Agenda Notes: Committee of the Whole January 9, 2017

By: Laura Steiner

Milton Council returns to work January 9 with a council meeting, followed by a Committee of the Whole meeting.  The Committee of the Whole receives reports from Town Staff, hosts delegations, and debates issues.  This week’s agenda includes a reception of a report on the future of Downtown Milton “for information,” and a “Notice of Motion” from Ward 4 Councillor Rick Malboeuf.

Malboeuf is bringing forward a motion to have Ward 5 councillor Arnold Huffman’s 2014 campaign finances investigated.  It’s being seconded by Ward 8 Councillor Zeeshan Hamid, and requests the appointment of an independent auditor to investigate claims that Huffman accepted five personal cash donations in excess of $25.00 (the minimum amount candidates are allowed to accept under the municipal elections act).

This story has been around since the 2014 municipal elections.  One of Huffman’s opponents was Mike Bugala.  Bugala brought forward a request for audit, which, was dismissed in July, 2014 by the audit committee due to lack of evidence.  The motion reads in part: “The applicant, and some members of council have received information from reliable sources that Councillor Huffman may have filed a false declaration of expenses form, and misled the members of the compliance audit committee.”  Someone  has evidence, and is willing to test it.

This is a highly political situation. The boundary realignment puts  Rick Malboeuf, and Arnold Huffman in ward 2.  If both councillors decide to run where they live,  this motion could be about sticking it to a potential opponent instead of any actual wrongdoing.    Hamid loses ward 8 in the boundary realignment as it’s enfolded into ward 4.   Should Malboeuf decide to stay in ward 4 that puts the two of them against each other.  The motion makes it a matter of public record regardless of innocence.  Allegations stick around on the Internet, long after names are cleared.

There are two years left on this council.   Pitting councillors against each other could create a negative working atmosphere.  How much will get done if there are doubts about a colleague’s integrity? Probably not very much.  It’s this that also makes me wonder if there is any intention to investigate at all. Presumably, everyone is running for re-election.  How does it look to have one of your own investigated for financial irregularities? That’s not a good image to project to voters especially with current attitudes towards politicians.  It might be enough to turn some people off supporting this motion.

These allegations are serious enough to warrant an investigation, and the only way to do that is with the independent auditor.  If there’s nothing there, Huffman’s name is cleared.  Council can move on.