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.)
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.