Fantino and Crown: Conflict of Interest

by Gary McHale - The Regional

January 20, 2010

The Attorney General's office attempted to sidestep justice last week by fast tracking Mr. Fantino's criminal charge through the court system in order to stay the charge before a summons had even been served on Mr. Fantino.

The Attorney General's office has already twice tried to stop this charge from going forward. During the original pre-enquete two Crown Lawyers attempted to persuade the Justice of the Peace not to issue the charge and they were successful. On appeal to the Superior Court the Attorney General again sent two Crown lawyers to argue against a criminal charge being issued against Mr. Fantino.

When Judge Crane ruled that the charge should be issued he was also ruling against the viewpoint of the Attorney General.

Now the same Attorney General is expecting the public to believe that he will independently and faithfully prosecute the very case he didn't want. It is therefore not surprising that the Attorney General filed paperwork last week to fast track Mr. Fantino's case. The Justice of the Peace had issued the charge and summoned Mr. Fantino to appear in court on Feb. 3 - the Crown quickly changed that date to last Friday, Jan. 15.

In 2006 Michael Bryant, then the Attorney General, updated the Crown Attorney Manual which states that Crown Attorneys are to be "models of fairness and transparency in decisions".

It is hard to imagine how the Crown is being transparent when they refuse to tell the public why they fast tracked this case and whether they planned to stay the charge last week.

What the court heard from the Crown on Jan. 15 was a request to adjourn the case back to the original date of Feb. 3. When I requested it be adjourned later than that the Crown objected stating that the Feb. 3rd. date could not be changed because it was the Justice of the Peace who set the date.

So according to the Crown, which stepped in and changed the date from Feb. 3 to Jan. 15 only to adjourn it back to Feb. 3, it is against the rules to change the date because the Justice had set that date.

Nice to see the Crown is on the ball on this one.

Meanwhile Mr. Fantino appears to see no problem in using taxpayer's money to aid in his public defence against this charge. The OPP have assigned a media relations officer to answer questions on Mr. Fantino's behalf. They also have sent out official OPP press releases through the paid news wire service.

Mr. Fantino has the right to speak out publicly but not to use the resources of the OPP. He is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Since when does a person get to use the resources of the OPP to spread their defence message? The OPP are agents of the Ontario Government and should not be aiding Mr. Fantino with his public relations problem.

Clearly Mr. Fantino has failed to separate his duty as the Commissioner of the OPP from his own personal agenda. Not only is Mr. Fantino using the services of the OPP but is relying on the credibility of the OPP to give added support to his public defence.

While Mr. Fantino is well aware that the charge of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials is against him personally, he is attempting to appear noble by claiming he will defend the men and women of the OPP against this allegation. Sorry Mr. Fantino there is no allegation against the OPP or against the men and women of the OPP.

"I intend to vigorously defend myself and the OPP against this allegation and have the utmost confidence in the judicial system", stated Mr. Fantino, and "I am proud of the work that the men and women of the OPP have done in Caledonia over the years in a complex and, at times, extremely volatile environment."

Mr. Fantino may see himself as riding in on a white horse to save the honour of the OPP and the hard working men and women of the OPP but the charge has nothing to do with their actions but with his actions.

Mr. Fantino cannot use his position as the Commissioner of the OPP to assign officers to speak out on his behalf nor can he use taxpayers' funds to send out paid news wire releases.

A letter sent Monday morning to Mr. McGuinty informed him of Mr. Fantino's misuse of public funds and the inappropriate use of OPP resources to spread his propaganda.

The letter also pointed out that Mr. Fantino, as Commissioner, would have direct and/or indirect access to evidence that could be used against him in court. What other emails did Mr. Fantino send to Haldimand Council that could point to his intent and thus possibly incriminate him. Such evidence could easily be deleted, lost or misplaced.

Therefore, I formally requested that Mr. Fantino be removed as Commissioner due to the clear conflict of interest.

Mr. McGuinty, himself, sent me a fax late on Monday stating he had passed on my letter to the Attorney General and he could not make comments on a matter that was before the court. It seems acceptable for Mr. McGuinty to speak out last week to belittle the charge and to state Mr. Fantino doesn't have to step down but suddenly this week he cannot talk about the case.

Now we have an announcement by the McGuinty Government of a cabinet shuffle where the current Attorney General is now also the Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs.

No Conflict of Interest here.

The same government that has been appeasing violent native protesters has now made Chris Bentley sole authority in both the Attorney General's office and Aboriginal Affairs.

So now when dealing with the criminal activities of native protesters in Ontario Mr. Bentley is acting as appeaser in his role as Aboriginal Affairs minister. He then expects the rest of Ontario to believe he is independently reviewing evidence on whether to prosecute native protesters.

Is there any question in people's minds that this Government has completely rejected the idea of the Rule of Law and the independence of the Crown's office?

Mr. Bentley's role as Aboriginal Affairs minister means he is required to promote, both publicly and privately, the political views of the McGuinty Government with respect to Aboriginal issues. Of course we are to believe there will be no political involvement or political agenda that Mr. Bentley will impose in his role as the Attorney General.

Wake up and stop hiding under your beds. Your freedoms are not free and they are not guaranteed. You either stand up for your rights or you lose them.