Brampton city council struggling with governance issues, vacant seat

A judge’s decision quashing the appointment of an interim councillor in Brampton is marking the latest controversy to come out of city hall during this term, something observers say is part of a broader issue involving a lack of transparency.

“I’ve been reporting in municipal politics for a long time. I’ve never seen what I’ve seen these last three-and-a-half years in Brampton city hall,” San Grewal, the founder and director of The Pointer — a local affairs outlet covering municipal issues in Peel Region, told CityNews on Tuesday.

“Covering Brampton council, it’s clear there is a lack of accountability. Let’s bring in a Brampton auditor general.”

As Grewal noted, some council members have been dogged with numerous allegations involving improper contracts and questionable hiring — issues he said he and his team have been reporting on over the past year.

The latest issue involves an attempt to appoint former councillor Elaine Moore to fill a seat left vacant by Charmaine Williams. Williams was elected as the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario MPP for Brampton Centre in June.

A group of five councillors and Williams, before she left city hall, voted to appoint Williams to the seat. Mayor Patrick Brown and four other councillors were against the move. The matter ended up in court and a judge quashed the appointment.

Brown called the judge’s decision “good news for democracy” during a news conference inside his city hall office Tuesday afternoon.

“I think this was a brazen attempt to take power,” he alleged.

RELATED: Patrick Brown wants appeal of disqualification from CPC leadership race

For the past several months, Brown has been campaigning for the Conservative Party of Canada leadership. However, he was disqualified from the race earlier in July over campaign finance allegations — something he’s trying to appeal. Those allegations are under investigation and authorities haven’t taken action on those as of Tuesday.

He said while there was consensus on issues earlier in the term, he also acknowledged there has been escalating tension.

“Obviously something happened in the last six months. We’ve seen political agendas afoot. It’s disappointing because I believe it should be about team Brampton,” Brown said.

Despite being repeatedly asked on Tuesday about his political future in Brampton or federally, he didn’t indicate what he is planning.

“I’m not going to rush into any decisions so no matter how many times you ask the same question, unfortunately, you have the same answer it’s a little bit premature,” he said, adding he’s looking ahead to the rest of the council term.

“I’ll be here in Brampton focused on making sure the city of Brampton is in the strongest possible position.”

The Ontario-wide deadline to register to run for municipal elections is Aug. 19 and voting day is Oct. 24.

Coun. Gurpreet Dhillon was one of the six who voted for Moore, saying they needed another councillor as several ongoing forensic investigations into alleged improper behaviour will need action. He didn’t elaborate on the specific things being reviewed by the auditors, but he defended the move to fill the seat before Williams left.

“In good faith, we made a decision to select the councillor before the seat got vacant. The judge’s decision is the judge’s decision. It doesn’t take away what is going on at city hall,” he said, adding the municipal act wasn’t clear on the matter.

Dhillon said Brown and his supporters on council haven’t shown up for multiple meetings.

“The tactic here is to block, to make sure that information doesn’t come out,” he said.

“We’re looking for a way forward, we’re doing what’s in the best interest of the taxpayer. I’ll say it again, there’s a pattern of behaviour.”

RELATED: Patrick Brown, disqualified from CPC race, facing Brampton mayoral troubles as well

Dhillon along with Councillors Pat Fortini, Martin Medeiros and Jeff Bowman called on the RCMP to investigate Brown’s dealings at city hall.

Meanwhile, Brampton city councillors expressed dismay on Wednesday over becoming embroiled in the controversy surrounding Brown.

“We’re just as frustrated because we prefer to be here in council chambers, instead of being engulfed, the City of Brampton, at no fault to its own, in what happens at a party’s leadership,” Brampton Deputy Mayor Martin Medeiros said during a news conference.

“The leadership campaign should not be within the four walls of city hall — whatever outside he has every right to do. And what we’ve been hearing from residents is that, once again, the city of Brampton’s name is being smeared because of our mayor, essentially, for whatever reason or another.”

Medeiros said Brown should have taken a leave of absence during his leadership run.

“There’s been a negative impact on the city … We’ve essentially not had leadership since Christmas,” he said.

Back at The Pointer, Grewal said there was hope for Brown at the beginning of his tenure but now readers are reporting feelings of disappointment.

“I could list off so many other things that residents talk to us about every day about downtown’s crumbling apart, services falling apart, the city has declined, crime has gotten worse, all kinds of issues, he said before going on to highlight calls for greater accountability at city hall.

“We just need councillors who want the best for Brampton and too often while I’ve covered Brampton it’s been that small-town politics, ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back,’ and that just simply needs to end. It’s the ninth biggest city, it has close to 700,000 people, it has a lot of dire challenges.”

With files from Meredith Bond

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