Councillor Boorish Behaviour at Budget Committee public meeting

To: Janet Leiper, Integrity Commissioner for the City of Toronto Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dear Ms. Leiper:

I am a retired secondary school teacher and am married with four adult children and nine grandchildren.

I wish to file an informal complaint under the ‘Code of Conduct for Members of Council City of Toronto’, articles XI and XIV which I have copied at the end.

The complaint is against the way that Councillor Mike Del Grande as chair of the Budget Committee ran the meeting that I observed and against something he said and with something Councillor Georgio Mammoliti said and in a lesser way what Councillor Frances Nunziata said several times to deputants.

The circumstances are as follows. I attended the Budget Committee public hearings on the City of Toronto’s 2012 Budget during the morning of Thursday, December 8, 2011 from 9:30 am until the lunch break at 12 pm which took place in meeting room #1 on the second floor. I was a deputant and was the second speaker of the day and was listened to respectfully for my time limit of three minutes. I took my seat and planned to listen to the other deputations that were scheduled. Within a few minutes there was some commenting from the audience about some matter resulting in the Chair of the Budget Committee, Councillor Mike Del Grande reminding the audience that they must keep quiet and that commenting would prevent other deputants from speaking. There was some further talk which was often a response to what was being said, which seemed normal to me given that this was the only opportunity citizens of Toronto were going to get to respond to this budget which was going to impact their lives. Councillor Del Grande said at one point that if the audience was not quiet he would ‘clear the room.’ The audience comments were not loud and were not disruptive to me or anyone near me. About this time Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti came into the room, sat down, probably listened to one deputation and then asked a question as councillors are allowed to do. However he had a comment to make in addition to the question and a male person who is originally from Latin America in front of me made a fairly quiet remark about what Councillor Mammoliti had said. Councillor Mammoliti then verbally attacked this person and said that the person had called him a liar. Councillor Del Grande then verbally threatened this individual that he would be asked to leave if he said any more and two security guards approached this man and said something quietly to him. There was some further commenting from the audience and then Councillor Del Grande said maybe “we should sing Cumbaya” and he also made a comment, I’m not sure in what order these two events were, but he said clearly – that ‘these people are from Mars’ – referring to the audience. The audience responded immediately with questions as to what he meant by this comment but my interpretation was that it was a remark meant to demean the citizens in attendance as if we were kind of weird or something like that.

Later either during one of his questions or just as a comment Councillor Mammoliti said loudly that the people in attendance at this meeting were “the same five hundred who always show up”. I interpreted this as being intended to demean or diminish the group in attendance, most of whom were there to express their concern with budget cuts to the most vulnerable people in Toronto. I was insulted at this comment as well as the one by Councillor Del Grande because I thought the elected officials of Toronto took seriously and wanted to hear the opinions of the three hundred plus citizens who were willing to spend hours at City Hall so as to give their three minutes of advice.

During the morning as well, a middle aged woman and man came in and sat down. Almost immediately Councillor Del Grande was talking about the fact that not all deputants were going to be able to speak today since there were more of them than time allowed, and that they should submit their deputation in writing. This woman who I know but whose privacy I wish to protect, commented from the front row that “the hearings should go on tomorrow.” Mr. Del Grande stared at her and said if she said one more word she would be removed from the meeting. A woman friend and I, sitting in the second row had made many comments without such a threat so I was surprised at the response of Mr. Del Grande. The woman made a further remark, not loudly and Councillor Del Grande ordered her to be removed. The two security guards came to her and physically walked her out, with her shouting what a disgrace this was or something of that nature.

At that point I was really wondering what kind of meeting this was – surely not a safe place for a citizen to express themselves to their elected representatives.

Another young man, an Afro-Canadian sitting behind me spoke up and asked to be allowed to take the place of a deputant who was absent, and there were many, but Councillor Del Grande denied his request. The two security guards began to get close to him and I was concerned and I told them to leave him alone. No-one said or did anything to me for that but the woman who had been removed had only made two remarks and was treated like dirt for it by Councillor Del Grande and the two security guards. Later, just prior to the lunch break the same young man spoke up about the need for community centres (which are recommended to be closed) to be used to help train future athletes and the two security guards came to him and physically ushered him out.

My comment about Councillor Nunziata had to do with her aggressive way of presenting her idea to some deputants who spoke about the need to raise taxes – “since you want taxes to be raised would you be willing to volunteer to pay more on your own taxes?” I thought she was being aggressive to deputants who disagreed with her on a matter and that it was not her place to be demanding something of them when this forum was for the purpose of listening to the citizens. She also at one point shouted at a deputant which was noticed by us all and by Councillor Janet Davis who asked Ms. Nunziata to stop shouting at the deputant.

All in all I came home feeling like I had been in an insulting and threatening environment – particularly with the threats of being removed from the meeting and having two security guards constantly approaching and removing certain people – two of whom were of colour and one of which was a middle aged woman who was not acting extreme in any way.

I have attended many council meetings and committee meetings in the City of Hamilton and the Town of Ancaster where I am from and I have never come away from a committee meeting feeling like I do now due to the harsh, unthoughtful and brow beating way I saw citizens being treated this morning.

I wish for there to be an apology to all the deputants and observers who were at this meeting, from Councillor Del Grande for the way he set the tone of the meeting with his threats that “he is in charge here”. No he’s not – the citizens are in charge! I also want him to apologize for calling the people at the meeting – “from Mars”.

I also want an apology to deputants and observers from Councillor Mammoliti for saying out loud that the group of citizens at the meeting are “the same five hundred who always show up”. Both of these comments are demeaning and disrespectful of citizens who these councillors say they are serving, and I think, violate Code of Conduct, Articles XI and XIV, which talk about conducting oneself with decorum, and being treated without abuse, bullying or intimidation”. I think both of these Articles were violated at this Budget Committee meeting. I wish a promise that it will not happen again.

I wish for Councillor Nunziata to allow deputants to speak without being harrassed by her to pay voluntary taxes if she does not agree with their deputation. I ask her to stop doing this and to not shout at deputants in future.

CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS OF COUNCIL CITY OF TORONTO

XI. CONDUCT AT COUNCIL AND COMMITTEE MEETINGS
Members shall conduct themselves with decorum at Council and committee meetings in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 27, Council Procedures, of the Municipal Code (the Council Procedures By-law).

XIV. DISCREDITABLE CONDUCT
All members of Council have a duty to treat members of the public, one another, and staff appropriately and without abuse, bullying or intimidation, and to ensure that their work environment is free from discrimination and harassment. The Ontario Human Rights Code applies and if applicable, the City’s Human Rights and Anti-harassment Policy, and Hate Activity Policy.

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About Murray Lumley

Board member of Conscience Canada; Christian Peacemaker Teams Reservist; retired teacher; grandfather
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