Sunday, February 10, 2008

Haldimand "Should We Foot the Bill"

.............Update Wednesday February 13th, 2008......................

The following is an article written by Karen Best of the Dunnville Chroncile, dated Wednesday February 13th, 2008;

A bylaw protecting council members while acting in an official capacity will save a councillor legal costs. Haldimand County taxpayers will pay legal fees incurred by Coun. Buck Sloat when he answers to an assault charge in an Ontario court.

Under a bylaw passed by county council in 2002, council members, county employees and board members will be indemnified for actions or omissions made while acting in good faith on behalf of the county. After Sloat notified him about the legal matter, chief administrative officer Don Boyle forwarded the request for coverage of legal fees to the county solicitor. In turn, the lawyer provided an opinion that stated this case fell under the bylaw and legal fees should be covered by the municipality.

The incident occurred during a break in a council committee meeting on county property while Sloat was fulfilling his role as a representative of the public, said Boyle. As such, his fees will be paid by the county.

In January, a justice of the peace charged Sloat with assault after Jeff Parkinson requested a charge be laid. The Delhi resident alleged Sloat grabbed his shoulder, pulled out his recording device out of his pocket and dropped it to the ground. This incident has not yet gone before a court of law.

Council did discuss paying Sloat's legal fees in a closed session where there was lots of discussion but no vote could be taken, said Boyle. The bylaw superseded any vote but there was a consensus of council in support of payment, he added.When Mayor Marie Trainer asked for coverage of her legal fees in 2005, council reviewed the circumstances at that time and felt she did not act in good faith or in the best interests of the county, said Boyle.As a result, her request did not fit into the bylaw, he added.

Hind sight is 20/20 and it's unfortunate how that played out, but now council needs to move forward and support these individuals, said Boyle.

Trainer hired a lawyer after her former administrative assistant complained about harassment in the workplace in 2003 and 2004. Council paid for the assistant's legal fees but not the mayor's.After receiving a consultant report on the incident, council decided the Mayor did harass her assistant.

Boyle said the legal opinion on Sloat's situation made sense. Life in public office and in the public realm is not always easy and the municipality should stand behind people who are doing their best in those roles, he said.Sloat appeared in court on Feb. 6 and his case was held over to March 5 to set a trial date.

A few interesting points that Karen made here. The first and most obvious is that "council did" in fact have "lots of discussion" of this issue "behind closed closed doors". The second is that Dan Boyle himself stated that the "consensus" of council was in support of the payment on Sloat's behalf. I do believe that the term for a consensus behind closed doors is "drawing straws". The third was that this bylaw 235/02 "supersedes "any" vote by council.

Isn't it amazing that Councillor Sloat according to council and the CAO of Haldimand County was "acting in good faith", and yet the Mayor was "not" "acting in good faith" in August of 2005. Regardless, the Mayor's charge was of an "internal" one at the time that council "voted" against paying her lawyers fees, the alleged charge against Sloat is a "criminal charge". A vote actually by the words of the CAO of Haldimand County cannot take place! The employee that laid the "alleged harassment" charge against the Mayor "was" indeed covered under this bylaw 235/02 long before the employee even went further with a court case.

It is interesting when I picked up the minutes of the February 4th, 2008 Council Meeting, there is no reference to a "Disclosure of Pecuniary Interest" by Councillor Sloat. According to the minutes Councillor Sloat was in fact in the "closed session" when this was being discussed in length. According to the "public" minutes of that meeting, it was Councillor Sloat that moved to adjourn the meeting.

Maybe the Mayor needs to demand that she be paid for her lawyers fees as it seems the county was wrong in the fact that they cannot supersede their own bylaws. But if I am not mistaken it was the County Lawyer that advised Council on this issue. But does that make it "legal"? Now in saying that, I would hope to God that Council knows that they cannot supersede their own bylaws!

Could this be Haldimand County's first "investigation" into Closed Door Meetings?

...............Update Wednesday February 13th, 2008........................

On January 9, 2008 Councillor Buck Sloat was charged with assault as a result of a private complaint filed against the Councillor. The charge stems from an allegation that Councillor Sloat assaulted an individual at the County Offices while on a break from a Council meeting in August, 2007.

On January 31, 2008 Councillor Sloat notified the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) that he would be seeking legal assistance from the County Solicitor as the charge was as a direct result of him carrying out County business in good faith. The CAO informed the County Solicitor of the Councillors notification and requested an opinion as to whether it was appropriate for the County to cover the legal representation.

It was decided that legal representation should be provided based on By-law No. 235/02, being a by-law to provide for the legal indemnification of Employees, Councillors or Members of Local Boards of Haldimand County. The by-law applies to any act or omission alleged to have occurred on or after January 1, 2001. The purpose of the by-law is to indemnify and save harmless Employees, Councillors or Members of Local Boards, in respect of acts or omissions done or made by these individuals, in good faith, in his or her capacity, including acting in the performance of any statutory duty on behalf of the County.

County Council’s decision in 2002 to pass By-law 235/02 ensured that public servants, exercising their duties in good faith, would be protected from personal and financial risk from claims and actions with respect to matters arising out of County business. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, please contact Don Boyle, Chief Administrative Officer, 905-318-5932 Ext. 220.


..................Update Monday February 11th, 2008................

I attended the council meeting today to hear Toby Barrett speak to Council regarding Land Claims issues, while we were waiting a few of us were having a very interesting conversation regarding this article. Now according to Councillor Grice I was wrong in stating that Council even needed to vote on whether Councillor Sloat would be represented by the County Lawyer or not.

Apparently By law #235/02 that came into effect in 2002 basically states that employees and Council members are covered for the use of the County Lawyer. I did have this document in my hands but I gave it to someone to look into for me.

Now to tell you the truth I am quite confused here. As I stated in my article, Council voted 6-0 to "Not" cover Mayer Trainers Lawyer in the alleged harassment case. So in order to do that one, Council would have had to "repeal" this By law #235/02.

I have sent Councillor Grice an e-mail asking for clarification on this information. I will up date you when I receive an answer.
......................................................................................................................

At the Council meeting February 4th, 2008, council voted 6-0 in favour of having the County Lawyer represent Councillor Buck Sloat. Councillor Sloat appeared in the Cayuga Courthouse Wednesday February 6th, 2008, with the County Lawyer and Councillor Grice at his side.

To this date there has been no open vote or resolution/motion stating that this even took place. So here we go once again......."Behind Closed Doors"........

I am sure by now that some are saying, my god Donna you certainly have a problem with "closed door meetings"! You would be right on the money on that one!

I don't really have a problem with a member of council being represented by the county lawyer if in fact the problem is of an "official" Haldimand County Matter. But when a council member is charged under the Criminal Code, that is a whole new ball game!

Let's take a little walk down history lane. Let's revisit the Mayor's internal investigation regarding alleged harassment. This was never a "court case", this was a case of council voting to spend $25,000.00 dollars on a consultant, and voting 6-0 against the county lawyer representing the Mayor. Mayor Trainer paid her own bill!

So you may ask what is so different about this case with Councillor Sloat? Well when you find the answer please let me know because I am sure interested in the logic of this council!

My understanding is that unless an item is in the budget or is voted on by council as a resolution/motion, it is actually illegal for the County to spend our money. As this is not a budgeted item, and there is no resolution/motion is this legal? Again if you have the answer I am very interested to hear it. This money for the County Lawyer will come out of what is called the "emergency fund".

Maybe this is just an example of a "two tiered" Council. Or maybe this is a case of what's good for the goose is "not" good for the gander. Regardless of what it is, we will all have our own opinion on this matter.

21 comments:

  1. Councillor Sloat needs to pay his own bill, just as the Mayor did.

    What is wrong with our Mayor?

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  2. Councilor Sloat is a spineless piece of trash who needs to take responsibility for his actions instead of laying a $400 an hour bill on the taxpayers of Haldimand for them.

    No matter how much he pleads with the public to believe in his innocence, and regardless of my personal feelings toward McHale, Vandermaas, and Parkinson, I've yet to catch any of them in a lie which is more than can be said for any politician.

    Does anyone know if this idiot has offered a simple apology at some point? Or would he prefer to drag this out in Court and the media and in doing so have more people convinced of his guilt each time he has to appear?

    Whatever the outcome, Kudo's to Mr. Parkinson for fighting this hard to hold someone accountable.

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  3. This whole thing is a frivlilous waste of everyone's time and money.

    Shame on Parkinson for being such a nuisance. Perhaps he needs to do something constructive with his life instead of trying to get attention for himself and hiding under McHale's skirt when things get heated.

    I am willing to bet the Crown throws this charge in the trash can. Where it belongs.

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  4. Thanks for your comments, I would like to share some comments from the past.

    "I think it is time that Sloat step down as a councillor in Haldimand County."

    "In the past he accused the Mayor of "harassing" an employee of Haldimand County, and wanted her to step down as Mayor of Haldimand County, and that investigation was an internal one, never saw the light of court or an official charge."

    "It is time that Counillor Sloat do as he requested the Mayor to do, step down, and be done with it. We are growing very tired with the antics of our elected officials here in Haldimand."

    Thanks for your comments. I would like to make a comment on the following statement;

    "Councillor Sloat was clearly provoked by this group. He felt under attack and that's obviously why the police dismissed this as a non-assault."

    I was there that day and witnessed the body language of councillor Sloat. In now way was Merlyn or Jeff intimidating Sloat, they were simply asking him some questions during the lunch break. This was all recorded as well, and the police have this recording as it was put into evidence. I just happened to turn away for a moment when Jeff starting walking towards us, so I did not personally witness the assault.(my comment)

    "Councillor Sloat is an "elected official" and is paid by the hard working residents of this county, this in no way gives him the right if he feels intimidated by someone to assault them."

    "The law is the law, and it states in the criminal code that an individual has the right to "protect" themselves if they fear that they are in immediate danger of being harmed. And this was not the case."

    Regardless, an indivdual is "innocent" until "proven" guilty. I only hope that the crown allows this to proceed as it should, and let the "Judge" make the ultimate decision. We have seen in the past that council has themselves been "Judge and Jury", this is not the time for this. It is time that the Law is upheld in this County.

    Criminal Code of Canada
    Assault Sections

    265. (1) A person commits an assault when

    (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;

    (b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose

    266. Every one who commits an assault is guilty of

    (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

    (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction

    Just a few comments of my own;

    "It is unfortunate Donna, that you believe Trainer without a doubt and that you are her avenue for getting incorrect information out to the public, IMO. I suggest that you do your homework and get the truthful facts."

    I have never stated that I believe Trainer without a doubt, and I am not her avenue for getting out information.

    I am not taking any one side here, my problem with this whole situation is that there has never been a "fair trial". Whether you personally like the Mayor or not, or a Council Member for that matter, a serious charge of "harassment" should be in a proper court of Law. This is a decision that "only" a "Judge" is qualified to make, not your co-workers!

    As far as the post that stated this is a frivilous waste of everyones time and money, I would disagree. This is a "criminal charge" and should be taken seriously.

    As far as Councillor Sloat is concerned, according to an interview with Karen Best of the Chronicle, he states he is totally innocent. So your question as to an apology by Sloat....No....

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  5. Maybe I have a slightly clearer view of this having never met Sloat or Parkinson, but I think the bigger issue raised by this post is that there's a massive double standard at play here.

    If the Mayor had to pay for her defence, why is Council paying for this?

    Who brought the motion to Council?

    The guy did something that day which got him charged with a criminal offence, so why are my taxes paying for his defence?

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  6. It seems to me that there is a segment of thepublic who are making it their "Mission" to disrupt, interfere with, harrass and generally undermine whoever their "target of the month" is.....

    Leave the Councillors alone to do their jobs! Sloat, Grice and any other people you suddenly choose to harrass must be getting bloody well fed up with this nonsense. To the people who are doing this because they are bored with their lives, get a grip and go do something productive!

    It's so cowardly to sit on the sidelines and take cheap shots.

    But it seems to be a favourite game these days in Haldimand.

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  7. When one takes on a role of public office they open themselves to public scrutiny.

    If they behave in a way that is not acceptable then they need to be held accountable for that behaviour.

    This Council has demonstrated over and over again that they consider themselves special untouchable individuals who can pretty much do as they please.

    Unfortunately, in public office you are acoountable to the taxpayers of the County in this case who pay your salary. Too many public officials today including the bureaucrats have lost sight of who they actually work for and behave like they are independent of the taxpayers.

    I disagree that we should leave the Council alone. We need to hold their feet to the fire when they are not acting in the best interest of the County.

    In the case of the assault case I wasn't there but if Mr. Sloat indeed did let his temper get the best of him and did in fact commit assault by definition then he needs to atone for his sin like every other resident of this County.

    Nobody is above the law and he should have to foot the bill for his defense like any other citizen. I don't remember donating any of my tax dollars to his defense fund.

    This is a misuse of badly needed dollars at a time when the County itself is crying poor.

    Stand up and take your medicine like a man.

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  8. Thanks for your comments. I would like to comment on the following statements;

    "It seems to me that there is a segment of the public who are making it their "Mission" to disrupt, interfere with, harrass and generally undermine whoever their "target of the month" is.....

    I don't believe that anyone who is interested or takes a part in local issues is "harassing", "disrupting" or "interfering" with anyone, we have the right.

    This is not "undermining" anyone either.

    All Council Members are "elected officials" and there duty is for the "betterment of all residents of Haldimand County".

    "Leave the Councillors alone to do their jobs! Sloat, Grice and any other people you suddenly choose to harrass must be getting bloody well fed up with this nonsense. To the people who are doing this because they are bored with their lives, get a grip and go do something productive!"

    I believe that anyone who comments on this blog, or who attends council meetings, or gets involved in local issues is "productive".
    "Sloat, Grice and any other people you suddenly choose to harrass must be getting bloody well fed up with this nonsense."

    I am sure that you are correct that council is bloody fed up with this nonsense!

    The problem is for me is that these issues are far from "nonsense"!

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  9. Donna your update is very very interesting. It seems the waters are a little muddy!

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  10. I agree with the last poster. So my question would be not if they repealed this bylaw, but if the county broke this bylaw. Donna I seriously think this should be looked at by a lawyer. Regardless something is wrong with this picture!

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  11. For the love of pete....

    This alleged assault happened on Haldimand County office property, did it not? It happened when Councilor Sloat believed that he was having a conversation with a resident of Haldimand County and another person, who is not a resident of Haldimand County, proceeded to record the conversation.

    The resident of Haldimand County was also recording the conversation. (Yes, I have heard the recording.)

    So now, we have the county lawyer representing Sloat on the allegation that he assaulted someone on County property. Is anyone really that surprised by this development? I'm not.

    Mayor Trainer had the council of the county lawyer when she recently appeared on a subpoena to give testimony at the request of Gary McHale. That is my very clear understanding. Check it out. More taxpayers’ dollars spent on shenanigans...

    Perhaps the individual who has made this allegation should consider the use of the county lawyer a benefit to himself. If/had Sloat hired his own legal council to fight this allegation and is/was successful, the individual making the allegation might have found himself with a counter suit for costs. I somehow doubt that the county would consider such an undertaking if these charges are dropped. If this allegation is proved to be true in a court of law, then I'm glad that the county lawyer is representing Sloat because these are the legal minds that will know the consequences of Sloat's future as a councilor.

    Please everyone, let's wait and see how this plays out.

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  12. I must agree with the last sentence of the last statement made. Let's see how it plays out.

    From what I understand having heard the audio and read what little Mr. Parkinson has said about it (his virtual silence is a bit odd) it seems to me that Mr. Sloat had no idea who he was talking to at the time, but clearly was having that conversation as a councilor and thus representing the county.

    I didn't witness this event so I don't know if an assault took place, but from the audio it's very clear that Buck Sloat let his temper get the best of him and the very least the way he spoke to those 2 was unprofessional and wrong.

    I don't think that we the taxpayers of the County should foot the bill for this, but if that's how it goes then it should be universal and the Mayor certainly should have had equal representation when she needed it.

    As for the charge itself, one of these men will be vindicated in the end and only time will tell who was right and who was wrong.

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  13. Trainer was sued as part of the County and also PERSONALLY for damages.
    The County portion was $35,000.00 for wrongful dismissal and the $140,000.00 remaining of $175,000.00 was against Trainer PERSONALLY for Defamation of Character, Slander, Harassment. This was paid again by the COUNTY on behalf of the County and Trainer, so how can you say Trainer paid? Trainer just does not learn, IMO.Maybe if the bucks came out of her pocket, she would learn a lesson. I believe in the local papers she stated that no money came out of her pockets for it.

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  14. Anonymous said...

    It seems to me that there is a segment of thepublic who are making it their "Mission" to disrupt, interfere with, harrass and generally undermine whoever their "target of the month" is.....

    Leave the Councillors alone to do their jobs! Sloat, Grice and any other people you suddenly choose to harrass must be getting bloody well fed up with this nonsense. To the people who are doing this because they are bored with their lives, get a grip and go do something productive!

    It's so cowardly to sit on the sidelines and take cheap shots.

    But it seems to be a favourite game these days in Haldimand.

    February 11, 2008 8:58 AM
    Great comments!
    I totally agree! Let this County get on with business.

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  15. I believe that there is a group of people in Caledonia who have become so addicted with bullying public officials that they just can't stop itnow. They do it on the internet, newspaper postings and are getting some sort of joy out of this perceived power. It's becoming quite sadistic and sad to watch. It's always the same names and even townsfolk are getting sick of hearing their same old hateful rhetoric.

    It seems to be a way of life for them and it also seems to be their only purpose in life.

    It's pathetic and they don't see how their neighbours really view them.

    Funny thing is that they are actually doing themselves a great deal of emotional damage for years to come.

    It's clearly an addiction to them.

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  16. I totally agree!

    You would think they would learn to check out the facts and operate from that scenario.

    I doubt the County will give any credence to constantly stirring the pot and making things worse instead of better.

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  17. I doubt they would give credence to a Councilor assaulting someone "in good faith" representing the county

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  18. Anonymous said...
    I doubt they would give credence to a Councilor assaulting someone "in good faith" representing the county

    February 13, 2008 7:43 AM

    ...allegedly "assaulting someone"

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  19. Donna someone told me about your blog, and I must say, Thank You!

    Your posters are all passionate, and that proves one thing to me, People Do Care!

    Keep up the good work!

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  20. Well the last update Donna is most interesting.

    The CAO of this county admitted to the public that in fact this was discussed in length behind closed doors. Now I can understand a small discussion on the advice of the lawyer, but that is as far as it goes. Another point is that during the Mayors fiascal, she was never allowed behind closed doors during any of the discussions.

    It seems that there is more than just a closed door session that should never have taken place, I have a problem of the conflict of interest aspect. Councillor Sloat was in the roon the whole time, this is a breach, as he will gain from this by not having to pay any lawyers fees out of his pocket.

    I hope that someone out there puts in two complaints, one for closed door session that should not have even taken place and for a conflict of interest on behalf of Counillor Sloat.

    Even though this county has adopted the procedures, they certainly don't follow them. And I am sure that they don't expect anyone to hold them accountable.

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  21. In my opinion, exercising their duties in good faith, is deemed to be within the job duties and that does not include damaging a persons personal property, physical contact [assault], abusive verbal [assault] or any slanderous means to prevent a citizen from recording the truth.

    Mr. Sloat has displayed an anger problem and he rightfully should be suspended from Haldimand Council without rewards from the tax paying community and all costs for his behavioral problem should be expensed on his own dime and his own time.

    Any level of management for any private sector business would have been suspended immediately for such a display of anger. Arbitrary policing and the use of violence is not inclusive of the job description of his elected position duty.

    As far as "exercising duties in good faith", Buck Sloat has failed the grade in this case.

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