PARRY SOUND - When an integrity commissioner was hired by the Town of Parry Sound to investigate a complaint regarding the conduct of Coun. Dave Williams, it wasn’t the first time the commissioner was asked to look into the elected official’s behaviour.
Integrity of town councillor questioned twice.
In May, an integrity commissioner called in by council criticized Coun. Williams’ September 2011 dispute with a business owner after he balked at paying a $5 deposit when visiting a local campground, allegedly insisting that as a town councillor he could be trusted and shouldn’t have to pay the fee most visitors are charged.
Williams “used his title very inappropriately,” the commissioner said.
It turns out, that was the second incident the commissioner was asked to look into. On October 4, 2011 a private citizen made a deputation to closed council relating to Williams’ behaviour during a Provincial Offenses Act (POA) hearing on May 17, 2011.
According to a report from the integrity commissioner, the complainant said he was unable to file a formal complaint against Williams, due to on-going court proceedings, but wanted to let council know, because of a sense of embarrassment for the town, that a member of council would act so improperly.
Williams however, in an email to the North Star, said no complaint was filed regarding his actions in court and no investigation occurred.
In a February 2 report to council, the town’s integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig said, because the individual could not file a formal complaint, she could not investigate the allegations.
“I have serious concerns regarding this process,” wrote Craig in her February report. “The complainant is a credible and reliable witness in my preliminary overview of the matter. However without the ability to investigate this complaint, the member of council is left with no effective way to defend himself against the allegations raised. The jurisdiction of the Office of the Integrity Commissioner does not extend to the matter before the Justice of the Peace, and without the ability to investigate further, any alleged behaviour of Coun. Williams at the POA proceedings are not subject to my further comment.”
In court documents obtained by the North Star, Williams appears to attempt to use his position on municipal council to outweigh the integrity of OPP officer Joseph Villeneuve, who handed Williams a $200 ticket for not wearing his seatbelt. Williams disputed the ticket in court, pleading not guilty.
“I would just state that I believe what I say, not only because I’ve been sworn to tell the truth, and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but I believe that my reputation as a community leader, being a municipal councillor in the Town of Parry Sound, should be held in some regard to verify what I’m saying to be true...I believe that you should find me to be not guilty based on the erroneous testimony of the officer,” Williams said, according to the court transcript.
On the morning of August 28, 2010 while out delivering campaign signs for the fall municipal election, Williams was issued the ticket, the court heard.
According to court documents, Williams also did not have the ownership slip for his vehicle, could not provide proof of insurance, had two driver’s licenses and ran a stop sign, but he was not charged for any of those offenses.
According to court transcripts Williams, who told the court he is colour blind, argued that the seatbelt strap in his vehicle is tan, not a “dark colour” as described by Villeneuve and said the inaccurate description of the colour of the seatbelt made the officer’s testimony less credible. The officer, Williams said, wouldn’t have been able to see if he was wearing the seatbelt against his white T-shirt.
“You can check at the manufacturer’s specifications for a 2001 Ford Explorer Limited Edition comes in ivory silk. It’s not dark coloured at all. So one would surmise then that if he (the officer) was in error in that then potentially he was in error in other forms,” said Williams.
Justice of the Peace Susan Hilton, presiding over the case, told Williams that he could have received other charges for breaking the law.
“You’ve pointed out two or three times that you weren’t charged with not providing your ownership, your proof of insurance, two driver’s licenses that you had – you’re not supposed to have, by the way. The fail to stop was a warning also. Those are all warnings,” said Hilton. “You were very careful to tell me that you did have that seatbelt done up when he stopped you. Well, I didn’t hear ‘I had that seatbelt on when he saw me.’ No. It doesn’t work both ways. So I am going with the officer’s evidence because I have put this all together. I think that yes, you do wear your seatbelt, but I think you were distracted on that particular time and didn’t have it on when the officer saw you. So therefore, I am registering a conviction....And the evidence to support that is not only the seat belt, is the fact he went through a stop sign as well. That is a fact. It doesn’t have to be a charge.”
Following the decision – a $200 fine plus court costs and a surcharge ($240 total) – the judge asked Williams if he could afford the fine.
After a back-and-forth discussion with the judge, Williams acknowledged he had the funds to pay the fine, but based on his unemployment at the time and sole income as a municipal councillor he thought it was too high.
Hilton reminded Williams if he had been charged with all of the offenses, it would have been a fine close to $1,000.
The judge reduced the fine to $150, plus court costs, and gave Williams 60 days to pay. Williams said he would pay the fine that day.
When contacted for comment, Williams said the courtroom statement about his role as councillor was misunderstood, and sent the following statement to the North Star:
“Initially when I indicated my intent to appeal the traffic ticket, I was led to believe that I would be given the opportunity to appear in a court outside of the Parry Sound boundaries,” wrote Williams. “I would have preferred to make the appeal in a completely different jurisdiction but I was later informed that my appointment had been switched (by Provincial Offences) so that it would be held within the Parry Sound Court.
“Prior to the trial, I was given the chance to speak with the OPP officer and to look through his notes; in doing so I noticed that he had inaccurately recorded several important details. I did not want to embarrass him or to give anyone the opportunity to suggest that I did not respect his position; so I explicitly stated that I, as a councillor, have a great appreciation for the rules. Being a councillor should not mean that I am exempt from a fair trial with accurate information and in an environment in which I will not be accused of exploitation of power. I made that statement to reduce the possibility of reading in the newspaper that there was a dispute between a councillor and a police officer.”