The former Brampton Integrity Commissioner has launched a judicial review in hopes of overturning the city council’s decision to terminate her contract.
Muneeza Sheikh, a lawyer with Levitt Sheikh LLP, was hired as the city’s Integrity Commissioner (IC) in the summer of 2019 and served in that role until the council voted in March to end the his four-year contract early after some advisers raised concerns about the fee. totaling over $750,000.
The Brampton Guardian has confirmed that the council has hired Janice Atwood-Petkovski and Jeffrey Abrams of Principles Integrity as interim replacement for Sheikh. The firm also provides Integrity Commissioner services for the Region of Peel.
The city’s communications department did not respond to an email, sent last week, seeking comment on Sheikh’s judicial review case and Principles Integrity hiring.
Sheikh filed his application for judicial review with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last week. In it, she alleges that council violated the Municipalities Act through the process it followed to terminate its contract. The Brampton Guardian obtained a copy of the application for judicial review, which was served on the city.
The application for judicial review alleges that the board did not have the power to terminate its contract by a simple majority vote, instead requiring a two-thirds “super majority”. However, the council updated its complaints protocol at a special March 11 meeting to allow the removal of the Integrity Commissioner by a simple majority vote of the council.
“The purpose (of the judicial review) is essentially to overturn the decision to remove (Sheikh) as Integrity Commissioner on the grounds that it was procedurally unfair, unethical and made in bad faith,” he said. said one of Sheikh’s lawyers, Kathryn Marshall. , in an interview.
“There were two decisions. There was the special meeting that took place in advance, and then there was the actual meeting to pull it off. We are saying those decisions were wrong and we are essentially asking that the decision be reversed and reinstated,” she added.
According to Marshall, Sheikh believes his dismissal was politically motivated and orchestrated by a group of six advisers referred to in the application as “the bloc”.
“I would say the fee issue is a complete red herring. That’s not what it’s about,” Marshall said. “I think the decision was politically motivated and made in bad faith. The goal was to have her removed and replaced by someone else.
“The block” mentioned in the request is made up of councilors Martin Medeiros, Jeff Bowman, Pat Fortini, Doug Whillans, Charmaine Williams and Gurpreet Dhillon.
In February, these councilors refused to attend a council meeting to protest what they said was an improper use of council procedures to subvert the will of the council’s majority after a failed attempt to replace the former general manager David Barrick.
In a joint statement, they alleged that “democracy is under siege” by anonymous council members and senior city officials trying to prevent a majority of council from making the desired changes. Barrick was fired and replaced shortly thereafter.
Medeiros – one of the city’s two deputy mayors – was among those leading the campaign to replace Sheikh over what he sees as unusually high fees for IC services.
“I have no comment on what (Sheikh) is trying to do. But what I can say is that in terms of the process in which we made the decision to replace the IC, we followed all directives under the Municipalities Act (and) powers given to council Council has the right to appoint the IC as well as the right to make any necessary changes,” he said in an interview. .
“We followed our proper procedure in terms of calling a special board meeting and making the decision in an open and transparent manner,” he added.
Sheikh’s judicial review filing also alleges that Medeiros and Fortini had active Integrity Commissioner complaints against them and should have recused themselves from voting on the matter.
The motion to remove Sheikh passed by a 5-3 vote, with Bowman and Coun. Rowena Santos declaring a conflict due to issues that were being considered by Sheikh. Mayor Patrick Brown was not present at the meeting, leaving only eight council members for the vote.
Medeiros and Fortini allege the complaints against them were filed the day before the March 11 special meeting and were invalid because they were filed anonymously. Marshall said she couldn’t comment when asked by the Guardian if that was accurate.
“The Integrity Commissioner should never have shared a complaint with us about something (without) any name attached to it. It was anonymous, so it should have been denied,” Medeiros said in an interview.
“I am fully satisfied that I had no conflict (and) I am fully satisfied that there was no proper complaint against me. I think (the complainant) was just trying to scare me into not not vote to replace the IC,” he said, adding that the Municipalities Act makes it clear that a conflict only exists when it relates to pecuniary interests involving financial gain.
“The only way (I was) in conflict is if there is a pecuniary interest, and there is clearly no pecuniary interest in this situation,” Medeiros added.