Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher has filed a complaint about Coun. Jim Karygiannis with a city watchdog after the Star reported he discussed giving preferential treatment to constituents who supported him.

The co-founder of the democracy advocacy group wrote in the complaint to integrity commissioner Jonathan Batty that Karygiannis’ comments in a secret recording provided to the Star amount to discreditable conduct and improper use of influence under the code of conduct for members of council.

Conacher, in the submission filed Tuesday and posted online, also argues that Karygiannis has violated the principles underlying the code — what’s spelled out in the preamble of that code.

“Members of Council should be committed to performing their functions with integrity and to avoiding the improper use of the influence of their office, and conflicts of interest, both apparent and real,” one key statement in the code reads.

Karygiannis can be heard on the recording, made by volunteer Kevin Haynes in November 2018, aggressively driving around his Scarborough-Agincourt ward policing alleged bylaw violations and instructing Haynes on how to do so.

At one point Karygiannis explains: “There’s houses that we bother, houses that we don’t bother.”

“What constitutes if we don’t bother them? They vote for us, they’re volunteers and they donate money.”

“Because they’re friendly”

At one point he tells Haynes not to bother a resident because he’s a “buddy”.

During another part of the recording, Karygiannis says of reporting possible violations: “If I feel like an a–hole, f— ’em.”

“If I feel like an a–hole”

“Democracy Watch believes that Councillor Karygiannis’ statements amount to a confession that he gives preferential treatment to supporters and retaliates against non-supporters, and that the integrity commissioner should investigate and rule that he has violated the council’s code of conduct,” Conacher said in a statement. “Councillor Karygiannis’ statements about his actions so unethically violate the key, democratic function of a councillor to serve all constituents fairly and well that the integrity commissioner should recommend the maximum penalties of a 90-day suspension of pay and his removal from all city committees and boards.”

Karygiannis has characterized what can be heard on the recording as “tough talk” meant to have been in private.

“Colourful language aside, I trust people understand that a politician will at times speak politically. But that doesn’t mean the integrity of city staff and the fine work they do should be called into question as a result of this secret recording,” he said in a statement to the Star last week.

City spokesperson Brad Ross told the Star on Monday the city is “not aware” of any preferential treatment being given to constituents in Ward 22.

The city’s municipal licensing and standards division is in charge of enforcement, typically carried out on the basis of complaints. Toronto Police are responsible for parking enforcement.

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On Monday the city confirmed a separate hotline for councillors to escalate urgent issues was established in 2015 at Karygiannis’ request. Most complaints are made through the 311 line that is primarily for residents.

The city could not immediately say how many complaints have been made from Karygiannis’ office to the city about bylaw violations.

The integrity commissioner is an independent officer of the city who is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by members of council, also on the basis of a complaint. Batty was appointed to the role at the end of 2019.

Investigative findings are reported to council, which ultimately decides if any punishment should be imposed.

Jennifer Pagliaro
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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