OPP Clears Midland Police Chief And I Of Criminal Allegations – Again

OPP

It has been a very long four years since Midland’s century-old community police service was disbanded by the 2014-2018 Municipal Council, an initiative championed by now Mayor Stewart Strathearn and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross and the seemingly perpetual chair of the Midland Police Services Board (and outspoken critic of the Midland Police Service) George Dixon.

Former Chief of Police Michael Osborne and myself (as a police association executive representing the sworn and civilian members of the former police service) were outspoken critics of the misinformation that was being peddled to residents by the former CAO, Strathearn, Ross, Dixon and some other members of a community lobby group that are no longer public figures so I won’t name them. We both pressed, to no avail, for a fact-based comparison of service levels, response times and costs – evidence-based decision making. Despite those efforts and pleas from much of the community to keep the community policing model, and quotes by the OPP that were more than the budget estimates for the Midland Police, the decision to disband was made by the last term’s council and took effect early February 2018. I transitioned to the Province, then to private sector and had the honour of being elected to be one of your nine representatives for the 2018-2022 term. I have since shown that we have spent millions of your dollars to change policing models, without any savings and still have over 3 million dollars to pay off before we can even claim to be breaking even. All involved moved on except for the former Chief who has been locked in litigation trying to get the settlement guaranteed by his contract.

Once the Town and the Police Board learned that a former employee of the police service (me), and now sitting elected Councillor, stood in between their vendetta against Osborne, they attempted, with at least 10 meetings with the OPP (right up to the Commissioner himself) to have Osborne and I charged criminally for keeping the police data safe and free from their preying eyes. Every single attempt to have us charged failed, as there simply was no criminality in protecting that data. In fact, there WOULD be criminality in not doing so. Even after leaving the employ of the police service, we are all bound to our oaths of secrecy and are not at liberty to regale people with confidential information entrusted to us from our positions of authority in the community.

After those previous failed attempts to have the OPP charge us with anything, this term’s council chose to launch a law suit against me early in 2019, demanding that I provide them with passwords to gain access to the Midland Police Service servers and databases that were left behind upon disbanding and inexplicably not assumed by the OPP – despite our pleas that they take custody of the sensitive police data about our residents that remained safely encrypted for police eyes only.

Once the Town’s former CAO, former in-house solicitor, this Council and Police Board learned that only I stood in their way, they abandoned their litigation against Osborne to focus their vengeance on me. I was forced to vigorously defend myself against this, all the while continuing to serve the community and work with my accusers to advance the business of the town. The litigation was seemingly not enough and successive complaints of code of conduct breaches, launched by Councillors Main, Downer and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross flooded in to the town’s integrity commissioners about me.

After a year of litigation, expenses well over $100,000 (taxpayer funded) they abandoned the law suit against me when I agreed to turn over the passwords to their outside legal counsel (who would assume the liability for protecting the data from the prying eyes of the town and police board chair). Mr. Dixon, an unelected council appointee, close friend and co-founder of the former MidlandCommunity.ca lobby group with Strathearn) with no legal authority to possess or view police data, was convinced that if he got access to the police data, he would find some kind of evidence that former Chief Osborne was a “bad employee” and could use that to punish Osborne for his objections to the way the OPP vs MPS decision was being portrayed, and skip out paying the severance, pension and years of contractual pay increases that were owed to Osborne when the board consistently refused to meet and negotiate as set out in the contract.

Just before my first court date, the town offered to settle with me, rather than have their claims tested in a court of law, and asked that the passwords be provided to their 3rd party lawyer and then abandoned the litigation against me, with hundreds of thousands of tax dollars spent, and no apology to me for the personal funds I had to spend defending myself against their baseless allegations. This should have been the end.

Inexplicably, the Town (who had yet to settle their arbitration matters with Osborne) resurrected the abandoned law suit against him despite having gained access to the data that the lawsuit was attempting to compel us to provide. Needless to say, that is an abuse of process and the Town lost that case, having to pay his expenses and having spent more undisclosed sums of tax money (that don’t appear on the budget documents) on an attempt to do something that even a student at law would have known was destined to fail. This loss was not made public, unlike their very public meeting to launch the law suit.

The town and Council was running out of options now. Osborne’s binding arbitration date, long delayed due to these legal complications and then the pandemic, was set to resume this past February. Literally three days before the arbitration was set to begin, the Town and Council authorized Midland Police Board Chair Dixon to make yet another attempt to have the OPP investigate and charge us criminally for “mischief to data” among other non-sensical similar allegations. The timing leads most to conclude that this was yet another tactic to drag our names through the mud and attempt to gain some advantage at the arbitration by saying that “Osborne is the subject of a criminal investigation”. I am not sure why they chose to include me again in their criminal allegations but I can only chalk it up to spite after their failed litigation against me.

At any rate, after detailed interviews with the OPP’s criminal investigations teams, the ones that deal with political and high profile investigations, and several months waiting for the results, we were advised yesterday that again, the OPP were not proceeding with charges – no criminality. The Town and Police Board chair were advised by the OPP earlier that day. By my rough count this is the 11th attempt by this Town Administration and my own Council to advance baseless criminal charges against the former police chief and I.

At last night’s Council meeting, I announced this news to my peers, and to those who watch our meetings, happy to provide closure of this chapter of ongoing persecution. Normally, when someone wrongs someone else, such as making a baseless and unsubstantiated accusation only to have it disproven, the accuser might be moved to apologize. I wonder how long, former Chief of Police Osborne and I will have to wait for that apology? It was very telling that Councillor Jon Main, a fellow Mayoral Candidate, choose to chastise me for a “highly inappropriate” announcement. My response to Mr Main, is that perhaps he should consider how “highly inappropriate” it is to advance baseless criminal allegations against anyone and to express no remorse in doing so when they are proven to be without merit.

Watch my announcement about the end of the latest baseless allegations against me and former Chief of Police, Michael Osborne.

This has been a sad abuse of municipal resources and tax money; proving to me the lengths that some will go to, using their office, influence and the seemingly bottomless tax purse, to crush opposition, silence dissent and do anything to be “right” even when faced with overwhelming evidence that they are “wrong”.

As your mayor, I will work to end this dark culture at Town Hall and settle grievances like adults – through mediation. If we get something wrong, we will own it and apologize publicly – not hide behind closed meetings to keep our errors free from public scrutiny. I won’t abuse my office for personal gain or to exact revenge against opponents and I won’t allow us to fund vendettas with your hard earned tax money. This chapter for Osborne and I should be over now that they have settled the arbitration and had to pay Osborne what they owed him – despite four years of litigation, slander and vengeful treatment of long serving town employees who served for decades with distinction until drawing the ire of Council past and present for standing up for truth, honour and having the integrity to stand by their oaths of office.

Is this all over now? Well, not exactly. We still have not paid a four year old legal bill to the lawyers that were prosecuting a former police officer. Dixon arranged that a large (six figures) cash settlement was paid to the officer to resign and the court case was abandoned but then failed to pay the lawyers. Naturally they sued the Town and the now former Police Service and Dixon tried to hang the legal fees on the former Chief as a bargaining strategy so Osborne would not press for the money owed under his contract. This extortion is still in play with the legal bills unpaid and no clear end in sight. The interest alone on this unpaid debt, legal fees and whatever damages we may be ordered to pay the law firm are likely at least a percentage point on the next tax increase – except you won’t see it since in my four years on Council I cannot get anyone to show me where our legal liabilities for these expenses show up on any department’s budget. We have a new CFO this time, so perhaps she can make this clear to us. This lack of transparency, which appears to hide the real costs of these cash settlements and fees, is another thing I pledge to correct if returned to Council. Transparency is not just showing the good news.

As you choose your next council this October, I ask you to remember that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. That mantra applies equally to everyone, including me.

Community First!

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for this information Bill. I am retired from my work in regulatory enforcement of Health Canada in the SG (Scientific Group) of Product Safety. And, I understand the points you are making on the responsibility to protect information. You are entirely correct about protecting data. Those who didn’t understand that and had a bone in their teeth (not fair to dogs … lol) can, I hope, take a positive lesson on how to reverse course by being logical, objective, and impartial. I hope they can see it’s never too late. You and the former Police Chief have not received fair treatment. The last part is always being optimistic about the future, which I sense you are. I just moved to Midland in December. We have a beautiful City, people, and environment. People everywhere are the same, but I notice an extra air of friendliness that comes from living closer to Nature. Our Midland is a place like that. Good luck in your run for office.
    Best Regards, Doug Gill

    • Thanks Doug, many others see it his way too. I am very optimistic that I can help change the culture at Town Hall and help bring some decency and procedural fairness back to our processes of dispute resolution. If the good people of Midland send me back in October, my only ask is that they send me some help!

  2. Awesome fantastic news Bill, my personal congratulations to you and former Chief Osborne.
    We, the public, have a right to know how much money the town has wasted on this vendetta against the two of you.
    I wish you the best of luck in your campaign and please, when successful, remove Mr. Dixon from what appears to be, thus far, a lifetime appointment as Chair of the MPS Board.

    • My understanding is that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor kept renewing his appointment and supported him as chair for “continuity” since the three of them are the controlling votes on all these legal issues. This entire process, for the past four years, is almost entirely driven by these three individuals.

  3. So what corporations do not have to disclose expenditures to their shareholders ? This buddy clique at city hall spends money like drunken soldiers and throughout the last 4 years have waisted millions of revenue , I seam to recall that they missed more than 5 million in grants for new Main Street sewer project because they started in September and not in the next spring ,because it was nice weather ? And now are being challenged before OMB board in July on a 100 new homes that have sat since last august with water , sewers and gas already in , and that this builder already built 100 homes on this site in last 8 years .!!! Like to see how they hid this expenditure in an election year . Dare I even mention how they slammed the town with these new Expensive meters . It goes on and on how do they hide these from even other council elected members ..

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