By Chris Pickup

A report from Integrity Commissioner John Mascarin on a complaint that had been filed against Mayor Ken Hewitt under the county’s Code of Conduct, has absolved Hewitt on all allegations.

What was disturbing about this issue was not the report’s conclusion, which was presented at council in committee Tuesday, but councillor Leroy Bartlett’s reaction.

Bartlett exploded in a rant that basically denied residents’ right to question whether there might be wrongdoing on the part of councillors.

“What’s the cost to Haldimand council?” he asked. “It’s an exercise in futility.

“This is what it used to be like with the OMB. It’s the same kind of process. Someone can put up their 250 bucks and drag out a decision or go before the OMB and hold up all kinds of development on something with very little merit.

“There’s members of the public who think it’s prudent to spend taxpayers’ money on things frivolously, stupidly, idiotically for absolutely nothing. It’s frustrating, we work fairly hard, staff really hard, and we’re not spending taxpayers money without good solid thought. It drives me nuts.

“We have no recourse. How can we recoup, how can we get the money back?”

Of course, Bartlett failed to note that taxpayers’ money was ponied up by taxpayers in the first place, and as such they have a right to question how it is being spent.

And as the county’s Karen General noted, this is a process the provincial government has put in place to enable people to question.

Grice noted that the report showed “no evidence whatsoever financial-wise, business-wise, personal-wise or otherwise. It’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues, but it’s the public’s right to enquire through transparency. It is a process, it’s public, it’s out there. It gives them (councillors) a chance to prove themselves.”

“We have no choice,” Bartlett reiterated. “It irks me to no end to get a report with no wrongdoing.” 

Well Mr. Bartlett, my advice is to get over yourself. You might be a councillor, but you’re not the be all and end all of wisdom.

Whoever filed the complaint obviously had concerns about Hewitt’s relationship with developers, and with all the issues being raised about various developments in the county, looked for answers through an independent party. AS IS HIS OR HER RIGHT.

The complaint under the county’s Code of Conduct alleged Hewitt had received  a special benefit from a developer when he moved into a house owned by said developer, among other issues.

Mascarin, who has impeccable credentials in municipal government,  completely exonerated Hewitt on all counts, noting that he had signed a lease at fair market value or more, according to comparisons with surrounding municipalities, and documentation showed he was paying monthly. This was information residents had no access to.

The other allegations, pertaining to voting patterns around quarry issues, were also dismissed.

Which leaves us with questions about Bartlett’s arrogant attitude indicating  taxpayers have no business questioning what the high and mighty council might be doing with their money. Or that councillors are somehow above suspicion.

With all the evidence surfacing in recent news media reports about other councils’ wrongdoings, including the recent Collingwood one which involved thousands of dollars, he might want to think again.

He speaks of his frustration, but just a glance at social media all around the county speaks of residents’ frustration on all manner of issues to do with the county that are not being addressed to their satisfaction.

As a council you might be working hard, but are you working for what YOU   believe should be happening in the county without adequately taking into account the wishes of the people who pay your wage? It’s the “my way or the highway” attitude without really sitting down with the people who don’t agree with you – all around the county – that’s driving this process.

Dunnville residents are unhappy with the whole process that led to their waterfront park.

Caledonia went to the OMB to keep the old mill from becoming a commercial office building. There was good reason to do so but somehow lawyers took over the process and they ended up worse off with extra parking cluttering up their waterfront.

And don’t get me going – again – on Cayuga’s situation. If you think removing all the buildings off the municipal portion of the courthouse grounds to make way for housing to pay for the new CAB was going to go down well with Cayuga residents, then think again.

And you well know the library/heritage complex issue where the lack of parking is now about to drive small downtown business to the wall.

It’s the LACK OF PROPER RESPECT FOR CITIZENS’ VIEWPOINTS that’s turning parts of this county into a virtual war zone. You, all seven of you, made up your minds ahead of time and stuck to it regardless of what anyone else might have to say.

Now you have to deal with the frustration and desperation that leads to charges like this. There is nowhere else for people to turn.