Anne Jarvis • Windsor Star
City council’s integrity commissioner quietly dropped an investigation into a complaint against Mayor Drew Dilkens one day before the deadline for such reports heading into the October election.
Jon Liedtke, co-owner of Higher Limits and a frequent political commentator, complained to commissioner Bruce Elman May 9 that the mayor had blocked him from his Twitter account.
At the time, Dilkens called Liedtke’s comments on social media “highly inappropriate.”
“I stand by my decision and I absolutely 100 per cent look forward to the integrity commissioner’s investigation and report,” the mayor said at the time.
But Dilkens notified Elman last week that he had unblocked Liedtke.
“I suggest to you that this is a solution to the complaint,” he wrote in a letter to Elman.
“I view this as an appropriate informal settlement of your complaint,” Elman wrote in a letter to Liedtke the next day. “I will, therefore, be closing the file.”
Elman cited an advisory he sent to council in 2016 stating that, generally, members of council should not block the public from social media. The subject isn’t covered by council’s code of conduct, he wrote, but if blocking the public is seen as “abusive, intimidating or bullying,” it could be considered discreditable conduct.
However, with Liedtke’s complaint against the mayor, “I make no finding in this case…”
The commissioner should have completed the investigation and issued a finding, Liedtke said.
“It was never about whether I was blocked by the mayor,” he said. “It was about whether elected officials have the ability to prohibit discourse on municipal issues.
“It’s about the ability of constituents to be informed about what their elected representatives are saying and to engage with other constituents,” he said.
The mayor and city staff use social media to post about important issues, he stated in his original complaint.
Blocking the public from seeing and responding to these posts is “akin to if an elected official said we’re not going to take your phone calls, your emails, your posted letters, and you can’t come to city council as a delegate,” he said Thursday. “You can pay your taxes, but that’s the end.”
What about others who have been blocked by the mayor? he asked.
Dilkens said when Liedtke filed his complaint that he had blocked five people from Twitter and one from Facebook.
Elman, who is currently out of the country, refused to comment on his decision.
“The matter is, as far as I am concerned, confidential,” he replied in an email.
Dilkens did not respond to a request for comment.
In his letter to Elman, Dilkens called Liedtke’s comments on social media “belligerent behaviour amounting to trolling.”
Liedtke refuted that.
“The man is the mayor,” he said. “If he’s not able to take pointed criticism regarding his policy decisions, then I say get out of the political arena.”
Elman’s advisory warned councillors that blocking the public on social media because they don’t agree with you “is not an appropriate use of this function.”
Dilkens also wrote in his letter to Elman that Liedtke didn’t file his complaint properly. He didn’t sign the affidavit, Dilkens wrote.
Elman, in a controversial decision in May, ruled that Coun. Rino Bortolin should apologize and be reprimanded for a comment he made on safety in alleys. Bortolin had already apologized several times. Elman went further, saying councillors can not publicly criticize council decisions. Council accepted the recommendations.
Contrasting Elman’s decisions in the two cases, Liedtke said he’s “seemingly selectively choosing” which cases to pursue. But Liedtke acknowledged that’s part of Elman’s mandate.
Recent complaints by Liedtke and at least two others were seen as a backlash to the decision on Bortolin. But Dilkens blamed them on politicking before the municipal election, which is Oct. 22. Liedtke cited the same politicking for Dilkens unblocking him on Twitter now. The election has “caused a change of heart,” he said.
Liedtke said he is still blocked from the mayor’s Instagram.
The commissioner can not report on any complaints after June 30 in an election year.