Sunday, March 16, 2014

Counterfeit Integrity

The Webster's Dictionary describes the word 'integrity' to mean: 3 “the quality or state of being of sound moral principle, uprightness, honesty and sincerity.” It would be expected that if one was to lay claim to integrity, that same individual would not attempt to deceive through omission or use trickery in their chosen language. In fact, honesty and sincerity as components require being “free from deceit, frank and open,” and “without pretence or hypocrisy,” again quoted from Webster's.

In Canada we have a bunch of what are called Integrity Commissioners established to patrol one of the oldest professions, politicians. These Integrity Commissioners supposedly enforce a certain code of ethics for those we elect to take care of our affairs as a community. Regardless of what your opinion is of anyone in the game of politics it is a sad fact that we do need them. After all imagine what would it be like without our political leaders. Reality soon wipes the smile off our face.

As an individual who is chosen to take up the mantle of an Integrity Commissioner it would be expected that these Webster style traits are demonstrated in that individual's personality and history. Then mother reality crashes through the door and throws into the mix human nature with all its ugliness. Ego steps in and then we have nothing left of Webster and his high aspirations.

There is further reality to deal with here, one which raises a question of the real purpose of such creatures. They are paid with public money to supposedly enforce a certain code of ethics in our elected members of government. Yet they have no authority to do anything about the most serious of breaches of that code. The most severe penalty that they can recommend, and yes only recommend, is to remove the one who may have committed deceit or worse from pay for 90 days. Even here the commish can only recommend the penalty and it is up to the respective council to decide if they implement it.

In the Niagara Region of Ontario one of these knights came crashing in with his ego in tow. Robert Swayze was brought to town to investigate two complaints brought against Councillor Andrew Petrowski. This whole issue was covered in an article titled Integrity Commissioner's trial of bias and does not need repeating. It is what Robert Swayze did later that brought a need to revisit these questionable muddy waters.

On February 26th 2014 an email was received by artist Alexandra Davidoff sent by Robert J. Swayze. This email identifies the sender clearly and although its grammar is equivalent of a lower grader it has CONFIDENTIAL atop of it, and further repeated below. Alexandra Davidoff is the artist, a very talented artist, who provides some of the articles on Mayorgate with rather thought provoking caricatures as she had done with the article relating to Robert Swayze.

Robert Swayze's ego jumps forward with his statement that he is an integrity commissioner for “9 other municipalities,” and it appears he is doing some kind of educational presentation. He asks to have permission to use Alexandra's artwork in what he refers to as a “power point presentation.” At no time does Robert Swayze explain how he is wanting to use the artwork or why. Everything about Robert Swayze's request reeks of deceit and subterfuge.

Webster's Dictionary describes integrity as being frank and open, without pretence or hypocrisy. Reading Swayze's email sees no openness, no honesty. What did Robert Swayze have in mind only a guess could be used. He has shown that his ego is indeed large. In an article written by Micheal McKiernan titled 'Lawyers grabbing a piece of integrity commissioner action' for Robert Swayze is quoted as saying, “It's an evolving field, changing all the time. There's such an enormous variety of issues that come up and you're always creating new law and new approaches.”

It would seem that Robert Swayze ignores the Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act 2006, Bill 130. In section 223.3 the Role of Integrity Commissioner is expanded on, and section 223.4 explains the authority and powers of an Integrity Commissioner. There is a reality that escapes Robert Swayze, he cannot be “creating new laws,” they are set out by the provincial government. His authority is extremely limited even if he finds serious breaches and wishes to make them public.

Robert Swayze decides to contact artist Alexandra Davidoff requesting permission to use her art yet is unwilling to fully explain how is it that he wishes to use it. What was the motivation behind this veiled request? Motivation was clearly at question when Swayze rode though the City of Guelph. It was again questioned in the issues surrounding his guest appearance in the Niagara Region. Motivation clearly remains a question in relation to Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze.

As we try and grapple with codes of ethics, human nature and politics we find ourselves in very muddy waters. The notion that Integrity Commissioners are an answer is slowly becoming a false hope. Ethics and politics are extremely strange bed fellows and without real authority no knight who is simply highly paid with public money is worth a dollar bill, or is it a loonie?

Robert Swayze may see himself as something high on a horse, in this case he simply tried to play tricks without waiting for Halloween. Both the Swayze email and response to it are published here, maybe Robert Swayze would care to shed some light on all of this.

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