Editorial: Neutral party for Noble grants probe

Steve Noble. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)

Steve Noble. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)

The world’s biggest salt mine, in case you didn’t know, is in Goderich, a town in southern Ontario. It is capable of producing some 9 million tons of salt a year. And it is with all the salt in Goderich the people of Kingston should take any investigation of the job competence of Steve Noble, who’s running for mayor, by the administration of Shayne Gallo, who wants to be re-elected mayor.

In a story in the June 25 edition of the Kingston Times, Gallo said he wants an audit of all the grants that Steve Noble, who’s battling Gallo for the Democratic line for mayor this fall, after the Junior League of Kingston reported that it’s $70,000 in the lurch for the Kinderland II project. If, as the mayor has darkly hinted, the grant application is so irretrievably messed up that the state refuses to fork over the money it promised, the city could also be out more than $300,000.

Serious stuff, sure. Worth a look? Sure. But a look by officials appointed by the man the alleged grant messer-upper is running against in a primary election in two-plus months? Wait just a minute there. One of the officials Gallo appointed to the probe, economic development chief Gregg Swanzey, either posted himself or allowed to be posted on a city Facebook page earlier this year anti-Noble content. The other guy, Corporation Counsel Andy Zweben, has been since day one the mayor’s spokesman, henchman and handler, on more than one occasion throwing shade on the Common Council, even though he’s supposed to be their lawyer as much as he’s the mayor. (Since he worked closely with Gallo to get Gallo elected in the first place, this isn’t surprising, but that doesn’t make it right, either.)


Is it impossible for these men to objectively evaluate their boss’ political foe’s performance, even though their continued employment with the city depends on their boss’ re-election? It’s not, actually. But is it way too much of the mayor to ask the people of the city to accept an anti-Noble result as something produced by an unbiased, agnostic-as-to-results good-faith investigation? It is, actually.

Think about the other probe into someone’s competence the Gallo administration conducted — the Chris Rea investigation. It’s within the realm of possibility that the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court will go against the hearing officer’s finding that there’s no evidence Chris Rea broke the law and get the city off the hook for around a quarter-million dollars. But if it does not, Gallo’s exposed the city to a whopper of a liability and dragged a man’s name through the mud for no good reason. (As an aside on the mayor’s press conference this Monday, we trust the court will decide the Rea case on its legal merits and not whether the mayor and the council majority leader agree on how the case should have been pursued.)

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton. (Photo: Keith Ferris/Keith Ferris Photo)

Kingston Times editor Dan Barton. (Photo: Keith Ferris/Keith Ferris Photo)

So if Gallo really wants to pursue this path, the only ethical way to do so is to turn it over to an outside body, someone with no connection to and no stake in city politics.

Now, to do so may seem to the mayor and his allies an unacceptable sacrifice of a golden opportunity to denigrate his opponent. But with mayoral power comes mayoral responsibility to use public resources in an unbiased and fair-minded way. Also, consider this — what good would a tainted finding do in terms of peeling off Noble supporters and convincing them to vote Gallo? Not much, I figure.

There is one comment

  1. neil

    I find this editorial to do a disservice to its readers because it is mis-representative of the facts, biased and actually reeks of laziness. Without commenting on the merits of the individual candidates or Steve’s handling of the grant; I will say it is blatantly obvious that the editor, who has no knowledge and done no investigation into the grants himself, has already concluded that the charges should be taken with a grain of salt. He presumes that any investigation is politically motivated purely because of Steve running against the sitting mayor. To be clear, the review process is not of the fox guarding the hen house ilk that the editor paints. There are a couple of basic facts which seem to have been intentionally withheld or under-emphasized from the reading public (actually to say “intentionally’ is a presumption, my options are either intentionally or negligently – so neither is something the editor should be proud of).

    1) The matter stems from a complaint by an outside 3rd party group and there is no evidence of any political bias in their complaint. Zero.

    2) Gregg Swanzey, as the economic development officer and principal grant writer for the City of Kingston, is the person in the best position to review the grants. He understands the grant writing process better than most anyone else in City government.

    3) Gregg and Steve Noble were co board members of the Kingston Land Trust and have worked together for years.

    To so casually impugn Gregg’s integrity and carelessly attach charges of bias and impropriety to him, without any basis, is below the standards of journalism that one should expect from a high school newspaper. That the Kingston Times doesn’t satisfy those standards is disgraceful.

    I won’t pretend to know things I don’t – and I would suggest that’s a good habit for an editor to share. But let’s examine a hypothetical situation where a city employee is running for mayor. And the employee’s performance has been called into question by an outside group whose only apparent motivation is making sure their needs were being correctly met. What then should the sitting mayor do? And let’s not pretend that the mayor is unaware that whatever he does in terms of investigating or disciplining the city employee will bring into question his motivations. Of course he should want to put forth an unbiased investigation..which is perhaps why he chooses someone who is the grand administrator for the city. But the more relevant question is why presume the investigation is meritless simply because of the timing? Rather than sling labels, why not investigate the matter? Under the editor’s framework, city employees running for office against anyone sitting are basically given a pass on poor job performance because any questioning of said performance must be politically motivated.

    Why not pretend for a second that it’s not election season and this situation reared it’s head 2 years ago? Now go write an article about it.

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