Niagara Falls council voted on Tuesday to hire an integrity commissioner to investigate whether Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni violated code of conduct in a series of Facebook posts.
Ioannoni, who was not at council, recently took to Facebook to criticize the city’s handling of an investigation into another member of council.
The post said: “As a resident do you think that you have the right to know if a member of your city council was found guilty of violence and harassment in an investigation that cost $20,000 of your tax money, while keeping the identity of the victim confidential? I do.”
Ioannoni subsequently identified the person to local media as Coun. Wayne Campbell, saying he attacked a city employee by “screaming, swearing and pushing/poking them repeatedly.”
The investigation, in which the city did hire a private lawyer, was into whether or not Campbell demanded senior staff to provide private phone records of a city employee.
Now, an integrity commissioner will investigate Ioannoni to see if her posts were a violation of council code of conduct.
Campbell addressed the issue at council, asking city CAO Ken Todd to clear the air about whether or not he asked for said records.
Todd told council the allegations against Campbell were “absolutely false.”
“I can tell the public that Councillor Campbell had absolutely no part in making any comment directed towards staff related to any phone records of any employee,” said Todd. “I really hesitate to say too much more about that because that is a current grievance that we have going on under our legal relations with our employees.”
He said he feels there are mistruths in the information being presented on social media.
“We’re tired of having to stand here before council and defend ourselves. It hits our integrity and the job we’re doing every day for citizens.”
Campbell criticized the allegations against him in a local paper.
“Either this is misinformation that’s being spread about me, or it could be considered defamation on my character,” he said.
Diodati said, “hopefully the media caught wind of that as well, so we can report the facts.”
Coun. Joyce Morocco put a motion forward to have an integrity commissioner investigate Ioannoni and for the results to come back in the new year as soon as possible.
“Let’s move forward… We actually have an integrity commissioner in place to deal with councillors and staff,” said Morocco.
“I really want to put an end to this year and everything that’s gone on and look positive for the next year … that we can all sit around the table and work together, and not belittle and not pick on anyone and not go into social media and do your rant.”
She continued: “If you have an issue, deal with that person on a one-on-one basis, not call them out and embarrass them … Let’s get back to the business of the day.”
Coun. Vince Kerrio argued having an integrity commissioner investigate would have little impact and just end up costing taxpayers.
“There’s no teeth to what the results are of what they do,” said Kerrio.
Coun. Victor Pietrangelo said he was on the same page as Kerrio.
“I don’t know that I have a whole lot of faith in the integrity commissioner’s report really having that effect we’re looking for,” he said.
He said the city has gone “down the integrity commissioner route once before,” and the person was found guilty, but there was no apology.
City Solicitor Ken Beaman said there is practically no other mechanism for looking into these types of complaints, and that’s why the integrity commissioner was created.
Morocco’s motion was passed, supported by Campbell, Morocco, Strange, Thomson and Mayor Diodati.
Another of Ioannoni’s Facebook posts said:
“Councillors are NOT employees and if he was acting as a private citizen, why did the city hire an investigator, Pay $ 20,000 and not have employee call the police? I stand by my whole post. Bullying, harassment and violence against employees , or anyone is NOT ok! My post broke the code of conduct?
I think the Mayor just opened the floodgates in regard to inappropriate, bullying posts breaking codes of conduct. This type of behaviour is happening at the NPCA, Regional council and NF city council. There is only one common denominator at all three and it’s not me. When the person who is supposed to lead condones the bad behaviour publicly….it cements the Old Boys Club.”