Fired Brampton integrity commissioner sues city and councillors for $20 million
Published August 4, 2022 at 2:24 pm
Brampton’s former integrity commissioner is reportedly suing the city and members of council for some $20 million for being let go before her contract expired.
Muneeza Sheikh was fired as Brampton’s integrity commissioner (IC) in March by a majority vote of council in a closed door meeting. The vote followed revelations that she had billed the city more than $500,000 to the city in less than three years on the job.
Sheikh threatened legal action shortly after she was ousted and, according to news reports, she has just launched a $20 million lawsuit.
Sheikh is suing six councillors for $3 million each, and one councillor, Pat Fortini, for an additional $75,000 for defamation. She is also suing the city for $1 million for breach of contract, and another million in punitive damages.
“Yes, suggesting I over billed is a gross defamation of my character as a lawyer,” Sheikh said in a tweet on Aug. 4. “My work was reactionary, the city hired me on an hourly rate, and none of these members of council ever raised fees as an issue during my tenure. Once the bloc was formed, I was ousted.”
City Clerk Peter Fay said the IC’s office billed the city approximately $98,500 in 2019, which includes some invoices before Sheikh was hired in July of that year. In 2020 the city was billed $321,600, and another $340,000 in 2021. Fay said invoices that were received in 2022 before Sheikh was let go totalled around $85,000.
The councillors named in the suit are Pat Fortini, Martin Medeiros, Doug Whillans, Charmaine Williams, Jeff Bowman and Gurpreet Dhillon who just announced his own legal action against Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.
In a turbulent week for Brampton, Brown announced that Dhillion, who has denied the allegations made against him, used $60,000 in taxpayer money without political approval to settle a sexual harassment complaint.
The councillors who voted to remove Sheikh included Dhillon, Pat Fortini, Martin Medeiros, Doug Whillans and former councillor Charmaine Williams, who is currently the MPP for Brampton Centre and Minister and Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity. Councillors Rowena Santos and Jeff Bowman declared a conflict of interest in the vote.
Sheikh didn’t immediately return insauga.com’s request for comment on the lawsuit. But she says her dismissal is related to her findings of sexual misconduct.
“There was never an issue with fees,” Sheikh tweeted. “The evidence will speak for itself. I was ousted after issuing a report that found a member of Council guilty of serious sexual misconduct. Can you imagine a world where we get to fire those tasked with holding us accountable? I’m fighting back.”
The councillors named in the suit were part of a so-called “Bloc of Six ,” as they routinely voted together. They may also be facing a combined $20,000 fine for supporting an illegal motion to pre-appoint a replacement for Williams who was running for MPP in Brampton.
That group of six was cut down to five after Williams resigned, and council has been in a stalemate of missed meetings with council business gridlocked for weeks.
Mayor Patrick Brown spoke about the lawsuit in a conversation with insauga.com last week.
“I believe the lawsuit, the $3 million, is against those six councillors,” Brown said in an interview with insauga.com publisher Khaled Iwamura on Wednesday.
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Brown, who holds a law degree, suggested the claim against the city “isn’t very strong.”
“It’s the claim against the councillors that has more legal merit because the city warned the councillors what they were doing was wrong,” he said.
In recent months, the same councillors who voted to fire Sheikh also voted to remove the city’s former Chief Administrative Officer David Barrick, and the city solicitor. Barrick was also reportedly seeking more than $1 million in severance and damages after he was let go.
With files from Karen Longwellinsauga's Editorial Standards and Policies