The City of Brampton’s former Integrity Commissioner Muneeza Sheikh has begun legal proceedings at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the City of Brampton, accusing a group of six Councillors of illegally changing city bylaws to quash ongoing Code of Conduct investigations and terminating her contract.
The Councillors, referred to by Sheikh as the “Bloc” include Martin Medeiros, Jeff Bowman, Pat Fortini, Charmaine Williams, Gurpreet Dhillon and Doug Whillans. Sheikh spells out troubling allegations including conducting illegal meetings, breaking municipal bylaws and deliberately circumventing accountability.
Sheikh was appointed as the City’s Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar for a 4 year term that was to end in July 2023. The Integrity Commissioner’s role is required by the Ontario Municipal Act and applies the local code of conduct for members of Council. Her term was cut short by several hastily called meetings by the Bloc in March to change existing by-laws in Brampton.
The decision to terminate Sheikh was led by Councillor Martin Medeiros, who argued that Sheikh’s billing rate was excessive. Medeiros gave no examples to back up the accusation nor did he give Sheikh an opportunity to appear before Council. Medeiros also expressed disdain at the length of Sheikh’s contract, although he was fully aware of the terms of her contract when she was hired.
Sheikh claims that the Bloc acted in bad faith and put forward motions that were illegal, without proper notice, adequate public consultation or debate. The claim says that “the Bloc ought to have provided wide notice to the public that they were contemplating changing the Code of Conduct to allow termination of the Integrity Commissioner on a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds majority vote.”
At the time of her termination, Muneeza was investigating Code of Conduct claims against Councillors Martin Medeiros, Jeff Bowman and Pat Fortini. In previous findings, Councillor Charmaine Williams and Gurpreet Dhillon were found in violation of the Code of Conduct. Councillor Dhillon was found to have violated the Code of Conduct by engaging in sexual misconduct. He has “since expressed his intent to remove Sheikh from her position as Integrity Commissioner, as a means of vindicating his reputation.”
Sheikh’s claim states that “given the pending investigations against them, the “conflicted Councillors” had both pecuniary and personal interests in the outcome of the illegal motions. If the illegal motions passed, the Conflicted Councillors would be able to stall the pending investigations against them, prior to an election campaign period. The Conflicted Councillors would also have an opportunity to influence who would replace Sheikh and take over their pending investigations.”
Prior to terminating Sheikh, the Bloc terminated the city’s top bureaucrat, CAO David Barrick. The implications of that termination resulted in a claim by Barrick reportedly in the $1M range. This is in addition to seven figure payouts to the previous CAO Harry Schlange. Sheikh’s claim states that she “is one of several senior City employees or contractors that have been terminated at the Bloc’s direction, as part of the Bloc’s broader political campaign to “clear house” of any officials they deem against their interests.” The city’s interim CAO, Paul Morrison has since overseen the firing of the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Communication.
The court filing by Muneeza Sheikh is in stark contrast to the claims made by the Bloc in a letter claiming authoritarian behaviour by Mayor Patrick Brown and that senior staff had taken a “blowtorch” to the rules that govern the city. Using an equivalent analogy, it would seem that the block is engaged in a full scale mutiny at City Hall as they drop an atomic bomb on accountability, transparency and democracy just prior to a municipal election.
Sheikh’s court filing seeks to reverse bylaws and cover court costs, effectively re-instating her as the City’s Integrity Commissioner. She is seeking an Application under Rule 14.05(3) which allows proceeding where it is unlikely that there will be any material facts in dispute. The application, if accepted gives the application judge limited jurisdiction to make factual findings without a trial.