By: Laura Steiner
Let’s be honest. Political candidates are humans too, and an election can by all too quickly. You throw out receipts you should’ve kept. You forget to invoice someone you should have. You don’t issue receipts for the right people. Mistakes happen. Allowances can be made.
But seven times? It’s difficult to see that many ‘accidents’ happening. And it’s equally challenging for Milton Council to stand by and do nothing. At Monday’s council meeting that option was on the table. They had an auditor’s report in front of them, with a staff recommendation saying to receive it for information. At seven counts it moved beyond the point where it could be excused. Council would have worn the “corrupt label.” The public would have shouted about there being an “old boys club”, or said they were “covering for each other”. The 2018 election is just over 1 year away. This couldn’t pass without action.
Whether Huffman will actually face charges remains to be seen. Councillors have to decide individually whether they can live with requesting a police investigation into one of their own. One has already said they can’t. Comments on social media from an Facebook discussion group from Ward 6 Councillor John Pollard indicate a change of heart on his part at least. He even apologized to Councillor Huffman saying he understood the cost to his reputation. Even as a report received for information it would have lived forever. One whiff of this is enough for someone to spin a whole web around Huffman. It’s one thing to get at the truth. It’s another to ruin someone’s reputation. This could be one gamble council loses.
The audit itself hints they discovered information that others broke the law. The auditors didn’t pursue them because of the limited terms of reference. In the interests of even-handedness why not look? If you want to send a message that this is not politically motivated, then I think you have to look at least. If not those shouting this is about politics of it, and calling this a witch hunt gain credibility. The gamble here is the possibility of finding another councillor with similar violations. Council might be able to eventually get past one investigation, but a second will poison the remainder of the term and the election beyond. Council loses by ignoring those other potential violations.
You can’t afford to condemn a potentially innocent man, any more than you can afford ignore the audit’s findings. It’s a no-win situation.