This article originally appeared in April. It seems to have been vetted by the mayor's office, and no complaints or corrections were received. (Unsigned anonymous letters containing defamatory libel and extortion attempts don't count.) It was removed for a while to avoid compromising an investigation that the participants now know is underway.
A major scandal could soon erupt in the mayor's office after evidence of wrongdoing has been uncovered. Provincial officials are being asked to investigate a list of serious allegations regarding mayor Hope and some members of council.
The trail dates back to the 2006 municipal election in which some mayoral candidates and a private businessman allegedly conspired to manipulate the outcome and defeat mayor Diane Gagner. There were violations of the Municipal Elections Act, and phony news was distributed to the media, resulting in malicious falsehoods being knowingly published which likely changed the election's outcome.
In details that the media has kept a guarded secret from the public, Chatham-Kent council was made fully aware of allegations that a candidate was offered considerations in exchange for his endorsement of Randy Hope and withdrawal from the mayor's race. The municipal solicitor failed to pursue the allegations despite promising to investigate them.
Also ignored by the municipality were violations of the code of ethics following the election, when confidential council correspondence turned up in the hands of Mary Lee and John Cryderman. Documents contained in Court files suggest municipal communications may have been regularly funnelled into the office of this private unelected citizen by up to a handful of council members. This information was then used fraudulently to pursue their political agenda and threaten opponents.
There was also election spending that did not appear to be properly claimed by the candidates. An investigation into the election finances of Mary Lee and Randy Hope was conducted in 2007 in response to a citizen complaint.
During the investigation, the legal system was abused to intimidate the complainant, and the lawsuit was also cited in an attempt to avoid giving testimony. The inquiry was successfully pressured into narrowing the scope. Ultimately, much of the testimony of Mayor Hope and his campaign manager John Cryderman was tainted with evasiveness, fabrications and outright lies.
Following this alleged perjury, in which each contradicted the other and did not seem to have their stories straight, Auditor Bernard Nayman misled council. He had uncovered contraventions of the Municipal Elections Act but did not tell council what he really found. He crafted his final report to exonerate the candidates.
Having substantiated the initial complaints, along with even more discoveries, Nayman stated that he was "afraid nobody would believe him" if he reported what he really found.
Kwame Kilpatrick, the embattled former mayor of Detroit, received more attention in the local newspaper than our own mayor who did much the same thing - mislead an inquiry. Kilpatrick was forced to step down and serve time in prison for his lies involving an affair and some text messages, whereas Hope's prevarications were not so juicy.
In Chatham-Kent, the tactics covered up election conspiracies, discredited witnesses with defamation, fudged campaign costs, and obfuscated an attempt by mayor Hope to hire his campaign manager into a position of political responsibility minus a ballot.
There is no indication yet if Ontario authorities will view alleged perjury in the same serious manner as the Americans. Nobody ever did find out what Hope did in South Korea either, or why he couldn't remember who really paid for the trip while giving testimony.
With the intrigue of several hours of secret recordings, considerations, a $1.1 million defamation lawsuit that included innocent citizens (one of whom was a mother fighting breast cancer), and systematic media muzzling, several interesting parallels might be made to the famous Chuck Cadman affair. It's odd that our local media failed to investigate explosive information that was readily available to them all along in public documents.