I attended a two-hour seminar hosted by the town about Collingwood’s Code of Conduct last week. It was intended as an introduction to the policy for new candidates and a refresher for incumbents, and was presented by the town’s Integrity Commissioner, whose slides ranged from conflicts of interest to accountability, from public behaviour to confidentiality.
Councillor Bob Madigan wasn’t there. Four incumbents running in this election attended (Doherty, McLeod, Hamlin, and Berman), for which I give them credit. Madigan didn’t show.
Perhaps it’s because the town’s web page about the conduct of members of council says (emphasis added): “Members are expected to perform their duties of office and to arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close legal and public scrutiny.” Can the public still have faith in an elected representative arrested for assault?
It adds (emphasis added), “Members shall serve the public interest by upholding the laws and policies established by the Federal Parliament, Ontario Legislature, and the laws and policies adopted by the Town.” I’m pretty sure assaulting a woman isn’t upholding any laws. And I doubt his past behaviour, especially with female members of council, could withstand scrutiny when viewed through the lens of the town’s Code of Conduct.
And perhaps he missed that line in the actual Code of Conduct that says council members are (emphasis added) “held to a higher standard of behaviour and conduct” (p3, 19, 24). It adds on p. 24 (emphasis added):
Members shall conduct themselves with appropriate decorum at all times. As leaders in the community, Members are held to a higher standard of behaviour and conduct, and accordingly their behaviour should be exemplary.
Maybe Madigan didn’t read that. Or maybe he didn’t think it applied to him. Maybe he doesn’t know what the word exemplary means.
Yet, despite being arrested for assault two weeks ago (allegedly for assaulting his girlfriend), Madigan told CollingwoodToday he is still running for the position of Deputy Mayor in the next term. No, the charges have not been proven in court (his court date is Sep. 27), but the police don’t make an arrest, fingerprint, charge, and set a court date for someone unless they have good evidence of a crime.
The Code also notes on page 3:
Given the high ethical standards imposed on Members, it is important to recognize that the principles, rules and commentary set out in this Code of Conduct are to be applied purposively, in support of the public interest
Everyone I’ve spoken to while campaigning knows the story about Madigan’s arrest (the story has also appeared in Barrie, Orillia, and Toronto media). Everyone I’ve spoken to is appalled by his behaviour. Many think him arrogant and are angry that he didn’t withdraw from the race. No one I’ve spoken to has defended his behaviour and no one admitted they will vote for him. Public confidence in Madigan as an elected representative seems to have been lost.
So why is he still running?
His behaviour reflects poorly on all incumbents and his few remaining supporters who have refused to condemn his actions. Not doing so is tacit to condoning his actions. Madigan’s behaviour and his unwillingness to withdraw threatens to erode public confidence not only in himself, but in all elected representatives and candidates. It also can discredit our community to outsiders.
The right thing to do, the ethically appropriate thing, and certainly the mature thing for Madigan to do would be to withdraw from the campaign. But he continues to run.
Collingwood deserves better.
NB: A Simcoe County group called Women of Simcoe Say No is protesting harassment of women by local officials. They are planning a protest at Barrie City Hall this month and will be making presentations to municipal councils throughout the county. Perhaps they should also protest in front of Madigan’s cafe.