Judge quashes controversial Brampton city council appointment

·3 min read
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown holds a press conference with Brampton councillors, from left to right, Paul Vicente, Rowena Santos, Harkirat Singh and Michael Palleschi at Brown's office at Brampton City Hall, on July 12, 2022 following a judge's decision to quash a controversial appointment to fill a vacant seat on city council. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown holds a press conference with Brampton councillors, from left to right, Paul Vicente, Rowena Santos, Harkirat Singh and Michael Palleschi at Brown's office at Brampton City Hall, on July 12, 2022 following a judge's decision to quash a controversial appointment to fill a vacant seat on city council. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

An Ontario judge has quashed the controversial appointment of a Brampton city councillor, with Mayor Patrick Brown calling the decision a victory for democracy.

Brampton council held a special meeting on May 31 where it narrowly passed a motion to conditionally appoint Elaine Moore, a former city and regional councillor, to its ranks should Coun. Charmaine Williams win election for the Ontario PC party in the June 2 provincial election, which she did.

Six councillors voted in favour of the motion, while Brown and five others opposed it. Coun. Harkirat Singh filed a lawsuit challenging the decision.

Justice Michael Doi found Monday that vote violated the Ontario Municipal Act. "Council did not comply with clear statutory requirements for filling the vacancy and acted with a total absence of jurisdiction," Doi wrote in his decision, which you can read in full at the bottom of this story.

Brown, speaking with reporters Tuesday, welcomed Doi's finding. He alleged Moore's appointment was an attempt to "seize control" of city council and called it "egregious, wrong and illegal."

Singh said he sought legal advice on the move during the May debate, but the councillors who voted in favour ignored it.

Brampton council has not voted since Moore's appointment. As Doi notes, it has not had quorum at any of its meetings since June 8.

'In good faith'

Coun. Gurpreet Dhillon, one of the opposing councillors who moved to have Moore appointed, says while he accepts the judge's decision, the appointment was made "in good faith."

"We'll live with it. But ... it doesn't take away from what's actually going on and why they didn't want this councillor there."

CBC/Dean Gariepy
CBC/Dean Gariepy

Dhillon says Moore, who was a former adviser to Brown during his 2018 mayoral race and has been critical of his leadership thus far, would have been a key councillor to help "unearth" issues at Brampton's city hall.

"There's a pattern of behaviour that's related to what's going on in the federal level," said Dhillon.

Brown was recently disqualified from the federal Conservative leadership race over allegations he broke financing rules. He has denied any wrongdoing, and not said whether or not he will seek a second term as Brampton's mayor.

Council to resume 

Brown says he and the other councillors missed out on a month of meetings to avoid having any motions with an illegal councillor present challenged in court, noting the city is already dealing with resident pushback on recent planning and development committee approvals since Moore's appointment.

But now that it's been quashed, he says they're looking forward to filling the vacant position ahead of the municipal election in October.

"We've got a lot of work right here at city council that piled up. And so certainly, the sooner we can fill that vacancy, the better."

Judge Doi has ordered the opposing councillors Doug Whillans, Jeff Bowman, Pat Fortini and Gurpreet Dhillon to pay $20,000 in legal costs. CBC News reached out to MPP Williams, who also voted to bring Moore on before entering provincial politics, for comment on her involvement.

Moving forward, councillors Rowena Santos and Paul Vicente say they'll push a motion to have all city councillors attend mandatory Ontario Municipal Act training to avoid future incidents.

You can read Doi's decision in full below:

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