Ignores clear evidence Premier Ford offered another job to his friend Ron Taverner, that Ford’s senior staff tried to influence the OPP appointment process to favour Taverner, and that Ford participated in final approval meeting – all of which clearly violates provincial government ethics law
Democracy Watch considering filing court case challenging Integrity Commissioner’s ruling for errors of fact and law
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, March 22, 2019
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch responded to the negligently bad ruling by Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake on the Ford government’s attempted appointment of his close friend Ron Taverner as the new Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), a ruling that ignores clear evidence that several rules in the provincial government ethics law was violated by Premier Ford.
See the Backgrounder set out below that details the many flaws with Commissioner Wake’s ruling.
The ruling is as bad as Commissioner Wake’s August 2016 ruling that let the Wynne government off the hook after they held exclusive high-priced fundraising events involving lobbyists, in particular the event then-Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and then-Finance Minister Charles Sousa attended that was organized in part by an executive at Scotiabank that was involved in privatizing part of Hydro One for the Wynne government. People at banks and law firms involved in the partial-privatization were all invited to the event.
“Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s ruling on the Ford government’s attempted appointment of Ford’s close friend Ron Taverner as OPP Commissioner is one of the most negligently bad rulings by a Canadian ethics commissioner that I have seen in the past 25 years,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ford offered another government job to Taverner, and Ford’s senior staff person tried to influence the OPP appointment process to favour Taverner and Ford is responsible for his staff’s actions, and Ford also participated in the Cabinet meeting that approved Taverner’s appointment, and those are all clear violations of the provincial ethics law that Commissioner Wake negligently ignored.”
“For these reasons, Democracy Watch will consult with lawyers concerning filing a court challenge of Commissioner’s Wake’s ruling,” said Conacher.
Democracy Watch was first to file a complaint about the attempted appointment of Taverner. The evidence Commissioner Wake gathered shows clearly that:
- Premier Ford tried to hand a government job to his friend Ron Taverner, which clearly would be improper and also would further Mr. Taverner’s private interests (and therefore violates principles 2 and 4, and s. 2, of the Members’ Integrity Act);
- Premier Ford’s Cabinet staff (especially his Chief of Staff Dean French) then intervened in the process for selecting the new OPP Commissioner to tilt the process in favour of Mr. Taverner (under the fundamental principle of ministerial responsibility, Premier Ford is responsible and accountable for the actions of his staff, and therefore these actions violated principles 2 and 4, and ss. 2 and 4, of the Act), and;
- Premier Ford attended and spoke in favour of Mr. Taverner at the Cabinet meeting that approved his appointment as OPP Commissioner, which clearly violates the requirement in ss. 8 and 16 of the Act that Premier Ford remove himself from that meeting.
Sections 2 and 4 of the provincial Members’ Integrity Act prohibit provincial politicians from participating in or trying to influence any decision that could further their own interests or improperly further another person’s interests. Sections 8 and 16 of the Act require the Premier and Cabinet ministers to remove themselves from the legislature and/or a Cabinet meeting when they have a conflict of interest concerning a matter being considered or decided.
As well, an Ontario parliamentary convention that is enforceable under the Act is that Cabinet ministers and MPPs can’t use their position to help themselves, their friends or relatives (See paragraphs 24-26 on pp. 8-9 of this past Integrity Commissioner report).
That convention is reinforced in the Preamble of the Members’ Integrity Act that states the Act is based on the principles that Cabinet ministers and MPPs “are expected to act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest scrutiny” (principle 4) and “are expected to perform their duties of office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each member, maintains the Assembly’s dignity and justifies the respect in which society holds the Assembly and its members” (principle 3).
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
The following are the many negligent conclusions in Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s ruling on the Ford’s government’s attempted appointment of Ron Taverner as OPP Commissioner, conclusions that ignored clear evidence that Premier Ford violated principles 2 and 4 in the Preamble, and sections 2, 4, 8 and/or 16, of the Members’ Integrity Act:
- On pp. 21-23 of his ruling, Commissioner Wake details how Premier Ford offered his friend Ron Taverner a job on the executive of the government’s new Ontario Cannabis Store. Yet Commissioner Wake ignores this clear evidence that Premier Ford violated section 2 of the Act by offering this job to Mr. Taverner. Commissioner Wake does not give any reasons in his report why he ignored this clear evidence of Premier Ford’s violation;
- Commissioner Wake gathered all of the following evidence:
(a) On p. 30 of his ruling, in the transcript of Commissioner Wake’s interview with Dean French, Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff, Mr. French says both he and Premier Ford both recommended to then-Secretary to the Cabinet Steve Orsini (who serves at the pleasure of Premier Ford) that Ron Taverner be considered for the OPP Commissioner job (and then French corrects himself to say that only he recommended that to Orsini);
(b) On p. 31 (para. 115), Mr. French is cited as saying to Mr. Orsini that the Premier held Taverner “in high regard” and (para. 116) that he recommended to Taverner that he apply for OPP Commissioner;
(c) On p. 33 (para. 127), Mr. French confirms that he suggested to Mr. Orsini that Mario Di Tommaso be made Deputy Minister to the Minister of Community Safety;
(d) Also on pp. 33-34 (paras. 129-132), former Deputy Minister to the Minister of Community Safety Matt Torigian (who was pushed out of his position by Mr. French, as detailed on pp. 31-32) says Mr. Orsini told Mr. Torigian that he was being “pressured” to find a job for Mr. Taverner (and Mr. Orsini confirms some aspects of this conversation);
(e) On p. 35, Deputy Attorney General Paul Boniferro states that Mr. Orsini told him that “…the Premier’s Office had suggested Mr. Taverner for a role at the OCS in the summer and that he thought that the Premier’s Office would also suggest Mr. Taverner for the deputy minister role. Mr. Boniferro stated that the Secretary thought that it would be more appropriate for Mr. Taverner to apply for the OPP Commissioner position.”
(f) Also on p. 35 (para. 135), Mr. Orsini confirms that Mr. Di Tomasso was the only person he interviewed for the Deputy Minister of Community Safety position;
(g) On pp. 37-40 (paras. 139-152), it is detailed that Mr. Orsini reached out to Mr. Taverner, met with him, and let Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson (the search firm contracted to assist with the OPP Commissioner appointment) know that Mr. Taverner was interested in the OPP position;
(h) On pp. 43-44 (paras. 165-168), it is detailed that Mr. French called Mr. Orsini to request that the rank requirement in the OPP Commissioner job notice be changed;
(i) On pp. 44-45 (paras. 169-171), Derek O’Toole, Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, Policy Advisor to Mr. French, confirm that they both spoke to Mr. Orsini about changing the rank requirements in the OPP Commissioner job notice;
(j) On p. 45 (para. 173), the Executive Assistant to the General Counsel for Mr. Orsini confirms that Mr. Orsini told her that Mr. French had asked him to change the job notice, and also told her that “he suspected that Mr. Taverner called Mr. French to notify him that he would not be able to apply to the job” unless the rank requirement was changed;
(k) On p. 52 (paras. 203-204), it is confirmed that Mr. French requested to be on the selection committee for OPP Commissioner and be involved “early in the process” and that Mr. Di Tomasso (Mr. Taverner’s former boss in the Toronto Police Service) was also on the selection committee;
(l) On pp. 53-54 (paras. 205-207), it is confirmed that Mr. Orsini texted Mr. French to let him know Mr. Taverner was on the short list of candidates for OPP Commissioner, and that Mr. French responded by texting that was the “Best news all day” and that Mr. Orsini knew “they were interested in” Mr. Taverner (with “they” very likely referring to the Premier and Mr. French);
(m) On pp. 55-56 (paras. 215-216), it is confirmed that Mr. Orsini sent a text to Mr. French to let him know the “Great news” that Mr. Taverner was one of three candidates approved after the first round of interviews and that “It is now up to the second panel of you, Mario, Sal and I to recommend to the Premier.”
(n) On pp. 56-59 (paras. 219-229), it is confirmed that Mr. French, Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Harrington all attended a meeting before the second round of interviews with Mr. Badali, Mr. Di Tomasso and Mr. Orsini (all members of the selection committee), and that subsequently Mr. French (after meeting again with Mr. Orsini, and after talking with Premier Ford) finally recognized the clear conflict of interest resulting from his involvement in the selection process up to that point, and so he finally withdrew from the second-round selection committee interview process the evening before it took place;
(o) On pp. 62-3 (paras. 239-242, and see also paras. 260-261), Mr. Wake concludes that; the selection process was not independent of Premier Ford; Mr. Orsini knew that Premier Ford wanted to give Taverner a government job and had taken actions to ensure Taverner applied for the OPP Commissioner job, and; Mr. Orsini had communications with Mr. French during the selection process that favoured Mr. Taverner, and the result was the selection process was unfairly tilted in favour of Mr. Taverner;
and yet, ignoring the weight of all of this evidence, and without even mentioning that under the fundamental principle of ministerial responsibility the Premier and all Cabinet ministers are responsible and accountable for the actions of their staff, Commissioner Wake concluded that Premier Ford did not violate principles 2 and 4, or section 4, of the Act even though his staff and the Cabinet Secretary intervened to tilt the appointment process in favour of Mr. Taverner (with some evidence that Premier Ford was involved at least in Mr. French’s actions). See Commissioner Wake’s reasons for ignoring this extensive evidence on pp. 79-90 of his ruling.
- On pp. 63-67 (paras. 243-255), it is detailed that:
(a) Orsini then proposed that Premier Ford not be involved in the Cabinet decision to approve Mr. Taverner as OPP Commissioner, but he was overruled by the Premier’s Office;
(b) Premier Ford attended the Cabinet meeting at which the approval decision was made, with Cabinet ministers knowing he was friends with Mr. Taverner, and that Premier Ford made a comment in support of Mr. Taverner’s appointment;
but Commissioner Wake ignored that clear evidence that Mr. Ford violated principles 2 and 4, and sections 4, 8 and 16, of the Act by attending the meeting and speaking in favour of the appointment and failing to remove himself for the discussion and vote approving the appointment of his friend Mr. Taverner. See Commissioner Wake’s reasons for ignoring this clear evidence on pp. 93-96 of his ruling.