Norfolk mayor cited for privacy violation

Article content

The “sh*t sandwich” Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp shared with Municipal Affairs Minister Steven Clark earlier this year may not have been very appealing, but it did not violate the county’s code of conduct and procedural bylaws, a report to Norfolk council says.

But Toronto lawyer Meghan Cowan, an investigator with the office of Norfolk’s integrity commissioner, says Chopp violated confidentiality provisions by sharing the identity of the complainant with senior staff.

In her report, Cowan recommends that council reprimand Chopp for her actions.

“The mayor was well aware of the confidentiality provision given that Bylaw 2018-33 (the integrity commissioner bylaw) was amended recently at her and council’s insistence, and the (integrity commissioner) notice specifically instructed her to maintain the confidentiality of the complainant’s identity.”

In her report, Cowan says Chopp shared the identity of the complainant with CAO Jason Burgess. The complainant – former Simcoe Coun. Peter Black – consented to the use of his name following a media inquiry on June 12.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Black was also one of two to file a formal complaint with Norfolk’s integrity commissioner after Chopp tore up a planner’s report in front of the author during a council meeting in January 2019. In his report on that incident, commissioner John Mascarin, a Toronto lawyer, upheld the complaint.

In her report last week, Meghan Cowan was critical of Chopp’s actions at the annual general meeting of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) in Toronto. However, Cowan said the incident didn’t rise to the level of a formal violation of the county’s code of conduct, largely because the Clark delegation didn’t take offence to it.

“The action may not have been exercised with the degree of dignity and decorum that is typically accorded in a meeting with a Crown minister,” Cowan, who represents the Toronto law firm Aird and Berlis, says in her report.

“However, it did not appear that any individual that was present at the meeting took any significant offence to the mayor’s action in displaying the `shit sandwich’ image.”

During the ROMA conference, the Norfolk County delegation met at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto Jan. 19 with officials from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

Chopp began her presentation by sliding an illustrated image of a “sh*t sandwich” across the table to where Clark was sitting. She asked Clark if he knew what this was.

“The minister responded that it was a ‘sh*t sandwich,’” Cowan says in her report.

“The mayor replied that he was correct. She removed or withdrew the image and pivoted to describe the various economic issues facing her municipality. The mayor retained the copy of the image and it was not displayed again during the remainder of the meeting.”

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

In his complaint to Norfolk’s integrity commissioner in February – a copy of which has been shared with The Reformer – Black said, “This behaviour is in stark contrast to promoting the purposes of the municipality, does not represent the people in Norfolk properly, and could very well hurt the economic, social and environmental well-being of the county.

“Who will want to deal with someone portraying this attitude and behaviour?”

Cowan’s report was on the agenda of the June 16 meeting of Norfolk council. Chopp recently indicated that she intended to address the issues raised by this latest appeal once it is tabled.

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers