Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn was found in violation of the Region’s Code of Conduct – VOP Photo
The Integrity Commissioner Office for the Niagara Region, ADR Chambers, has found Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn in violation of the Region’s Code of Conduct, specifically the Release of Confidential Information.
Regional Councillor David Barrick brought forth the complaint in January, alleging Councillor Augustyn violated the Code of Conduct when, on Dec. 21 of 2017 he circulated documents clearly marked privileged and confidential to the Office of the Ontario Ombudsmen.
In December of last year, the Region’s CAO, Carmen D’Angelo forwarded an email containing an attachment from a law firm retained by the Region, Norton Rose Fullbright Canada LLP, relative to the Dec. 7 incident in council chambers where a local reporter’s laptop and local blogger’s recorder were seized as it was suspected the recorder was purposefully left on to record an in-camera portion of the meeting. The incident is now being investigated by the Ontario Ombudsman.
The email from D’Angelo contained advice from the Region’s legal council on how to prepare for questioning by the Ombudsmen and was clearly marked confidential and not for distribution.
Councillor Augustyn, in an email to D’Angelo said he disagreed with the advice being offered by Region’s legal counsel and decided on his own to provide the confidential email to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office. Councillor Barrick’s position is that the attachment was clearly marked privileged and confidential and that Councillor Augustyn did not have any authorization of Council to circulate material that was protected by solicitor-client privilege.
Councillor Barrick noted in his communication with the Integrity Commissioner’s office that there have been several leaks of confidential information during this term and that the duty of confidentiality imposed by the Code of Conduct should be taken very seriously.
Councillor Augustyn’s defense is that he felt the information contained in the email was standard information and freely available. He also felt that he should be forthcoming with any information he had related to the Ombudsmen’s investigation.
Ironically, in his role as Mayor, Augustyn took great issue with former Pelham Councillor Marv Junkin sharing what the Mayor deemed confidential information from a special Pelham council meeting held in-camera.
In the report done by Deborah Anschell and signed off by Integrity Commissioner Edward McDermott, it states; “It is important to note that the Interview Instructions Memo was marked “Privileged & Confidential” and also included “Not for Distribution” in the second line of the title.
The report goes on to say; “… I find that there was a violation by Councillor Augustyn of the confidentiality provisions of the Code. The information provided to him by Mr. D’Angelo, including the Interview Instructions Memo was not intended for distribution to outsiders, including the Ontario Ombudsman but was rather intended to be held in confidence.”
The report however does not recommend disciplinary action against Councillor Augustyn because the content “was not likely to impact the Ombudsman’s investigation in any way whatsoever”.
Councillor Barrick says his complaint is about the conduct not the content. “It’s not about whether someone deems the information being leaked as important or not important. It’s about distributing confidential information,” he explained. “It’s not up to individual councilors or staff to make their own judgment calls on distributing confidential information.”