A MODERN MANUAL OF GRAFT IN CIVIC OFFICE CORRUPTION
In city after city across Canada, men m public office are found guilty of breach of trust or what the writer calls “honest graft." In this, the most respectable, safest and most lucrative of all larcenous worlds, these are only the cases we know about A national report by ALAN PHILLIPS
THERE IS AN INEXPLICABLE CONSPIRACY of silence among the authors of books on making money. No one mentions municipal politics. Yet selling the dispensation of public office, more commonly known as breach of trust, is that ideal enterprise where demand is as stable as human greed, where profits are high and tax-exempt, risk and overhead are low, and prospects, based on the lush green past, stretch limitless into the future.
By 1980. if present trends continue, our cities will double and triple in size. Growth will force land prices upward. New buildings will need insurance. New people will need more policemen and firemen, more taxis and service stations. Councils will call for contracts for sewers, watermains, street-paving, hospitals, schools. And the men who decide who gets the contracts, permits, jobs and insurance, who decide what buildings go where — these men hold keys to the public treasury.
Breach of trust falls into two classes: “honest graft" and “conflict of interest.” The first is most profitable in Quebec, where open political brigandry appears to carry little if any stigma. The total take is, unfortunately, untabulated. But as in pre-Victorian England, where £4,000 bought a seat in parliament, civic dishonesty in Quebec is like basic science: reassuringly fixed and known. “Ten percent on a contract, that’s reasonable,” says a parish priest. “Twenty to twenty-five percent, that’s bad!” A former suburban mayor, campaigning for return election (to an office he’d lost when convicted of corruption), seemed to think it would advance his cause to claim, publicly, that his successor was charging $400 to $500 for taxi permits, and $500 to $1,000 for jobs on the police force. In Montreal North a contractor balked at paying $3,000 for a permit for a gas station. Council refused him the permit. He sued and collected
CONTINUED ON PAGE 36
CORRUPTION IN CIVIC OFFICE continued from page 13
Tools of a larcenous official: the faked sale,
the kickback, the bylaw shuffle — and his wife
$13,833. Council, said the judge, had shown “a truly fine display of dishonesty.” The standard rate for a service station is only $1,000.
Away from ihe wicked metropolis, the leading citizens of St-Georges-de-Beauce, one of those solid small towns where character counts, diverted $19,500 the winter before last from the government’s winter works fund to build a chalet for their golf club. Club president Charles-Auguste Thibaudeau openly told the story to anyone, reported La Presse. “For him it’s a victory worth more than a forty-five score on the nine-hole golf course and he is not a very good golfer.”
Honest graft is so highly developed in Quebec that a Montreal architect asked the Income Tax Appeal Board for a rebate on his kickbacks. In four years, he said, he had had to pay out $32,000 to get contracts for “schools, churches, and all sorts of things.”
The Board turned him down. The government. in order to tax graft fairly, might feasibly recognize it in Quebec, where voters admire what politicians call “the candid rogue.” But in the rest of Canada the system would collapse. For the great law of politics here is “Things are not what they seem,” and the requisite for breach of trust is unquestioned respectability.
D. ROY KENNEDY was held in such high repute in the national capital that the D. Roy Kennedy Public School was named in his honor. He was lawyer for Gloucester Township, an elder of St. Andrew’s Church, and for thirty-three years he served on Ottawa’s school board, thirteen times as finance committee chairman, eight times as chairman of the board.
At a meeting on December 22, I960, the board, chaired by Kennedy, sold some land to Donald Trudeau. Ihe finance committee. chaired by Ernie Brown, had set the price: $12,500. It was a routine matter (except for the presence of some school children, there to see democracy in action). It would have been forgotten hut for a rare caprice of chance, an error in the description of the land. The board corrected the deed four months later. But when the papers were filed they showed corrections on two deeds. The second, dated December 23, transferred the land for $12,500 from Donald Trudeau to W. A. (Ernie) Brown. The solicitor in the "sale" was D. Roy Kennedy.
When the Ottawa Citizen broke this story, Brown, through his realty company was well along with the building of a $300,000 apartment. The Citizen hired an appraiser. For a high-rise apartment, the land, he said, was worth $60.000, a large but not uncommon profit in such transactions
Mr. Brown resigned from the board and gave the land back. Mr. Kennedy refused for weeks to resign. He had not, he said, done anything wrong or illegal.
Neither had Calgary’s Mayor Don Mackay done more than epitomize the open western nature. He had merely accepted a few gifts. From a Montreal financier seeking bus and sewer service for an apartment project — a dishwasher. From a land development company — $1.200 worth of furniture. From the agent of a New York syndicate desiring to buy city land — free flights to Mexico and Hawaii, and two $2.000 “loans,” both written off. From a contractor doing business with the city — S3.500 worth of additions to his home. But, said the mayor w'ith tears in his eyes, fol-
lowing an inquiry judge’s censuring, “For whatever years the Lord may grant me, I will never admit I have been guilty of anything except lack of judgment.”
This dichotomy in our morals was summed up rather neatly in 1960 by Dugald Donaghy. QC, investigating the park board in Vancouver. Park Board Superintendent P. B. Stroyan had bought from the park stores, for $20, a telescope valued at $200 (and similar bargains) that he was supposed to advertise for sale. Stroyan had broken the law and high-handedly defied council in placing contracts, but his character, Donaghy said, remained unblemished.
ENGEISH-SPEAKING CANADA agrees in theory with George Drew, who as Tory leader in 1955 said: “The rules of conduct are clear. There must not only be an absence of conflict of interest but there must be no appearance to the public that there could be any conflict of interest.”
In practice we seem to agree with U. S. president John Adams, who concluded in frontier days that corruption was necessary, that government could be held together only by “the cohesive power of public plunder.” The frontier spirit was opportunism, individualism, and the city today is a kind of frontier, under continual change, where we live by the frontier motto: The Lord helps those who help themselves.
One helps oneself best in a period of growth by dealing in land. “It’s interesting to see the outstanding zeal for public service displayed by those whose business is handling property,” says Ron Haggart. a writer on civic affairs for Toronto’s Star. “When the building boom in Scarborough where 1 live was at its height at least seven of the candidates for council were builders, subdividers, real estate agents, or lawyers representing subdividers. In the last elections in Vancouver a lawyer went to council to get a permit for an apartment house. When the council turned him down he ran for mayor. One wonders why.”
This question was answered succinctly in I960’s elections in Vaughan Township, where the farmland is fast becoming suburban Toronto. Running for reeve was E. W. Anstey, an associate of John Spence, whose two development companies sought permits and subsidies from the council. Running for deputy-reeve was Ron Fenn, a former real-estate man, who now lists himself as an “investor.” And running for councilman was Bruce Ralph, solicitor for two land companies. They were offering to serve, they said, in the cause of progress.
THE SIMPLEST TECHNIQUE for furthering progress goes back to the Roman city states. Their tribunes used influence to buy public land at book value, or what would today be called “assessment price.”
Thus in Eastview in 1953 the wife of the then deputy-reeve, Mrs. Cecile Paquette, bought lots for $200 which an independent appraiser later valued at three times that figure. The wife of councilman (now reeve) Marcel Robert paid $375 for land valued at $1.500 to $2.000. And Mrs. Yolande Labelle, the treasurer’s daughter and wife of the clerk, got for $1,000 a clear deed to land worth $13,000 to $15.000.
These deals can he easily and decently veiled by devices such as the swap. At a special meeting of Eastview'’s council in 1952 Mr. J. G. Kelly was given eighteen lots on Montreal Road, plus (for $350)
parking space. In return he agreed to give the town a playground.
Such a trade is carefully supervised by the Department of Municipal Affairs, whose watchdogs guard the taxpayers’ interests. They were aided by the mayor (and Tory MPP), Gordon Lavergne. who himself telephoned the facts to the department. The town was getting a parcel of land “twice the size of the one being deeded to Mr. Kelly,” said the letter confirming his call, "with a fully constructed playhouse with all conveniences, a large wading pool, a ball diamond . . . (and) grass and shade trees all around, which has been prepared at a cost of $25,300.”
Eight years later Eastview’s astronomical debt forced the government watchdogs to supervise in somewhat closer detail. The playground, said its report, was 95.000 square feet. The town had given Kelly 112.400 square feet. Kelly had spent “about $1,000 for fill and tile, together with an unknown amount for shade trees . . . The main cost would be the building and as to this we can only judge by the fact that a building which was erected to replace the one supplied by Kelly was in 1959 assessed at $1,400 . . . actual value." Their appraiser valued the playground at $7,500. the property Kelly acquired at $40,000.
AT Tilt: LAST MELTING of Ontario mayors and reeves a mayor proclaimed that he was known as "the man who breaks the bylaws." His audience applauded. 1 hey were no doubt applauding themselves as unfettered men of action, entirely unaware that in breach of trust the central artifice is keeping laws on the books that can be broken -—• when desirable.
Mr. Norman Green and his brother, in a typical case in point, paid $34,500 in 1955 for three lots in the township of York outside Toronto. They wanted to build three triplexes. “Definitely not." Reeve Fred Hall told Norman. York's zoning law permitted only duplexes. Discouraged, the Greens sold out next year at a loss of $2,000 to Mannie Baker, a contractor.
Mr. Baker took out three permits marked "duplex with finished basement." His blueprints showed a "recreation room" in the basement directly under the first-floor living room. They showed a "bar" beneath the first-floor kitchen. Under each bedroom was "storage space." under the bathroom a "toilet.” Mr. Baker, through his knowledge of synonyms — and York Council — was able to rent this duplex, when completed, to three families, which made the land worth some $5,500 more to him than to Mr. Green.
York's Commissioner of Works, Orville Falls, made frequent reports on such "duplexes” to the Committee of General Purposes of York Council. " I here has been an application for a building on a street zoned for two-family dwellings," he would say. "they are roughing in plumbing and heavy wiring in the basement. I think this should he refused or something should be done about it."
"Thank you, Mr. Falls, we have heard your report,” the chairman. Fred Hall, would reply. "We will put the application over for decision later." A week or two later the application would come up again, says a witness, “and it would be a matter of ‘everyone in favor, aye.’ ”
York's planning consultant. Gordon Pulliam, warned in 1956 that population density in the township was dangerously high. Next year Falls reported 122 violations in 191 buildings. The basements of the duplexes, he told the committee, were "being finished practically ready for occupation, even to . . . the three name plates on the front."
"We have heard your report, thank you, Mr. Falls," said the chairman.
The Humewood Ratepayers’ Association complained that "these triplexes are illegally changing the character of portions of our community for possibly three or four decades. They are built on lots with a width of twenty-five feet or less . . . have as little as one foot side yard clearance ... no proper parking . . . and windows are built in side walls facing into similar windows in the next triplex across narrow dark alleyways . . .”
The council asked for examples on which they could prosecute. The association named two. Council then decided it
wouldn't be fair to single out two, "having knowledge,” as the clerk of the township said, “that many other similar violations have occurred . . .”
“Sixty percent of councils in Ontario seem to think they have individual discretion to keep or break their own bylaws." said J. W. P. Carter, an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Municipal Affairs, at the afore - mentioned meeting of mayors and reeves of Ontario. His minister, then William Warrender, when asked about Carter’s remarks, said they might have been a bit broad but he
couldn’t criticize Carter for them. He himself knewa municipality that had been violating statutes for two generations, but “no one,” he said, “is being harmed.”
“IN OUR WI SH RN CIVILIZATION.” says E. A. Gutkind in The Expanding Environment, "speculators' and contractors' gains are the driving power behind the unlimited growth of the cities."
The principle here is that land is worth what you put on it. Why wait years for prices to slowly rise by the law of supply and demand when the stroke of a pen on a
permit for an apartment or shopping centre, like a magic wand, can turn cheap land into wealth?
In April of ’53 York Township sold land zoned for single houses to Mrs. Isobel Brisbois, who agreed to build fifteen houses in two years. In May the council bypassed its bylaw to let Mrs. Brisbois build two, three and four-family houses. Her investment, about $40,000 in cash, rose in value. In September council passed a bylaw permitting apartments to be built. Her investment rose once again. She was able now to sell out, without building more than a rough road, for a profit of $125,000.
A tidy fortune can thus be made with very little capital. In March of 1955 a builder came to Reeve Hall. He wanted half an acre of township land. He offered $10,500 if he could put up an apartment block.
The reeve recommended the offer to the township council. It was a good deal for York, he said. This was filled land, requiring pile-driving (later estimated at $10,000). Yet the builder, he said, was willing to pay $20,000 an acre, “a lot of money."
The application came before the committee on April 4. The builder, Oaklyn Investments Co., presented plans for a tenstory building with 100 suites and parking for fifty-one cars. This was crowding the lot a bit. It meant setting the building thirty inches from the sidewalk. But the committee agreed to break the bylaw' that called for a ten-foot setback.
On April 13. Municipal Affairs gave its blessing, and on June 9 the permit came through — for twelve stories with 117 suites. It overflowed the lot. The retaining walls and a concrete ramp had to be built on adjacent parkland. And since, luckily, the street was unopened, Oaklyn paved part of it for parking and put up signs:
RESERVED PARKING TENANTS ONLY
ALL OTHER PARKING PROHIHITED
A year later Works Commissioner Falls raised the matter. The committee felt it only fair that Oaklyn should pay for the street and parkland. They set a price of $15,000. Oaklyn offered $9,000. Mr. Falls felt they might have the land appraised. 'I he appraiser set its value “without any penalty . . . for the trespass” at $57,200.
The committee resolved to hold the matter over until the next meeting. Next meeting they resolved that it be tabled. And here it rests, with Oaklyn in possession of land worth, at least, $150,000; land that cost, by one estimate, $20,500.
THE MANNER IN WHICH Oaklyn bought this land is instructive.
On March 1, the township treasurer, James Chessar, had an offer from Oaklyn of $7,500. Ten days later a Dianne Piotrowski offered $10,000. Oaklyn upped its offer next day to $10,500.
When three columns by Pierre Berton finally forced an investigation, a Mr. Merkur, an Oaklyn executive, was asked. “Why did it occur to you to increase your offer?”
"I called to find out how my offer was going and ultimately I was told it was unacceptable . . .”
“With whom did you speak?”
Mr. Merkur was vague. “Mr. Chessar or someone in his office,” he said. "I think I asked him, would $10,000 buy it, and he said, ‘I can’t answer that.’ He said. ’Whatever you are prepared to offer, put it on paper,’ or something along that line."
"Does it not appear,” the inquiry counsel asked Mr. Chessar, "as if Oaklyn must have had some information about the Piotrowski offer?”
“That would be possible,” agreed Mr. Chessar, “but certainly not from me . . .”
TH3S METHOD OF BUYING land, known as “open competitive bidding,” has obvious advantages for a council. But sometimes, to avoid an appearance of favoritism, our civic politicians will call for sealed tenders.
Tendering can be risky for a buyer. He will lose his deposit if he backs out. And not knowing what the other bidders are offering for the land he might even feel he should offer what it is worth.
Tendering therefore calls for the expertise of a bidder like Alex J. Rubin. In August of 1955 he offered to buy land from York, about three quarters of it industrial. for $8,000 an acre. He signed an agreement of sale. Then council called in an appraiser. He appraised it. after deducting the cost of services, at a little more than $10,000 an acre. That decided council to call for tenders.
They advertised in November — in rather small print and dull prose — lands "on which to erect private residences” and lands “on which to erect buildings for light industry.” T hey drew ten bids, which they opened in public and handed to York’s solicitor, asking him to report at their next meeting.
The highest bidder for the industrial land, he reported, was Alex J. Rubin — $6,506 an acre. The next highest offer was less than half as much. For the other parcel, J. Del Zotto’s bid topped the field by SI4.900.
At this same meeting two letters were read?1 One was from Mr. Rubin. He had erred, he said, in calculating the area of the land, and "would like to cancel our offer to purchase. ” The second was from J. Del Zotto. He too bowed out. And since their letters had been received, as the township solicitor noted, before their tenders had been accepted, all deposits, of course, were returned.
The committee waited nine months to
try again. They advertised, briefly, in terms a little less eye-catching than before. Only one bidder responded: Alex J. Rubin. He bid $6,016 an acre. Council resolved to accept. So, while this land was rising in price, Mr. Rubin with consummate skill, bid progressively lower and got it.
The procedure in bidding for contracts is diametrically opposite: low' to begin with, then rising progressively higher. Thus the city hall roof in the capital of Quebec, which La Maison Falardeau agreed to repair for $5.000 plus fifteen percent, added up in the end to $54,983.51 — a special kind of addition best practiced by companies with an official (as had Falardeau) who is also a city alderman.
IN COURT, JUDGES seem either tolerant of civic corruption, or not quite able to make up their minds. There were no convictions for bribery after the inquiry in York, though corruption charges were laid against Reeve Hall, William Graham, a deputy reeve, and Harold Linden, a lawyer on council. But the judge did not rule on whether a bribe had actually been given. He directed acquittal because a permit, supposed to have been paid for. had been passed by council two days before the alleged bribe took place. The Court of Appeal for Ontario ordered a new' trial, which Messrs. Linden, Graham and Hall have now appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 1957. Arthur Mason, a Kingston businessman, w'anted the city’s natural gas franchise for his company. At a meeting in a Toronto hotel room in January, he said he was told by a Kingston public utilities commissioner. Thomas Andre. "You are not going to get Kingston without some help. Mr. Mayor (Frank Boyce) and 1 are going to get something out of this."
Accordingly, Mason said, at Boyce's urg-
ing he wrote a letter: “If the Consumers’ Gas Company are successful in leasing or purchasing the gas division of the Kingston Public Utilities Commission, 1 agree to pay you a minimum of $10,000 in cash.” The letter, he said, was written "in bad faith,” to see how far the city officials would go.
This letter was received in March by Mayor Boyce. He had no intention of taking the bribe, he explained. He had kept it secret because "it would ruin Mason.” The judge called it "a sorry sordid story from beginning to end,” but juries acquitted both the accused.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST, successful or not, is illegal. But. as Ottawa's Mayor Charlotte Whitton points out. what one person cannot do legally, several (i.e. a company) can. A limited company needs only three directors. These, she says, “may include you. your wife, your brother, or any of your sisters and your cousins and your aunts. Then you can sell to or buy from the city to your bank account’s content.”
In Hamilton, firms owned by Archie McCoy have had $198.000 worth of business from the city and the firm of his brother-in-law, on which McCoy held a chattel mortgage, has had business worth $90,000 — this since McCoy was elected to council. Between 1950 and 1960 the Gordon H. Fuller Construction Company has had contracts totaling $266,690 from Windsor's utility commission, of which Gordon Fuller is a member. What is lucrative and legal is soon common and condoned.
Even illegality — concealing one’s conflict of interest — carries no more risk than normal legal business practice, a paradox that Justice Marshall Porter explains in summing up the case of William Hawrelak. "Wrong has become right
because it is often repeated,” he said.
Hawrelak was mayor of Edmonton until 1959, a vote-getter without peer, so energetic. popular and able that the Liberals, before they lost their hold on the nation, had him earmarked for a federal cabinet post. He was a man to inspire faith, as his fellow officials testified.
The mayor, in the classic tradition, bought land cheap, transferred it to the company he secretly owned. Metropolitan Investments, then used his influence to get it rezoned for such desirable properties as a shopping centre, a motel and a gas station. He accepted from the Imperial Bank, which handled the city’s banking. 340 shares in Alberta Gas Trunk line, on which, said Mr. Justice Porter, “there was a quick and ready profit.” From TransCanada Pipe Line, whose success in competing for gas might well force city gas prices higher, he accepted 300 units at $150 each, which gave him. Porter said, “a certain and immediate profit." And while mayor he was on the payroll of Loblaws (at $20,000 a year) while that company was seeking a warehouse site, which of course the mayor procured.
The city sued, following Porter’s report, to recover $226.000. Mayor Hawrelak in a moving speech said he “felt impelled to resign." His emotions, however, did not include remorse. He rejected "the principle . . . which seems to flow from this report," he said, "that a person, upon accepting public office, must relinquish and avoid all private business ties. I believe, in electing me to the office of mayor, the citizens of Edmonton expressed a desire to entrust this position to a businessman . . .” And applying sound business principle he settled for $100,000.
Mayor Hawrelak had broken the law. He had failed to reveal his conflicting interests. So had Lavergne. D. Roy Kennedy,
dozens of others. But no penalties were exacted. None exist.
“We may restrict and publicize as much as we like,” said the Hon. C. G. Power, writing on corruption a decade ago, “but if we do not equip ourselves with the teeth of penalty, and give them a sharp biting edge, we might just as well not bother.”
The sole penalty for failing to disclose conflict of interest was spelled out last year by Ontario’s premier, then Leslie Frost: That failure "is noted in the minutes. The public that he and we serve is a very wise public . . . able to discern whether he is a faithful servant . . . John Public with his ballot can control that situation and I think it is entirely adequate.”
CIVIC: I AW RESTS on the premise that civic corporations are not autonomous. Like any other corporation they must be regulated. The provinces have the power and duty to “Inquire at any time into any or all of the affairs, financial or otherwise, of a municipality." With a go-ahead from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, departmental probers can hit the trail, or a judge can preside at a full-scale investigation, backed by the entire provincial police apparatus.
But democracy is more a matter of practice than of law and in practice it is not quite like that. When Reeve René Guillet of Blezard Township near Sudbury charged that cheques had been issued to nonexistent firemen, the department did not seen to share his desire to hold an inquiry. When ratepayers in Clarence Township in eastern Ontario asked for a probe, the department, it is true, ordered an audit. It showed dozens of payments not properly supported by vouchers. "Something was radically wrong in that municipality.” says Liberal MRP Vernon Singer, “hut nothing was done. No charges were made. Not only that, but when the township refused to pay for its audit the province paid for it.”
In I960, ninety-eight citizens of Fastview. a suburb of Ottawa, asked for a probe to stave off impending bankruptcy. The department, after a ten-day lapse to consult with the mayor, sent down two of its men. Their instructions were clearly implied in their report wherein they explain that "as much as it was humanly possible to do we have endeavored to leave alone the questions of malfeasance and misfeasance . . .” (It was not their fault that the mayor’s machinations in contracts, land and taxes, and the fact that money was missing from the treasury, made malfeasance humanly impossible to avoid.)
This is called “respecting local autonomy.” Expressing a view that seems prevalent everywhere, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs said last year that his department had no intention of forcing itself on unwilling communities. A roving corps of inspectors, he said, would be "a Gestapo.”
Like the man who resolved to stay out of the water until he had learned to swim, the department will not take action until the voters can prove corruption — in which case they do not need the department. It seems on the whole a highly effective method. The fact that few investigations are made can then be cited as pi oof that little corruption exists.
THE PRINCIPI E OF AUTONOMY, so cherished by politicians, was demonstrated recently in Mimico, a working man's town on the lakeshore adjoining Toronto. Early last year a Mimico theatre, run by Robert Walton, was closed down after a visit by Jack Book, the building inspector. Walton felt that Book had been angling for a bribe. He set out to prove that some
people were breaking the law and getting away with it.
He was not Mimico’s only outraged citizen. An engineer, Ernest McKee, had gone to Book to complain that a building rising next door to him was too close to its lot line. “If it’s not on your property,” he said Book told him, "there’s nothing you can do about it.”
McKee accused council of letting a builder violate its laws. Council asked a solicitor for his views. Since "the builder was led to believe by persons in authority that he could depart from the permit,” he said, a court might be “reluctant to compel a person to tear down a house.” When, finally, council took it to court, the charge w;as dismissed. It had not been made, as required, within six months of the violation.
Edward Drennan, a member of Mimico’s planning board, took a similar com-
plaint to Book’s office. Book, he said, looked up from his desk and inquired, "What the hell do you want?” Book wouldn't let him see permits or plans, he said, which are public documents, and when he complained to council, the chairman of the property board. James Ferric, "gave me the worst blast I ever had to take from anyone.”
Mr. Walton’s campaign had bogged down too. Told he could see the records, he then found them closed to him. I hen he was told he could see them, but only for one hour a day, and only when the building inspector was there. I he building inspector had few free days. Finally, when Walton’s hour came, he was told that the records couldn’t be copied.
He took his frustration to columnist Pierre Berton. Berton wrote of "the rape of the beaches,” illegally filled to create "an apartment jungle” of what had been “a pretty little community.” He asked how Jack Book, who had endured a long expensive illness, could, on $4,500 a year, support five children, buy property, build a new home, drive a late-model car. and holiday in Florida?
Berton’s columns put Mimico’s new lory mayor, Hugh Griggs, on the spot. He had to have an investigation to halt the flood of gossip. After meetings with officials of the Department of Municipal Affairs he announced an inquiry under Section 241 of the Municipal Act. This lets a council use public funds to investigate it-
self. At the next meeting, council hired Walter Martin, a lawyer whom presumably they felt w'ould be most diligent in prosecuting the case against his clients. As an added precaution some Mimico ratepayers chipped in for another lawyer. Aubrey Golden, twenty-eight, and still idealistic.
Golden got in touch at once with Martin. "We agreed that this was not a trial,” Golden says. "It was an attempt to ascertain all the facts. I said I had a list of bylaw infractions that would have to be put in shape, we would need an architect and an engineer. I said I had a list of witnesses, would he pay for the cost of subpoenaing them? He said. ‘Anything we need, w'e'll get." I was happy about his attitude. I turned over all my evidence to him. I thought I’d just be assisting him.
"I saw him at the Mimico Council office the next evening. ‘There's nothing wrong with these buildings,’ he said. He'd been going over my list with Book and Ferrie, head of the property committee, and he told me how they interpreted the bylaws. Well. I was a little upset but I thought he was just getting the other side of the story. Bob Walton was upset too. He decided to drive Mr. Martin around Mimico. Walton showed him thirty or forty addresses where things seemed to be wrong. Later, Mr. Martin told me he couldn't see anything vrong with these properties either.
"In the meantime 1 had suggested we hire an investigator, John Garrity. Walter Martin said he'd have to take it up with the town solicitor, George Gauld. who said he'd have to take it up with council. Council refused. They also refused to hire an architect or a surveyor." The ratepayers canvassed door-to-door for funds. "We weren't very successful,” says Bill Longridge, one of their leaders. "People would say. ‘What's the use? You can't do anything.' ”
The inquiry at first bogged down in a vilification of Golden's witnesses by the battery of high-priced lawyers representing Book and the council and those realtors and builders who thought they had something to worry about. But slowly a picture of Mimico emerged.
An ex-real-estate salesman named Joseph Moher, who claimed to have sold seventy-five percent of all the land sold in Mimico, said that all but one percent of its building permits broke the law'. "It goes on everywhere." he said. "There's always somebody who can be bought off."
At first, he explained, "we w'ere trying to ram bungalows in between houses." Then a permit for a triplex "was issued to Kilkuli” and "the town was blown open." That was the biggest building till “Sam Traub built the first sixplex. He was the only one building them ... 1 said, ‘Sam. how do you do it?’ I said. ‘I can't seem to get a permit for them . . . What have I got to do? Sit on the inspector’s knee to get a permit?’ And he said. ‘No, go upstairs to the boss and sit on his knee.' ”
“Who w'as the boss?” asked Golden.
‘ Was he referring to the tow n clerk?”
“He might have been."
"Who was the town clerk at that time?"
Golden went to see Traub. “He was
just leaving for Florida." Golden says. “He wasn't sure if he might not be going to Arizona — he was going for his health, you see. Well, we didn't have enough money to dig for corroborative evidence. I was paying John Garrity out of my own pocket and he was working day and night for very little. My secretary was out serving subpoenas. I had a student making investigations. All we could do was scratch atound till we found someone who had heard a builder say he had paid out money."
One of these was Anne C. Burgess, a
real-estate saleslady. She said that in 1956. when Ferric was the town clerk, she had been due to meet Mr. Traub at the town hall for a meeting about a permit to build fiveplexes. When she arrived Traub was already leaving. He ran toward her, she said, saying. "Get into the car! Get into the car! This has just cost me $500!"
"I was shocked. Mrs. Burgess said. "I just looked at him and 1 said: ‘Whom did you give it to?" And he said. ‘Jimmy Ferrie.' "
Mr. Martin later objected to this inference. Mr. Golden, he said, "is guilty of
the worst t\pe of irresponsible conduct a lawyer can be guilty of. I think his conduct so far is beneath contempt.” If he had checked the town receipts before he led such evidence, he would have found, said Martin, that the $500 was for sewers.
“Well. 1 checked that at lunch hour,” Golden says, "and there was a receipt for sewers — for $343 paid on a Tuesday, one day after the $500 that Mrs. Burgess mentioned. So the $500 couldn't have been for sewers. And Ferrie hadn't denied it had been paid. So w hat was it for?"
But this was hearsay evidence, like the
evidence against Book. A builder had testified that he gave Book “a gift” of some $70 — but he was a somewhat evasive witness. Book admitted taking a five-day expense-free holiday in Florida as the guest of Mimico’s biggest real-estate agent — but, as he explained, they were boyhood chums. Over strong objections by Walter Martin and Book’s counsel. Golden examined Book’s bank records.
Book, as always, was calm, assured and precise when Golden questioned him on his new garage. Book said it had been paid for with two cheques: for $321.50 and $644.50.
“And did you receive the money for the garage from some other person?”
“I did, sir.”
“What other person, Mr. Book?”
“Your Honor,” Book appealed to Judge .1. Ambrose Shea, “May I ask that the name not be divulged? It is a member of my family ...” She was “very sick at the moment . . Golden did not want to appear, or be, heartless. He desisted, did some checking and recalled Book.
“You told me . . . you obtained funds for that garage from a relative, the name you didn’t want to reveal?”
“I said that the funds were obtained from a relative.”
At the time the garage was paid for, Mr. Golden said, a cheque was handed over for $321.50.
“This person (the relative) provided the money?”
“She did not.”
“It was Mr. J. Kavcic? ... A builder in Mimico?”
“I suggest you lied to me when you said the money came from a relative.”
“I am not here to listen to your suggestions ... I said I obtained the funds for the garage from a relative.”
“In fact,” said Golden, “the garage was entirely paid for by Kavcic and Kastelic (another builder)?”
They had loaned him the money, Book said.
“How much interest are you paying?” “No interest.”
“What was the date that you wert; to repay this money?”
"No date specified . . . just when and if I could.” The relative, he explained, had sent the money “later on,” when he was in “quite bad debt.” If he was in such bad financial shape, asked Judge Shea, why had he bought a $1.600 boat? An "oidinary human mistake,” said Mr. Book.
I^ast month. Judge Shea reported on the Mimico inquiry. He found Book had taken favors from a real estate agent and builders and ‘had deliberately tried to deceive the hearing. Despite this, and despite what he called the many “open, obvious, flagrant” bylaw violations during Mimico’s ‘very deplorable” building situation in 1950-60, Judge Shea did not recommend that legal action be taken against Book or anyone else.
At this writing Mimico’s council seems to agree. “The mayor.” says Golden, ‘now says it’s too bad about Book. He made a mistake — he shouldn’t have borrowed money from a builder. So he’s still the building inspector. The system isn't set up to flush corruption.”
THE POLITICAL ATTITUDE toward civic corruption is perfectly practical. Says a highranking civil servant who prefers to remain anonymous: “The watchdog role that the auditor-general plays in the federal government — could you get that 6n the local - provincial level? The politicians would say, 'What are you trying to do — get me voted out of office?’ ” Party power derives from the grass roots, very often the civic machine.
Let us take the case of Arnprior, in eastern Ontario. Here the Arnprior Development Company, setting out a new subdivision, agreed in 1957 to pay for water and sewers as called for by bylaw. Next year company lawyers drafted another agreement, transferring the cost of the sewers to the taxpayers. Then, as council men, the two lawyers voted for it. The lawyers were J. J. Greene, then candidate for leadership of the Liberal Party in Ontario, and Conlin Mulvihili, president of the local Conservative association.
Conflict of interest is not unknown in higher politics. As pipeline promoters made money bringing natural gas to the east, so, coincidentally, did politicians. Three members of the Ontario cabinet, which controlled the pipeline route, made, respectively, $11,000, $18.842, and $358,383. A key fund-raiser for the lory party made $69,050, and the company, Northern
Ontario Natural Gas, sold the lop Ontario Tory, A. D. McKenzie, president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Association, a large block of stock and gave him a $6,00()-a-year retainer to represent them. In Quebec, where Quebec Natural Gas needed cabinet approval to take over the gas facilities of Quebec Hydro, five ministers, Premier Duplessis’ executive secretary, four other prominent politicians and three top officials of Quebec Hydro all made sizable profits on stock.
In politics, more than any field, evil is relative. The voters are bribed with promises. Party loyalty is a commodity, bought and sold by campaign donations. The office given in return for support is another kind of bribe. “The most deadly sin in politics,” as U. S. Senator Paul Douglas said, is “ingratitude and a refusal to return favors.”
Few politicians would care to have everything brought into the light; thus scandal becomes a greater crime than malfeasance. “Muckrakers!” growls a wellknown politician significantly, “I’d shoot ’em between the eyes. You damn the Liberals and the Conservatives and turn fifty percent of the voters Communist.” When Donald MacDonald, who leads Ontario’s
NDP party, revealed how the gas line came east. Premier Frost described the ministers who succumbed to temptation as "honest decent men” and the man who revealed it as "a p.g in a trough" and a "character assassin . . . beneath contempt.” And, he concluded, sincerely, "I wish you’d close your trap.”
THE BIHWIOR of politicians, says Professor Bora Laskin of the University of Toronto, s "a matter of political morality more than legal obligation." Correction "depends upon the public temper or how far the people can be aroused. Certainly Canadians are less easily aroused than the British and so we have repeated breaches of trust."
"We say we're a nation that exists by rule of law, but of course we don't.” says Lome Cummings, Deputy Minister of the Ontario Department of Municipal Affairs. “A iot depends on the public demand for obedience of the law. We have strict traffic laws, but how many people keep to the speed limit? Properties are supposed to-be assessed at actual value — they’re not. and everybody knows they're not. Why? Because people don't want the law to be enforced!”
Mayor Jean Drapeau, who has set out twice to reform Montreal, speaks of ";he complicity of honest people, the silence and inactivity of honest people." Says another politician: "Citizens want peace and quiet, safe streets, efficient transport. They don't want to know about corruption. They don't want to be disturbed. The good 'ife is synonymous with comfort and exposing corruption is an ordeal. Why do you think politicians talk in platitudes?”
Edmund Leger, the Edmonton alderman who did most to expose Mayor Hawrelitk. was abused for weeks by anonymous telephone caliers. They called him unprintable names. O.te man said he'd maim him i'or life. Another said he'd be found dead in a ditch, h.:, children wouldn't return hopte from school, threatened a woman. Until he delisted his phone Leger slept with a pillow over his head.
"People don't thank you one bit for barging in,” says Jack McNie. an advertising executive who barged in in Flamilton and mustered so much support that council backed down on a zoning change that would have permitted a gas station where now, instead, the city has a park. “Yoii’re supposed to stay out of this kind of thing if you’re in business. Most people think you've an axe to grind if you mix up in it. They say, ‘Who do you think you are. a crusader?’ And this is enough to scare most people off, no matter how worthy the cause.”
Norman Jaspan’s experience as head of Investigations, Inc., operating throughout the U. S. and Canada, leads him to estimate that Canadian and U. S. employees steal some $4,000,000 a day from their employers. The Retail Sales Audit Systems Ltd. reckons that Canadians, in a spirit of pre-Christmas goodwill, stole some three percent of all goods that moved out of retail stores in December.
We are most of us too selfish for selfgovernment, too mercenary. There seems little difference between a bribe that gets a street rezoned and one to the janitor of an apartment house. When a former attorney-general stood up in Ontario's Legislature and said, "It is considered fair game to beat the government out of taxes,” he was simply stating what many people think. The corruption that shocks in public is practiced in private.
Misgovernment of the people is misgovernment by the people. Corrupt politicians are representative. They are only doing what many people would do if they could. As Benjamin Franklin said, "There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise
good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.”
OURS is A CIVILIZATION concerned primarily with business and it is not surprising that people should say. "What we need is a businessman in office."
The businessman naturally brings to public office his business methods. The United Church of Canada lists a few in an annual report: "We hear of businessmen using wire taps to obtain information about their competitors, of management acting in collusion with racketeers, of men using prostitution (call girls) to promote the sale of their goods . . . We hear of financiers deliberately lying about their operations and the financial condition of their companies to mislead investors so that insiders can make killings in stock.”
Businessmen are accustomed to giving contracts to friends and relatives. Manufacturers woo purchasing agents with gifts. “Spiffs" — cash paid to salesmen and store managers for pushing a brand of merchandise — are common practice. Norman Jaspan's investigations persuade him that kickbacks, payola and bribes drain $600.000,000 a year from Canadian business.
In the restaurant business, food and liquor vendors offer so many bribes and favors that one company fires its chief buyer every year and hires a new one. “There is no doubt that commercial bribery has become a prime factor in determining what music is played on many broadcast programs and what musical records the public is surreptitiously induced to buy.” says Burton Lane, president of the American Guild of Authors & Composers.
The spirit of business, of profit, of individual gain, runs like a red thread through the fabric of the nation. In one northern Ontario town the priest threatens bluntly to close up businessmen — permits can always be canceled on some pretext — unless they contribute to his church fund. The vice-president and general manager of Quebec's L'Evenement-Journa! and Le Soleil has said that the acceptance of gifts by journalists is reaching epidemic proportions.
"For every politician who can be bribed,” says Philadelphia’s Mayor Richardson Dilworth. “there are at least ten businessmen waiting in line for the privilege of bribing him.” Reeve Marie Curtis of Long Branch has been offered up to $10.000 to ignore zoning bylaws. Attempts to bribe his officials are "continually occurring,” Toronto Buildings Commissioner Frank Wellwood has testified.
“It is very difficult for an alderman to remain honest because so many businessmen and citizens offer money,” says an exalderman of Quebec City. "Many aidermen enter city council with the intention of cleaning it up but are caught in the works.” ‘Business is business’ has thus become a political maxim.
“Politics is business.” Lincoln Steffens wrote in The Shame of the Cities. "That’s what’s the matter with it. That’s what’s the matter with everything — art, literature, religion, journalism, law. medicine — they’re all business, and all — as we see them.” He wrote it fifty-seven years ago and business since then has got better.
Breach of trust is no orphan enterprise. It is born of the business tradition and the legal precept of privilege, well stated in medieval times in the old English quatrain:
The law locks up
both man and woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common
from the goose. ★