By Ryan McGreal
Published September 11, 2008
Last night Council voted 8-4 not to censure Mayor Fred Eisenberger related to his "off the record" interview with Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel, which was later leaked to the press.
The conversation concerned Council's decision to terminate Lee Anne Coveyduck, the former general manager of planning and economic development, and controversy swirled around leaks of confidential information from Council to the local newsmedia.
Dreschel interviewed Eisenberger about the matter around the same time that the Mayor sent out a blistering email to Council decrying the "blatant lack of integrity" that the leaks entailed.
This past June, the Mayor abruptly called a press conference in which he stated that he believed he had "contravened the Council's Code of Conduct" after a recording of the interview by Ian Dovey, Eisenberger's former media advisor, was leaked to the newsmedia.
Excerpts from the recording were published in the Hamilton Community News. It later materialized that Councillor Brad Clark had leaked the tape after a copy was sent to him by Dovey, who was let go in 2007.
Dovey is now suing the city for wrongful dismissal.
Council made its decision based on a recommendation by George H. Rust-D'Eye, an independent lawyer hired to investigate the incident. That recommendation has been made public (PDF link), though it is heavily redacted to protect confidential information.
Rust-D'Eye argued in his recommendation that the content of the mayor's interview with Dreschel was largely already in the public domain when the conversation took place.
[A]t least most of the information communicated by the mayor to Mr. Dreschel in their telephone conversation, represented by that time a decision of the Council already made at the public meeting held on May 16, 2007, and was thus a matter of public record and municipal policy, at the time that the discussion took place.
Both the documentation which I have been provided, and my several interviews with each of the Mayor and Mr. Dreschel, lead me to the conclusion that the Mayor has acted consistently throughout in his attempts to protect the interests of the City of Hamilton, to prevent unauthorized leaks of confidential City information to the public, to provide context and background in response to the publication of what he sees to be inaccuration information, and to [rest of sentence redacted].
Rust-D'Eye noted the issue of "the divulging of the oral legal opinion provided to the City by its solicitor", an opinion that was provided confidentially in an in camera Council meeting.
He concluded that this did constitute "a contravention of the Code of Conduct" but that it was undertaken in a manner consistent with the Mayor's duties under Section 226.1 of the Municipal Act, 2001.
He recommended that the City not impose any sanction on the Mayor, because:
I believe that the motives and objectives of Mayor Eisenberger in attempting to deal with unauthorized leaks of information and to correct misinformation, were wholly proper, consistent with the duties of his office, and done in the public interest.
Rust-D'Eye also concluded that the recording of the conversation between Eisenberger and Dreschel was not a criminal matter.
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