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Letter to the Editor: Thunder Bay Municipal Code of Conduct

Why has no one on Thunder Bay city council called on mayor Keith Hobbs to explain his relationship with the lawyer who launched a $300M class action lawsuit against the city?
City Hall

Letter to the Editor: 

Why has no one on Thunder Bay city council called on mayor Keith Hobbs to explain his relationship with the lawyer who launched a $300 million class action lawsuit against the city?

The mayor has given notice he intends to sue Sandy Zaitzeff over the release of a video that shows the mayor at a small social gathering at Mr. Zaitzeff's residence.

Fine. But the mayor has a problem. He hasn't explained why he was there in the first place. Hobbs' presence at Zaitzeff's home raises the spectre that the mayor spoke to Mr. Zaitzeff about that lawsuit. Revealing details of the city's legal position would breach his fiduciary responsibility to protect the interests of the municipality.

No one on council has raised a concern about the mayor's action in a public way. Why not?

One reason may be that there's nothing to be done. Council does not have a code of conduct that sets any rules of behaviour.

A code was proposed by city administrators back in late 2015. It was supposed to be discussed at a public meeting. But that never happened. Councilors talked about it behind closed doors. After that private meeting, the proposal was withdrawn.

After that closed door meeting, TBnewswatch interviewed Councilor Trevor Giertuga about what council had done.

Giertuga says the code was dropped because "the provincial ombudsman's office will be available to investigate complaints as they relate to the conduct of council members."

Well it turns out that's wrong. The Ombudsman's office does not investigate complaints against the conduct of individual municipal councilors.

I asked the Ombudsman's office to clear up this misunderstanding with the clerk's office in Thunder Bay. The Ombudsman's office says the city clerk's office assured them the city does understand the Ombudsman doesn't investigate individual councilor's conduct.

Interestingly, the city blamed TBnewswatch for getting it wrong. The clerk's office told the Ombudsman that TBnewswatch conflated, or mixed up, the code of conduct story with one coming out of the province about an expanded role for the Ombudsman.

The editor at TBnewswatch says the city never asked TBnewswatch to correct the story. That's even though the city has an entire department that monitors media coverage of city hall.

I asked councilor Giertuga about his comment. He has not responded. (Why do we have a ward system when ward councilors won't respond to someone who doesn't live in their ward? Councilors should be accountable to all residents no matter where they live in the city.)

If councilors had passed the proposed code, Mayor Hobbs would have been required to "disclose any personal business, commercial financial, ETHICAL or other business interest, where that business or interest may be in real or perceived conflict with his or her official duties". (Emphasis added.)

The dilemma for taxpayers created by the mayor's relationship with Sandy Zaitzeff begs for council to pass a code of conduct.

Shane Judge