Wednesday, January 21, 2009

11 weeks and Dalton moves!

50,000 students from York University have been sidelined for almost 11 weeks, and just today my boy Dalton gets his act together and sends in a mediator.

The previous day Dalton said the government would not get involved in the strike, I guess that extra day was a real eye opener!
Maybe Dalton knew he had to do something after reports of some students in the parking lot, sitting in imported cars, eating food with a high saturated fat content, while smoking and talking on a cell phone with a helpless 15 year old kid in the back seat, trying to get a flag girl for the next street race!

Glad you're on the job Dalton!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Arbiter's reaction to lawyer no proof of bias against Fantino, court hears

TORONTO — An adjudicator had every reason to feel he was being threatened by an experienced lawyer acting for Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino, and his reaction did not show he was biased, a court heard Thursday.

Lawyer Julian Falconer, who represents two officers charged by Fantino with professional misconduct, told Divisional Court the adjudicator's reaction to being told he would be appealed if he didn't step down was perfectly understandable.

"It is not in the least surprising," Falconer told the three-judge panel.

"It was an extraordinary submission to make to an adjudicator. It was unnecessary. It was offensive."

At issue is whether Leonard Montgomery is unfit to continue hearing the disciplinary case against the two senior officers, as Fantino contends.

At the disciplinary hearing in October, Fantino's lawyer Brian Gover asked Montgomery to step down and said he would take the matter to court if the retired justice did not do so.

Gover also insisted he had the full support of the province's attorney general - something the ministry immediately disavowed.

An angry Montgomery refused to step down.

Gover's comments, Montgomery said, amounted to a "highly improper" attempt to intimidate a judicial officer.

He also complained about apparent political interference and conflicts of interest related to the Ministry of the Attorney General's involvement.

In his submissions, Fantino's new lawyer Tom Curry told Divisional Court that Gover's comments were in response to pointed questions from the defence.

It was an "unjustifiable attack" for Montgomery to accuse Gover, who was only being "candid," of intimidation, Curry said.

At several points, Justice James Carnwath challenged Curry's assertion that Montgomery had shown bias rather than a normal reaction to Gover's announcement that he would go to court if not satisfied.

"This kind of statement leads to some pretty harsh responses from the bench," Carnwath noted.

"(Montgomery) was pretty constrained."

Curry insisted the adjudicator had, on several occasions, shown hostility to the prosecution.

He also complained Montgomery had unfairly called Fantino's credibility into question when the commissioner changed his testimony during the disciplinary hearing.

Among other things, Montgomery had said he was "upset" by what had happened.

Curry said the comments show the adjudicator had closed his mind to any "innocent explanation" for Fantino's change.

"It is crystal clear the adjudicator has gone beyond permissible criticism, commentary and rulings," Curry said.

Falconer said the recusal motion appeared designed to derail Fantino's cross-examination, and he urged the judges to let the disciplinary proceedings continue.

The labyrinthine disciplinary hearing involves two former members of the provincial police internal standards bureau.

They are accused under the Police Services Act in relation to an investigation they did into how officers responded to a domestic violence complaint involving an officer and his estranged wife more than four years ago.

But the case has ensnared Fantino, with the defence accusing him of petty vindictiveness and witness tampering.

The attorney general has also been forced to disavow Gover's assertion that it backed his request for Montgomery to recuse himself.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ontario at bottom of class in openness

Provincial government the worst in disclosing records of interest, national audit shows

Jan 10, 2009 04:30 AM
Robert Cribb

A shroud of secrecy surrounding government-held records in Canada is keeping volumes of public-interest information – from municipal finance details to police use of Tasers – hidden from Canadians.

That's the conclusion of an annual audit of information laws in Canada designed to ensure public access to government records. The fourth annual national audit, conducted by the Canadian Newspaper Association, takes the pulse of government openness by filing formal requests for records ranging from public health spending to internal audits and briefing notes prepared for ministers.

"Every time we do this, it's like a mountain climber that gets a sense of just how steep the mountain is ... and how deeply ingrained the desire to keep information from the public is at some levels of government," said David Gollob, vice-president of policy and communications with the association which represents newspapers across Canada. "I think the public would be alarmed to see how closely the curtain of silence is drawn around basic information that should be available."

Based on the responses to 219 written requests for information, Ontario fared worst among provincial governments when it comes to openness with a grade of C- (shared with British Columbia) and fewer points for speed and completeness of disclosure than any other province. For the second straight year, Saskatchewan topped all other provinces on the openness scale with an A- result.

Toronto, meanwhile, was in the middle of the pack among Canadian cities with a score of C (along with Hamilton), while Ottawa was awarded a D+, Windsor a D and Thunder Bay a D-.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which first became subject to the federal Access to Information Act in 2007, was at the bottom with a D grade after taking a six-month time extension to respond to a request for the salary ranges of its top employees.

"After coming under the Act, we received an enormous volume of access to information request, orders of magnitude greater than other federal institutions," said CBC spokesperson Jeff Keay. "We immediately moved to ramp up our capacity to deal with the high volume we weren't expecting and we've been increasing our capacity to deal with it (the backlog)."

Robert Marleau, Canada's federal information commissioner, responded to the audit findings this week, saying the CBC, as a publicly funded media outlet, "should be the standard bearer of freedom of information and perform accordingly when it is the subject of requests."

In an email response to an interview request from the Star, Marleau called Canada's Access to Information Act an "outdated piece of legislation with a weak compliance model fashioned in the early 80s."

"This latest CNA audit demonstrates the need for national (freedom of information) standards and national performance incentives so that citizens can get the same answers and the same timely service whatever public bodies they seek information from in any jurisdiction," he said. "Federally, we are slipping backwards. ... (We) need more angry Canadians to write to their elected members and urge them to update and strengthen these laws."

Among the most conspicuous underperformers in the audit were police departments across the country asked for reports on their use of Taser devices. Each time an officer uses a Taser, they fill out a report documenting the circumstances, sometimes called a "use of force" report. The audit team asked police departments to provide copies of those reports as a way of determining how often officers deploy the conducted-energy devices and the outcome of those incidents.

Taser use by police has emerged as a controversial public safety issue. In 2007, Robert Dziekanski died in a Vancouver airport shortly after being jolted with a police Taser, attracting international attention and raising serious questions about safe use of the devices by police.

While some forces willingly provided the information without charge, others denied the records or demanded high fees to produce them. Winnipeg police imposed a $4,600 fee on the records. Montreal police wanted $662.50 and Ottawa's levy rang in at $125.40. Toronto police claimed a 30-day time extension which expired in late October. To date, no records have been released.

"These are officials using power on our behalf and, as a result, perhaps have the greatest onus on them to be transparent," said Gollob. "It's astonishing that there's no sense among some police forces that there's a duty to be transparent about when and how they use these weapons."

The City of Toronto failed to release any records in response to a request for details on payments it has made for goods and services, the audit reports.

In a letter to the audit team in October, city officials said the scope of the request was "too broad" and that "fulfilling it would unreasonably interfere with the daily operations of the institution."

"They just said, `Forget it, it's too much work so we're not going to do it,'" said Fred Vallance-Jones, a journalism professor at the University of King's College who managed the audit. "The City of Toronto has got some room for improvement."

Suzanne Craig, director of the city's corporate access and privacy office, which administers freedom of information requests for the city, said the records were not kept in a database that easily allowed access to the information.

"We have the information. Our frustration is that we can't get at it in that way. To tell requesters that we can't is not what we like to do. What's been identified here is a need to better manage our information. If it is not managed in a way that is accessible, then a person filing a request for something that seems straightforward is going to do a lot of waiting or paying."

The results of this year's audit resemble those of the previous three years with a patchwork of policies across the country and a majority of records being delayed, subject to high fees or withheld altogether.

"There's incredible inconsistency across Canada around access to these records," said Vallance-Jones. "One municipality would say, sure we can give you those records while others said no. It really seems to be a bit of a roll of the dice. If you live in one place, you have access, if you live in another part of the country, you don't."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Slow down, Fantino, traffic fatalities don't add up

Special to the Star

Jan 09, 2009

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino must be feeling pretty smug.

After all, since the street racing law went into effect a year ago, more than 7,000 drivers in Ontario have had their licences suspended and their vehicles impounded – and fewer people have been killed on the province's highways.

Of course, Fantino would have his salary-paying taxpayers believe he is doing a wonderful job, based on the questionable conclusions he has reached using a statistical sleight of hand.

One of Fantino's favourite numbers is the 209 Ontario traffic deaths in the first eight months of 2008 versus the 309 deaths in the same months in 2007, before the stunt driving/street racer law was in full effect.

This is flawed logic. For starters, you only have a two-point trend.

To put it into context, you have to know that traffic deaths have been dropping steadily and dramatically in recent years. In 1981, 5,383 people died nationwide on our roads. By 2006, that was down to 2,889, almost half the number, which is spectacular and due almost entirely to stronger cars and stiffer seat belt legislation enforcement. This despite more cars on our roads, driving farther each year.

Is this recent 2008 data point really a drop, or is it simply part of an ongoing trend? There is no reason to assume the trend would not have continued if police had done nothing new at all.

How much lower? Impossible to say. Remember; a two-point "trend" is meaningless.

Secondly, other provinces such as Manitoba and British Columbia, not to mention several U.S. states, also reported double-digit reductions in traffic fatalities.

Const. Dave Babineau with B.C.'s RCMP traffic division says, "We attribute (B.C.'s 18-per-cent traffic death reduction) to our strategic enforcement'' – which included crackdowns on street racing, seat belt non-compliance and impaired driving. "(The drop) is unbelievable."

I would concur, but for different reasons, because these strategies are nothing new.

Thirdly, you have to ask yourself – Fantino and Babineau apparently did not – was anything else going on that might have affected this outcome?
You may recall the survey the OPP quoted to try to make the case for photo radar years ago. The study, conducted in the upscale Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley, coincided with a complete rebuilding of one of only two roads on which photo radar was used.

Gosh. And they got a 25-per-cent reduction in traffic deaths? I would hope so.

So, was anything else going on during 2008 that was not going on in 2007 that might have affected traffic deaths? Let's see. Anybody remember $1.35-a-litre gasoline?

Don't take my word for it. David Grabowski, associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, co-authored a study that concludes the price of gasoline had a major influence on the reduction in traffic deaths.

Grabowski said that throughout North America, new laws, use of traffic airplanes and other police tactics didn't change that much. But death reduction results were similar across the continent.

"We can sort of quickly rule out a lot of these other factors, other policies," said Grabowski. "Everyone wants to take credit. We know one thing (the price of gasoline) changed dramatically, and others didn't. Enforcement sounds good if you're in law enforcement, but it seems a little too convenient."

I don't know if Grabowski visited Ontario last summer. Surely, you remember it was the wettest summer ever. EVER. Not much point in driving to the cottage if it's gonna rain all weekend.

Other studies indicate that a shrinking economy tends to reduce driving, especially recreational or discretionary driving. So, for Fantino to claim credit for this death reduction is extremely dubious.

Then there is Leo Tasca, a doctor who wrote a report that is about the size and weight of a concrete block. Therein he attempts to justify Fantino's fandango.

Among Tasca's conclusions:

It takes longer to stop from higher speeds than from lower;
If you hit something at a higher speed, it will cause more damage than from a lower speed.

Couldn't we have paid a high school physics student a whole lot less to reach the same conclusions?

On page 11 (Article 2 of his affidavit he gets to the point: "... the deterrent effect and enforcement conducted under Section 172 (the stunt driving/street racing law) in my view has contributed to the observed reduction."

Tasca is certainly entitled to his view.

But the opening sentence of Article 28 states that "at least three years of collision data after the implementation of the program would be needed to do proper analysis."

What follows is then presumably improper analysis.

Otherwise known as toilet paper.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fantino conduct questioned!

Jan 07, 2009 04:30 AM
Re:Internal hearing turns ugly for Julian Fantino, Jan. 4

You have assisted both the public and the police "community" by publishing this story. Julian Fantino's conduct toward the officers in question and his behaviour at the police act hearing call for an independent investigation.

If his conduct toward Chief Superintendent Bill Grodzinski was retalitory and was a "punishment transfer," then he should be removed from office. His rationale of requiring an experienced supervisor for the North-Eastern Region, then selecting Grodzinski, simply doesn't make sense. What responsible corporation in today's world would transfer a senior executive without even the courtesy of a meeting to discuss the transfer?

Barry Ruhl, OPP Ret., Southampton

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yet someone else who think's we've had enough of this lying prick!

My way or their way, just so him and his bullshit is put to an end!

Sign it please!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Enough Of this Clown!

Internal hearing turns ugly for Julian Fantino

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino is known for his no-nonsense, blunt style, but a lawyer at a police disciplinary hearing is alleging his actions went beyond acceptable conduct, a charge Fantino denies.

Jan 04, 2009 04:30 AM
Robyn Doolittle

Julian Fantino's eyes narrow in anger. His jaw line flexes while he grinds his teeth.

Justice Leonard Montgomery has sternly cautioned the commissioner about making snarky "side comments."

Fantino, infrequently on the receiving end of orders, is struggling to contain his irritation.

"We're going to get through this day one way or the other, and I expect you as the commissioner to answer questions," Montgomery warns.

Fantino bristles.

"Yes, sir."

The seemingly routine police disciplinary hearing against Insp. Alison Jevons and Supt. Ken MacDonald began virtually unnoticed about one year ago. The pair is accused of bungling an internal investigation from their time in the professional standards bureau. The case has since evolved into an embarrassing mess for Fantino.

The colourfully spoken commissioner has been dragged into the proceedings, accused of tampering with witnesses, orchestrating a "political prosecution" against the officers, and abusing his powers as head of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Fantino flatly denies the allegations, but as lawyers for both sides spar, this increasingly bizarre case has provided a rare look inside the OPP and at the country's most famous police officer.

Throughout his four-decade career, Fantino served as chief of police in London, York and Toronto before assuming the helm of the OPP in October 2006. He owes his success – and several high-profile scandals – to his sharp tongue and blunt tactics. Love him or hate him, Fantino's old-school, tough-talking style has earned him a reputation for getting the job done.

So when trouble began to brew in the Caledon detachment, and Fantino suspected MacDonald was to blame, the commissioner acted swiftly and severely.

A rumour was circulating that MacDonald had been spreading "misinformation" to Caledon councillors about restructuring in the region. When Fantino found out, he sent an email – dated Feb. 21, 2007 – to several high-ranking officers, making a point to "cc" MacDonald, the disciplinary hearing heard.

"`UNAUTHORIZED SOURCES' be on notice," the email began, "that I consider any such activity a betrayal, that if it continues, I will stop at nothing to trace back the person(s) responsible AND deal with he/she/them personally. There is no place in the OPP for anyone to hide who is disloyal, disruptive, or dishonest, for what it's worth! J.F."

On March 1, the commissioner arranged a meeting with council to address concerns. He brought along several high-ranking officers, including MacDonald's boss, Chief Supt. Bill Grodzinski. After the meeting, Fantino gathered the officers in the parking lot.

"We were sort of, I wouldn't call it a huddle, but we were in a small semicircle," Grodzinski testified in July. "(Fantino) said to me, `Are you going to execute the disloyal one or do you want me to?'"

Grodzinski paused to collect his thoughts. He had known MacDonald personally and professionally for 20 years and believed there was no way his friend had anything to do with any "mischief-making."

He told Fantino his feelings, the commissioner listened, then closed the subject, Grodzinski testified.

"I was wrestling with '(what) do I do with this?' " Grodzinski remembered thinking. After some soul searching, he decided to phone MacDonald and warn him. Next, Grodzinski had to decide if he should document the incident.

"To make a decision about making notes on another police officer in any way, shape or form, is very significant," he testified. "For me to make notes about the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, I was extremely reluctant ... I have a great deal of respect for the office."

Two weeks later, after a lengthy investigation, MacDonald and Jevons were charged with neglect of duty relating to a 2005 investigation. For nine months, Grodzinski sat on what Fantino would refer to in his testimony as "cheat notes."

Then around noon on Saturday, Jan. 5, two days before the hearing began, Fantino met at a Kelsey's restaurant with the officer assigned to investigate MacDonald and Jevons. Supt. Mark VanZant handed the commissioner a brown envelope containing, among other things, Grodzinski's notes on the "execution" comment.

Julian Falconer, lawyer for MacDonald and Jevons, would later say the ensuing events were prime examples of Fantino's alleged abuse of power.

When the hearing began on Monday, Grodzinski's notes became public. It was clear Fantino would have to testify.

At 7 a.m. the next day, Fantino called a teleconference with his senior officers, documented by Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis.

"Grodz. – NOW to NER," Lewis wrote in his notebook. Grodzinski was to be immediately transferred to Northeast Region headquarters in North Bay.

Two days later, Grodzinski was summoned to police headquarters in Orillia about a "staffing" issue.

"Deputy Lewis indicated that a decision had been made to transfer me to North Bay ... effective the following Monday, that this was not a discussion, the decision had been made," Grodzinski testified.

Falconer has suggested Fantino's actions are tantamount to witness tampering.

When Fantino took the stand on Oct. 17, he defended the move. The commissioner testified that, for one thing, the region was in desperate need of a senior officer and for another, Grodzinski's wife was from the area.

"My understanding is that we were bringing him home," Fantino said.

Grodzinski saw it differently. "I viewed what took place that morning as an immediate, unacceptable reprisal against me for me exercising my duty. I viewed the transfer to North Bay as an immediate punishment, sanction, reprisal, use what word you wish."

He implored Lewis to reconsider. Grodzinski said his wife was sick and that they had already moved three times in as many years. Lewis said he would relay the information, but there were no guarantees.

That evening, Fantino's boss, then-deputy minister of community safety and correctional services Deborah Newman, called him with concerns about a possible "punishment transfer." At best, it was seen as poor timing.

Fantino recalled the conversation in his testimony.

"I cleared the air with her, the misinformation she was provided, that in fact, Bill Grodzinski's transfer had been discussed, that it in absolutely no way, shape or form was it a punitive thing. We were bringing him back home. The fact that we were dealing with organizational change at the very same time, balanced out with his family issues, we decided in the end not to do it because of the stated reasons earlier."

The next morning, Grodzinski got a call from a superior, inquiring whether he had contacted anyone at the ministry about the transfer. Later that day, Grodzinski was informed he could stay in his position as commander of highway safety.

"It's an extraordinary coincidence in timing," Falconer challenged Fantino at the hearing.

"Life is full of coincidences, but if you look at the issues that we discussed that day, they were all major organizational issues that needed to be addressed," Fantino rebutted.

At one point during Fantino's testimony, it appeared the commissioner was tipped during a lunch recess about an inconsistency in his evidence on another issue. When Fantino seemed to change his story after the break, Montgomery appeared livid, sending the commissioner out of the room and cautioning his lawyer, Brian Gover.

At the end of the day, a decision was made for the commissioner to return to finish his cross-examination on Nov. 5. That didn't happen. Gover launched a motion to have Montgomery removed on account of the alleged bias of the adjudicator – who was chosen by Fantino – against the commissioner.

This will be the subject of debate when the hearing resumes on Thursday.