For the second time in less than a month, an integrity investigation has found Adjala-Tosorontio Coun. Floyd Pinto guilty of breaking council’s code of conduct.
The report prepared by Harold Elston of Elston Watt Barristers and Solicitors also found Pinto guilty of harassing the township’s director of planning, Jacquie Tschekalin, who initiated the investigation after making formal complaints about Pinto and Coun. Bob Meadows earlier this year.
The complaints about Meadows will be dealt with in a separate report.
The report recommends reprimanding Pinto for “having injured the reputation of staff and for having causes harassment in the workplace” by removing him from the role as the chair of the land use planning and development committee.
The investigator came to his conclusion after conducting extensive interviews with both parties and witnesses. He also reviewed Pinto’s blog posts, newsletters and emails, and evidence he provided at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing for the Everett gravel pit appeal.
Tschekalin, who has worked at the township since 2010, alleged the councillors of making defamatory statements about her over the past several years aimed at “undermining her professional credibility.”
“These activities are creating an intolerable, toxic workplace environment and placing my professional credibility in jeopardy; the harassment needs to stop,” she wrote.
Tschekalin accused Pinto of providing false and misleading information to the public on a number of issues, such as the Colgan development, the gravel pit and various other planning matters.
While a number of the complaints predated the code of conduct being passed in June 2016, the investigator said he was “entitled to consider a pattern of behavior.”
When reached for comment, Pinto said he wasn’t given enough specifics about the allegations and was under the impression he would be meeting with the investigator again before the report was made public.
But in his report, Elston said Pinto “was provided sufficient details.”
The report notes that Pinto, who was first election in 2010 and is currently running for mayor, stopped speaking to Tschekalin for about 3.5 years ago.
During the investigation, Pinto raised a number of concerns with Elston. Pinto complained about residents not getting answers at public meetings, along with other issues, like him not getting technical documents and meeting minutes when requested.
According to Elston, Pinto believes people have the perception that the planner “is not taking up their cause” and that “they come to him for answers.”
He said Pinto also denied ever saying she was wrong, but said “at every meeting the public has questions that the complainant (Tschekalin) won’t answer.”
As part of the evidence submission, Elston said the treatment Tschekalin has received from Pinto “has been a source of dismay and frustration for several years.”
In November 2015, she wrote a letter to Pinto to express the concerns and asked to him make sure everything he was writing in his blog and flyers was correct, and to stop making false accusations about the performance of her duties as the planner.
She asked him to keep the letter confidential, but Pinto ignored the request and posted it to his blog.
Pinto’s close association with Concerned Citizens of Adjala-Tosorontio, a residents group opposed to the gravel pit, is also noted in the report.
“The complainant knew of Councillor Pinto’s position and his connection to the CCAT, but felt it was her job to render an objective, professional opinion, notwithstanding Councillor Pinto’s opposition to the Nelson (gravel pit) proposal,” wrote Elston.
Since the Nelson issue, Tschekalin said she believes Pinto thinks that “everything she says or does is wrong.”
“In connection with these, as well as several other more minor matters, the complainant feels that she has been under attack by Coun. Pinto,” wrote Elston. “He has consistently, in public, argued with the complainant and asserted that her facts and opinions are wrong. It is, in her words, much beyond simply irritating.”
Tschekalin told Elston that Pinto is known to “misstate or misrepresent the true status of developments, the township’s procedures, or her responses to the public, in order to undermine her opinion, and often, council’s position, to advance his private agenda.”
Tschekalin described a meeting with Pinto in her office, where he allegedly told her “he didn’t care about her professional planning opinion, because he was a professional councillor.”
She also accused him trying to blindside her at meetings by not asking for information beforehand.
“Over the past few years, Councillor Pinto no longer comes to talk to staff to understand the background and applicable policies concerning an issue or community concern, but instead, he raises the matter directly at a meeting of council, taking staff and their fellow councillors off guard,” Elston wrote. “Last minute items are added to the agenda and council meeting have become theatre.”
Tschekalin told the investigator she is “unable to sleep” and has been “made sick by the stress”, which has “reduced her effectiveness.”
And when Pinto doesn’t get his way, Tschekalin said he resorts to his blog.
“There is never a positive or constructive solution offered,” Elston wrote. “Morale has declined and staff at all levels are disenchanted with the dysfunction of council. Good people have left and more will be leaving.”
Pinto was also accused of being “openly disrespectful” to the mayor and other women in management positions.
To read the full report
Council will vote on the recommendations of the report at a special meeting taking place Monday, July 9 at 5:30 p.m.