Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Toronto Councillor Michael Thompson accuses police board of silencing criticism of chief
Almost a month after the board voted to ask the province to investigate Thompson’s public comments about Blair and urged him not to participate in matters related to the chief, the vice-chairman of the police board has launched an application for judicial review to quash the decision.
Thompson’s lawyers Clayton Ruby and Gerald Chan unveiled details about the application on Tuesday and accused the board of trying to “silence criticism of Chief Blair and protect his contract renewal.”
According to the judicial review application, police board members Dr. Dhun Noria and Marie Moliner complained about Thompson’s comments published in the media last month about Toronto Police strip search practices and over-spending along with confirming that he would not support renewing Blair’s contract.
The application states Thompson was advised by the police board legal counsel not to attend the meeting on Feb. 13 — a day after the complaint was made — and not provided a copy of the complaint.
“Even more Kafkaesque, the two complainants were allowed to attend the meeting and vote on their own complaint,” the lawyers’ press release states. “With a quorum of four (two of whom were the complainants), the board decided that Councillor Thompson ‘appears’ to have ‘potentially’ breached the Code of Conduct.”
The letter sent to Thompson advising him of the board’s decision urged him not to participate in matters related to Blair.
“The board urges you to not participate in any matters which may pertain to personnel, legal or contractual issues involving the personal interest of Chief Blair, as opposed to the organizational interests of the Toronto Police Service,” states the letter, signed by police board members Andy Pringle and Councillor Mike Del Grande.
In his judicial review application, Thompson is asking the courts to throw out the board’s decision and prohibit the Ministry of the Solicitor General from investigating.
“Simply put, it cannot be a violation of the Code of Conduct to criticize the chief of police,” the lawyers state. “To say that this is potentially a breach, as the board has done, is to stifle public debate, violate free expression, and undermine the board’s own mandate of exercising vigorous civilian oversight of the Toronto Police.”
Board Chairman Alok Mukherjee declined comment on Tuesday because the issue was before the courts.
Mayor Rob Ford said he supported Thompson but wouldn’t weigh in on whether the councillor’s comments were appropriate.
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