“We weren’t close personal friends”.
And that is how Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley reacted to the news that Sarnia City Council had dumped long – time Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze.
Swayze is being replaced by Chatham lawyer Paul Watson who was not only the low bidder at just over $36,000.00 for the next four years but has a history in municipal politics and is perceived as being fair and balanced.
“I know little about him,” says Bradley other than he was a municipal Councillor in Chatham for 15 years and was recently retained as Integrity Commissioner there.
While Bradley views the dumping of Swayze as a “new beginning” for Council he is concerned about the entire Integrity Commissioner process and believes the Province needs to develop rules of accountability and fairness. “Swayze admitted to me that he made up the laws as he went along and I believe that to be true,” says Bradley who is supported by St. Clair Mayor Steve Arnold.
Arnold wants Lambton County Council to pressure the Province saying there doesn’t appear to be any rules in way Integrity Commissioners operate.
“They seem to make up the laws and we as politicians have to go along,” says Bradley who was investigated by Swayze on harassment allegations. Swayze billed the City more than $111,000.00 in an investigation that at least one retired Sarnia police inspector described as “sloppy”.
Bradley says the problem with the current legislation centers on the inability of politicians to contest any findings. “Integrity Commissioners make the rules and most elected people don’t have a lot of money and can’t go to court”.
That’s what happened with Bradley when Swayze docked his pay on two separate occasions. “There was an 82-page rebuttal but it fell on deaf ears,” he says.
David Boushy who made the motion to hire Watson says Swayze “made a lot of enemies even in the way he treated the public. He was the previous Council’s guy, not our guy”.
He says Swayze editorialized, had a lot of opinions and was a caustic personality.
Boushy added the fact the Mayor had a landslide victory in last October’s election was a strong indication that the public wanted change at City Hall.
In Chatham Watson’s hiring as Integrity Commissioner was greeted with praise. Mayor Randy Hope told the Chatham Voice newspaper “it was important to get someone who’s been on both sides of the fence” describing Watson as having both experience as a politician and a solid reputation as a lawyer.
In Chatham Watson is being paid $400 per day on an as needed basis.