May 10, 2018 • May 10, 2018 •
A sudden string of integrity commissioner complaints against city councillors — the latest against Mayor Drew Dilkens — is partly their own fault, says political scientist Lydia Miljan.
The three complaints in less than a week have come in the wake of integrity commissioner Bruce Elman’s report on a complaint made by council itself against Coun. Rino Bortolin. Council voted Monday to reprimand Bortolin and seek a public apology for a comment he made to the Windsor Star in October about a rape in an alley.
“The initial complaint against Bortolin, given the fact he had apologized for his statement already (last fall) … seems to have opened up a whole can of worms, and so in some respects you can say they started it,” Miljan said Wednesday, referring to two complaints made this week against the mayor and Coun. John Elliott, who were both critical of Bortolin at Monday’s meeting. Council critics, said Miljan, are now giving councillors a taste of their own medicine.
The University of Windsor associate professor also connected the surge in complaints to the fact this is an election year.
“And there certainly is a lot of politicking going on and this is one way you get your concerns or issues elevated to the public agenda.”
The most recent complaint was filed Wednesday by Higher Limits owner and political commentator Jon Liedtke, whom the mayor blocked from his social media accounts about two years ago.
Miljan said she initially thought Liedtke’s complaint was ridiculous, but after reading his arguments and Elman’s bulletin, she thinks he may have a valid point. The question is whether Liedtke’s comments were criticism or harassment. “In that respect, it sounds like something you should have a third party weigh in on.”
Dilkens said that Liedtke’s comments were “highly inappropriate,” and not simply a disagreement. He suggested if he had made the same comments to Liedtke, Liedtke could claim they constituted harassment and intimidation.
“I made my decision, I stand by my decision and I absolutely 100 per cent look forward to the integrity commissioner’s investigation and report,” the mayor said. He said out of 230,000 residents of Windsor, he has blocked five people from his Twitter account and a single person from his Facebook account.
“I did that yesterday because it’s a person who threatened to come in my office and have a bleed-in because we don’t have free sanitary napkins in the women’s washroom,” said the mayor, claiming that woman regularly made derogatory comments about him and the city.
Overall, the mayor said, he loves interacting with residents on social media, at Costco and at city hall.
He said recent complaints have been very public, with photos taken of complainants holding their documents, which indicates that these aren’t simply cases of people concerned about councillors breaking the Code of Conduct. “What’s really clear now is the election year is started. You’re going to see more of this stuff happen, which is unfortunate.”
Liedtke, however, said he has no plan to run for municipal office and is pursuing his complaint after watching councillors admonish Bortolin Monday night for breaking the Code of Conduct.
“I kept thinking about this more and more,” said Liedtke, who said he was initially blocked from both Twitter and Facebook but has been unblocked from the mayor’s Facebook. He first thought lodging a complaint would be frivolous, but then concluded being blocked really limits his ability to participate in public discourse. It’s suppressing free speech, he said.
“It really comes down to, does the mayor and councillors have the right to arbitrarily limit people from being involved in the democratic process?”
He said he believes he was blocked because the mayor doesn’t like people disagreeing with his policies. “I didn’t harass him. I didn’t troll him. I asked him very pointed questions and the man can’t take criticism.”
On Tuesday, Bortolin supporter Jessica Bondy filed a complaint with Elman against Elliott for telling Bortolin Monday night to “man up” by apologizing for his rape-in-alley comment.
And last Friday, Edy Haddad filed a complaint against Bortolin over a verbal altercation that happened two months ago during the annual meeting of the federal Liberal riding association in Windsor West. In his complaint, Haddad, who was running for president as part of a slate of people challenging the existing board, claims Bortolin “almost started a physical altercation,” and used profane language and “tactics of intimidation, bullying and abusing/harassing myself and others who were present.”
On Wednesday, Haddad, who was banned from city hall and other municipal offices for more than three years starting in 2009, said he made the complaint to the city’s Integrity Commissioner because: “When you’re an elected official, you do have to hold yourself up to a higher standard.”
Bortolin, who’s running provincially for the Liberals in Windsor West, has apologized for his language, but he told The Star “there was no bullying, no intimidation, no harassment whatsoever.”
Whether there are other complaints filed recently in addition to the three from Haddad, Bondy and Liedtke is unknown. Elman refused to comment about how many complaints have been filed and by whom, citing strict confidentiality rules. He would only say that if, hypothetically, he received three complaints in one week, it would be an unusually high number.
He noted that the Bortolin report is the first one requested by council since Elman was asked to investigate then-Ward 10 Coun. Al Maghnieh six years ago over his use of a corporate credit card for personal and unauthorized spending.
“This is a very, very well-behaved council, we need to make that point,” he said. “They take their jobs very seriously and they do their jobs in a professional manner — all of them.”