June 19, 2015
By Noor Javed
Vaughan deputy mayor Michael Di Biase is asking for a judicial review of a scathing integrity commissioner report that found he interfered in the tendering process to secure projects for a local contracting company and intimidated staff who pushed back.
Di Biase’s lawyer Morris Manning filed the notice in Divisional Court on Monday, asking the courts to quash the decision of ethics commissioner Suzanne Craig, and quash the unanimous decision of council to dock the veteran councillor three months pay — the harshest penalty available to them under the Municipal Act.
“The city erred by adopting the Commissioner’s report and penalizing the applicant on the basis of it,” said Di Biase in the notice. “The commissioner erred in law and exceeded her jurisdiction by failing in her duty to provide the applicant with procedural fairness.”
In April, Craig released her findings from a three-month ethics probe that found the regional councillor broke code-of-conduct rules by interfering in the procurement process and creating a “culture of fear” among staff who did not comply. Soon after, the OPP began investigating “allegations of criminal wrongdoing” spanning Di Biase’s decades long political career, including what role Di Biase may have played in the city’s tendering process to secure municipal contracts for preferred companies.
During her probe, Craig spoke to more than 30 staff members who expressed concern over Di Biase’s conduct. Their names were kept secret, for fear of reprisals, she noted in her report.
But in his notice, Di Biase claims that Craig “did not provide the information necessary for him to be able to make full answer and defense to the allegations brought against him…” including the interviews of the individuals.
The notice also claims: Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and fellow councilors unwavering public support of the ethics report, even before Di Biase had a chance to respond to the final version, made them biased and they should not have been allowed to vote on penalties.
The city and Craig said they could not comment since the matter was before courts. Di Biase did not respond to requests for comment.
A court date has not been set.