Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Jennifer Quinn and Paul Moloney

p. B1.

City hall's True Blue blame game

Gardner, mayor say council should have stayed out of it

As both the police association and the force's civilian overseers dig in for what could be a costly, lengthy legal battle over Operation True Blue, Toronto's mayor is asking a judge for the right to speak.

Police services board chairperson Norm Gardner said the court fight — which he estimated could cost taxpayers $500,000 — might have been averted if city council had stayed out of the fray.

"I think — and the mayor does too — that we would have had this situation solved by (today) if council had not gotten involved," Gardner said.

"Now, we're all in a situation where nobody can back off."

Toronto Police Association president Craig Bromell, citing the pending court battle, is not commenting on the actions.

At a meeting last Wednesday, the mayor asked the police services board for a week to work out a settlement with the association. But the next day, city councillors voted unanimously to ask the police board to pass a bylaw banning the campaign. At an emergency meeting Friday, they did.

The councillor who tabled the motion defended the council's action yesterday, saying a tough stance had to be taken.

"OH, come on," Councillor Anne Johnston (North Toronto) said. "There had to be a stop put to the True Blue campaign."

Yesterday saw both sides take the first steps in the fight over the fundraising campaign.

The Toronto Police Association headed to the Superior Court of Justice's Divisional Court to file a notice of application for judicial review.

They're asking that a bylaw, passed unanimously by the police services board Friday to outlaw the telemarketing fundraising campaign, be tossed out.

"The association is seeking a declaration that the bylaw, and any orders made by Chief David Boothby based on the bylaw, be declared by the court to be void and of no force and effect," read a union statement.

The association's application asks that the board's bylaw be struck down, that the chief's orders be considered void, and for legal costs and damages.

For its part, the services board — which provides civilian oversight to the force — also had its lawyers working yesterday.

They filled their statement of claim in the Superior Court of Justice, the first step in obtaining an injunction to stop Operation True Blue. "The defendants have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy and have violated the Police Services Act and the common law," the statement of claim reads.

It names the eight board members of the union — including Bromell and seeks a permanent injunction to stop the association from fundraising.

It also asks that the association be required to refund all cash it raised through Operation True Blue to the donors, or in "such manner as the court may direct."

Like the association's application, the board is seeking legal costs and any damages the court thinks appropriate.

Boothby has said he intends to pursue charges of discreditable conduct against the association's board of directors.

Board member Olivia Chow said the only people who will come out on top in this fight are the lawyers, and chastised the association for pushing the issue into court.

"I think they've lost sight of who they're supposed to serve. They're supposed to serve the rank and file, on contract negotiations, on grievances," she said.

"The union definitely has no sense of what is reality and they've lost sense of who they're really supposed to work for."

Mayor Mel Lastman's silence came after the association, fighting to keep its controversial fundraising campaign alive, retained a lawyer in a firm where Lastman's son Dale works. The silence is a change for the outspoken mayor — and it's one he's unwilling to accept.

After contracting the city solicitor, Lastman retained municipal lawyer George Rust D'Eye for advise on whether he had a conflict of interest requiring him to withdraw from the debate.

The mayor should remain silent because he could be disqualified from holding elected office for up to 10 years if he were found to have acted in a conflict of interest, Rust D'Eye said.

"I want to be able to speak," Lastman said. He asked me not to discuss it. He's my lawyer and I've got to listen to him."

The mayor — also a member of the police services board — hopes to jump back into the fray over the campaign by Friday.

Rust D'Eye, former Metro solicitor now in private practice, told reporters he doesn't believe the mayor has a conflict, but it's best for him to remain mum until a judge rules on it.

At city hall, the Toronto Police association's choice of legal counsel was portrayed as a masterful move to silence the mayor.

"I don't know whether it's deliberate or not but whoever came up with the strategy is brilliant," Chow said.

City council's voice is muted with Lastman sidelined, said Councillor David Miller.

"this is the kind of issue where you really need to stand up and be forceful and you need the leader of council to be in a position to lead," Miller said.

"The mayor is the head of council and speaks for the council, particularly when it's unanimous. Just by definition, there isn't somebody else who can do that."

"My advise always is don't take a chance. My advise to him is that he should act on the basis that he does have an interest until we get a court declaration that he doesn't."

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 8, 2000
Last modified: October 8, 2000
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