Vancouver mayor wants investigation of critical councillor

Robertson pondering appointment of independent investigator

Mayor Gregor Robertson says he will meet with the city solicitor to determine whether an independent investigator should be appointed to investigate a councillor for publicly criticizing city manager Penny Ballem.

Robertson is pursuing the option under the citys code of conduct rules despite an apology that Coun. Adriane Carr gave to Ballem in council chambers Tuesday.

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Thats the next step that Im looking at, he told the Courier Friday. Its fine that [Carr] took that initial step to apologize but I have to assess the whole process with code of conduct violations and Ill be working on that in the days ahead.

Added Robertson: Were all concerned that [Carr] stepped way over the line in attacking city staff on political issues. Thats off limits.

The code of conduct says Robertson has 30 days to appoint a third party identified and agreed upon between the complainant and respondent as having the necessary professional skills, knowledge and experience to investigate the complaint.

The complaint was prompted by Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs who made his intentions known at Tuesdays council meeting that he wanted the mayor to pursue a code of conduct investigation.

I think its important to determine whether or not the actions of Coun. Carr over the last couple of days have violated the code of conduct, said Meggs, who formally sent a letter to Robertson to initiate the complaint.

The controversy erupted last week when Carr accused Ballem of resorting to bullying tactics to prevent her from introducing a motion tied to a park board issue.

Carr wanted a report back to council on the potential impacts on the citys budget after the park board implements its plan to shift management of community centres from their associations to the park board.

She told reporters that Ballem contacted her in an effort to quash the motion. Ballem declined to discuss the matter when asked to comment.

Reached Friday, Carr said she was disappointed Robertson and his Vision colleagues were choosing to investigate her under the code of conduct. She noted she had already publicly apologized to Ballem.

My feeling is theyre pursuing this to divert attention from themselves and their own behaviour, she said, referring to citizens unrest with the Vision-dominated park boards controversial community centre plan.

Robertson said at city hall Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for city council to involve itself in the park boards affairs while the board is negotiating a new agreement with community centres.

In 2008, the city hired criminal lawyer Richard Peck to investigate how a confidential document regarding the Olympic Village was leaked to the media.

Contents of the document were leaked to the Globe and Mail during the 2008 civic election campaign. The story revealed council unanimously approved a $100 million loan to ensure construction of the Olympic Village would continue. The leak became the focal point of the campaign.

Pecks probe was done as the Vancouver Police Department conducted an investigation that involved several councillors agreeing to a polygraph test.

In the end, no charges were laid and the source of the leak was never found. Peck, however, did recommend the city hire an integrity commissioner, whose duties would include investigating city councillors who contravene the citys code of conduct.

Thats because the oversight and accountability provisions in the citys code were lacking, said Peck at the time. The city has since updated its code but has not hired a commissioner.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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