John Beddows famously took former Gananoque mayor Ted Lojko to task over the town’s integrity commissioner during his campaign in last year’s municipal election.
The integrity commissioner, Tony Fleming of the Kingston law firm Cunningham Swan, is also the town’s lawyer.
Beddows ultimately won the election. And now, the new mayor of the waterfront community is pushing forward to fix what he believes has always been a wrong for the town.
Recently, council directed staff to publish a request for proposals (RFP) for an integrity commissioner as opposed to renewing the contract of the current commissioner.
"We’ve opened it up to a wider audience," said Beddows. "By opening it up to a larger audience, all we’re doing is defending the legitimacy of the process, instead of automatically renewing the contract.
"I believe it is the role of the public servants in a democracy to do everything they can to either defend or enhance the legitimacy of process. Democracy only works if we all believe in it, and it only works if we all play. In a democracy, perception is the reality."
But what he heard from electors, Beddows added, was that the current setup of co-existing roles for the integrity commissioner and the town’s lawyer was an issue.
"So, separating those two, I thought, was important," said Beddows. "I’m happy I got the support to get it done."
Beddows is hoping the town receives a number of offers from the RFP.
"And that we get an offer from someone who will be providing only this service to the Town of Gananoque," added the mayor.
It would also help the town avoid the appearance of conflict, he said.
"I’m not saying there was ever any conflict," Beddows stressed. "What I’m saying is we’re avoiding the appearance of an issue, and that’s an important distinction."
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times