate both councillors’ conduct into a single report, stating he determined “that the Councillors acted, more or less, in concert”, and “that the damage to the complainant’s reputation was caused more by the combined weight of their statements and actions.”
In addition, he wrote, Councillor Kett’s allegation that he was unaware of the allegations made against him and therefore was not given opportunity to respond, is “simply not true.”
In his report, Mr. Elston cited an email he sent Councillor Kett, a phone conversation he had with the Scugog Island Councillor, and a written response he received from Councillor Kett as evidence to support his case.
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