Coun. Josh Matlow to lose 10 days' pay after report says tweets violated code of conduct

Counc. Josh Matlow will lost 10 days pay after a report by the integrity commissioner found he violated the city's code of conduct for tweets against two city staff members. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC - image credit)
Counc. Josh Matlow will lost 10 days pay after a report by the integrity commissioner found he violated the city's code of conduct for tweets against two city staff members. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC - image credit)

Toronto city council voted on Friday to dock 10 days pay from Coun. Josh Matlow for comments he made online about two city public servants.

Integrity Commissioner Jonathan Batty, who investigated two complaints made by city staff against Matlow, said his actions violated the code of conduct for members of council. He recommended the docking of pay in a report considered by council on Friday. Matlow may lose up to $5,000 in pay, starting May 1.

"Speaker, these are very serious matters," Batty told city council on Friday.

Matlow, who represents Toronto-St. Paul's, criticized city staff on Twitter last summer. He accused city staff of lying to him in an email about whether all city park bathrooms had been opened, which was a topic of public debate last summer.

Matlow also criticized the appointment of Tracey Cook as interim city manager. When she complained, Matlow engaged in "subsequent reprisal," the report said.

On Friday, he defended his comments and did not issue an apology.

The docking of pay comes after Matlow announced he would run for mayor to replace John Tory following his resignation. Tory resigned after admitting to an "inappropriate relationship" with someone in his office, a woman more than 30 years younger than himself. The integrity commissioner is also looking into that matter.

In the report, the integrity commissioner outlines the behind-the-scenes exchanges between city staff and the mayor's office that led to Matlow receiving erroneous information, but says the councillor's actions upon receiving that information via email violated the code of conduct.

According to the code, councillors must treat city employees appropriately.

Report looked at 2 complaints by city staff

The first complaint, made by former city manager Chris Murray, was in regards to a tweet from Matlow on June 16, 2022 that commented on information he received from the general manager of parks, forestry and recreation.

"I don't appreciate being lied to. Nor should you. All park bathrooms were not opened by May 24 this year. That's unquestionably untrue," Matlow tweeted on June 16.

The second complaint was made by then-interim city manager Tracey Cook when Matlow tweeted the mayor and council chose the "very wrong" person to serve as acting city manager on July 19, 2022.

"I refuse to ignore Tracey Cook's decisions to omit facts regarding SmartTrack, and her approach to the violent encampment clearings. I can't support this choice in good conscience," he said in a tweet.

Coun. Jon Burnside claimed the tweets were a form of bullying, saying staff cannot defend themselves publicly because doing so is against city rules.

"It's about bullying people who work tirelessly for the city and for all of us. It's about punching people in the face who can't punch back," Burnside said.

Coun. Michael Thompson demanded that Matlow apologize.

"I have not heard an apology today. It would go a long way in my view," Thompson said.

Matlow defends tweets

Matlow, for his part, said the integrity commissioner's report shows that the office of former mayor John Tory was encouraging city staff to release only select information to him about the opening of park washrooms.

"I heard rhetoric from some members today about how a tweet was like a punch in the face. I couldn't help but think about the people who were living in our parks who literally were punched."

The docking of pay also comes after Toronto Ombudsman Kwame Addo says the city chose "speed over people" when it cleared homeless encampments in Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra and Lamport Stadium parks in the summer of 2021.

Addo said Toronto showed "significant unfairness" in the encampment clearings.