But Nigel Bellchamber, one of the principals at Amberley Gavel, declined to comment on the mayor's insistence the report has several errors. He said he hasn't heard what the mayor said first-hand, and in any event, wouldn't get into a debate with the mayor in the media.
“If she wants to speak to us directly, she can speak to us directly,” Bellchamber said. “But I'm not going to comment on that .. other than to say we stand by our report.”
The report cleared city councillors of accusations it illegally met privately before voting Feb. 12 to replace Ontario Ombudsman André Marin with Local Authority Services as the city's closed-door meetings investigator. LAS is a branch of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and it contracts actual closed-door meeting investigations to London-based Amberley Gavel.
The speed and lack of discussion with which the decision was made prompted several complaints from the public that councillors must have met secretly beforehand to agree to replace Marin. Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume, who moved the motion, has said he talked to several councillors about his intentions before Feb. 12, but those discussions were held one-on-one, not at a meeting.
After Marin refused to conduct the investigation into the complaints, LAS agreed and released its report last week. When the matter was discussed at city council on Tuesday, Matichuk, a strong supporter of Marin, said she rejected Amberley Gavel's conclusions, saying their report was full of “misinformation.”
“If you look at that report, I could poke Swiss cheese holes in it,” she said.
When contacted later in the week to find out exactly what mistakes she was referring to, the mayor's office responded in an email that she listed a few of the report's “ deficiencies” at Tuesday's meeting.
On Tuesday, Matichuk said the report said seven people couldn't fit into the councillors' lounge, let alone hold a meeting there. Not true, the mayor said.
“Go up and see it — there's three chairs and a table for four and you can stand around,” she said.
The report itself references testimony from some councillors who questioned whether seven people could work in the room at the same time. It does question whether seven councillors could fit into the elevator, which Matichuk said she witnessed first-hand. It also says some of the complaints they received relied on the mayor's “assumption” that an improper meeting took place, as reported in the media. Not true, Matichuk said.
“I did not assume — I said I was told,” she said Tuesday. “I was told, in front of another witness, that a meeting took place. (Councillors) discussed it ... They said it was informal. Well, where do you draw the line?”
Matichuk was also unimpressed by how the investigation was conducted. Unlike Marin's team of three investigators, one of whom was a lawyer, Amberley Gavel sent a single “clerk,” she said. And unlike Marin's team, Matichuk said she wasn't asked to promise to tell the truth, or to not discuss her statements with other councillors.
“None of that happened with LAS,” she said. “I was very taken aback by that.”
Despite her objections, Matichuk said Wednesday she has no desire to keep talking about the issue, and instead wants to move on to other matters.
“She doesn't care to prolong disagreement about the report ... essentially agreeing to disagree on its merits,” the email from Matichuk's office said. “Otherwise, Mayor Matichuk chooses to look forward — to a busy and productive 2014 — rather than back.”