Councillors want meeting with Fantino

By Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator
Apr 19, 2007

Haldimand councillors want a meeting with OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino to clear the air over a contentious e-mail he sent suggesting Caledonia councillor Craig Grice and the county is encouraging divisive rallies against the policing of the ongoing native occupation.

Councillors voted to send a letter to Fantino seeking the meeting. The commissioner first met with county councillors last fall when he took over the job from Gwen Boniface.

"We want to deal face-to-face and clear the air," Councillor Lorne Boyko said. "Any time you can meet with someone face-to-face and keep the channels of communication open, that's positive. We can get direct answers from him and he can get direct answers from us."

Boyko, a member of the Haldimand County Police Services Board, declined to say what he thinks about Fantino's e-mail, but said he would like council and the OPP to "work in a positive venue."

The county is reviewing whether the OPP should continue to police Haldimand, independent of Fantino's e-mail controversy.

Council will decide May 28 on a framework for the review, possibly hiring a consultant or creating a citizens' committee.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government will decide within days whether the e-mail was inappropriate, Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter said yesterday.

The Opposition said the premier's office and Kwinter need to "come clean" on their involvement in the e-mail.

Fantino said in the e-mail that if any of his officers were injured as a result of Grice's or council's position, he would back any lawsuit they brought against the county and would not recommend the OPP renew its contract to police Haldimand.

Kwinter said he has a few questions of his own. Many of his senior staff were copied on Fantino's e-mail so a ministry investigation might present a conflict of interest.

Once he receives legal advice, he said it shouldn't take long to complete the probe.

Kwinter was unsure what kind of sanctions Fantino might face if the e-mail is found to be inappropriate.

Fantino has been unavailable for comment. Inspector Dave Ross said Fantino is letting "the process take its due course.

"The commissioner is very supportive of his officers and has stated he won't be deterred from his duty to protect and defend his officers from unwanted criticism," Ross said.

Fantino's e-mail prompted three official complaints to Kwinter's office, including one from Merlyn Kinrade of Caledonia. The e-mail message was also copied to the premier's office.

"I don't tell people to whom they should and should not (copy) anything," Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters. "I continue to have confidence in him ... Given the circumstances, I think he and the OPP have been doing a very commendable job."