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Integrity Commissioner says city councillor breached multiple policies — Again

Report alleges Jim Handley posted a Facebook video, seemingly under the influence of alcohol, suggesting city staff were 'following and tracking him' on social media
For the second time in a year, Coun. Jim Handley is subject to a damning report by the city's Integrity Commissioner. Photo: ThoroldToday/Montage

City councillor Jim Handley might once again be facing a docked paycheque, getting booted from committee assignments, and could be restricted from directly communicating with city staff after an explosive report by the city's Integrity Commissioner found that he breached a slew of rules and regulations through his conduct.

It was on September 12 that the Integrity Commissioner received 8 complaints about Handley, resulting in a 35-page report outlining numerous occasions where the veteran councillor breached both the Code, as well as internal workplace- and communications policies through both conduct in emails and on social media.

Among the damning criticism against the councillor is a video, which he posted on Facebook on August 12, indicating that city staff was following him and tracking his social media and that streetlights would be turned off under strange circumstances when he appeared in public.

'(...) the Complaints allege that the Councillor breached Sections (...) of the Code by virtue of recording and posting videos to Facebook on August 12, 2021 that feature him at a public park (allegedly, close to his residence), appearing to be under the influence of alcohol, stating that staff were “following” and tracking him on social media, and that the lights at the park would suspiciously be turned off shortly after he appeared at the park,' the report reads.

ThoroldToday has attempted to obtain comment from Handley but did not hear back in time for the publication of this article.

In his responses to the commissioner's report, Handley confirmed that he did post the August 12 video, referred to as the "Light Conspiracy" in the report, and called it a 'mistake' that he made during a stressful time.

The report also found that Handley had inappropriately accepted support from Rebel News, a far-right website that has been vocally opposing measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic by paying fines for violators.

Handley, who was handed a fine for his attendance at a April 10 anti-lockdown rally in St Catharines initially stated he would be receiving funding from the organization but later asserted that he did not accept any support or payment from the group.

The complaints, which are filed anonymously, claim that Handley's conduct, primarily on social media, has continued to embarrass and damage the city's reputation and put staff in a compromised position while spreading inflammatory claims, such as the notion that 'communism rules Canada,' and promoting misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic and Canada's response.

Among the suggested reprimands for the councillor, the commissioner suggests that Handley's paycheque be withdrawn for a total of 230 days, and that he is 'precluded' from having direct contact with staff.

In cases where he needs information from staff, the report suggests Handley go through the mayor to forward his request.

The Integrity Commissioner also recommends that Handley removes a post from his Facebook page, which suggests that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning on murdering Canadians with 'poisoned shots' after signing a deal with vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.

'While the Councillor appears to have trouble appreciating exactly what is wrong with his statements and actions, it cannot be said, given the extensive guidance provided to the Councillor in the past, that these contraventions somehow were occasioned in good faith. On the contrary, these contraventions continue a deliberate (or, in the alternative, negligent or willfully blind) pattern of conduct,' the document reads.

It is the second time in a year that Handley, who also attended unsanctioned anti-lockdown protests at the height of the pandemic, is subject to an Integrity Commissioner investigation.

A report this spring suggested the city had to pay close to $50,000 for the previous investigation of Handley's conduct.

Unlike last time, the commissioner does not suggest that Handley apologize, which he was ordered to do during the last report.

'The Councillor did so, but his subsequent actions indicate that his words were hollow and likely insincere. A true apology manifests an intention to repair and reforms. The Councillor’s actions have demonstrated that he either has no ability, or has no intention to do either,' the report states.

'Accordingly, we are not recommending any further apologies from the Councillor.'

Read the full report in city council's agenda here.

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Ludvig Drevfjall

About the Author: Ludvig Drevfjall

Ludvig Drevfjall has been the editor of ThoroldToday since January 2020. He has worked as a journalist in Sweden, British Columbia and Ontario
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