Bortolin Apologizes For Swearing, But Calls Bullying Complaint Unfounded
Windsor City Councillor Rino Bortolin faces a new complaint to the city’s integrity commissioner, but it is not about his work with the city.
The complaint by Windsor man Edy Haddad accuses Bortolin of bullying and using intimidation tactics after a hotly contested election for the executive of the Windsor West Liberal Party Riding Association.
The incident occurred outside the Fogolar Furlan Club on March 8, but the complaint was not filed with Integrity Commissioner Bruce Elman until last Friday, the same day Bortolin was defending himself against the findings of a separate, unrelated charge.
It alleges Bortolin used profanity in an exchange involving Haddad and a third man, Helmi Charif, who was a candidate for one of the positions on the riding executive.
“When Mr. Charif had gone to shake Mrs. Papadeas’ hand she told him to ‘go f*** himself’ and started threatening and yelling at us,” Haddad alleges in a statement provided to BlackburnNewsWindsor.com. “Pat Papadeas was outside with another person. She was swearing at Mr. Charif for wanting to be involved in the Liberal Party. Telling him that he has no place being involved because he used to be NDP, while swearing and screaming. This is especially troubling because no one should have a right to limit someone’s ability to participate in the democratic process, and any attempt to do so should raise serious alarm bells.”
Haddad alleges Bortolin joined in the fray and ” lost his temper almost pushing Mr. Charif.”
However, Bortolin tells a different story. He says he had left the building to get his vehicle so that he could give Pat Papadeas, the newly elected riding vice-president a ride home. When he returned, he says Papadeas was surrounded by Haddad and Charif who accused her and other members of racism.
Bortolin does not deny that the exchange became heated and that he swore, but he says there was no bullying.
“I definitely yelled at them. I swore. My conduct should have and could have been better. I let them get under my skin,” he says. “But, they were obviously looking to provoke us, and they had been for weeks.”
Papadeas confirmed allegations of racism surfaced leading up to the riding’s annual general meeting. She denies there was racism in the election, and the allegations outlined in the complaint to the integrity commissioner.
“It was a very long meeting. It was a very long day, and it was unfortunate. People lost their cool,” she says. “I think the racist comment was worse than yelling, was worse than f-bombs.”
Bortolin calls the complaint frivolous.
“Complaints to the integrity commissioner are made all the time. They don’t go public because many of them are baseless, as this one is,” he says pointing out the public only finds out if it comes up in city council meetings or a judgement is rendered against a city councillor.
But Haddad says there’s nothing frivolous about what happened.
“It is very outrageous for both of them to admit they were screaming, swearing and yelling at us but that it not be harassment, abuse, intimidation, bullying and is not discriminatory,” he says. “They are both people of authority and are abusing their privilege by acting in a manner that harms people who were just participating in the democratic process.”
Bortolin is expected to ask city council Monday night to defer action on the findings of a complaint filed by Ward 6 Councillor Joanne Gignac last November regarding comments he made about budget priorities. He is seeking a judicial review of those findings.
BlackburnNews.com has reached out to Elman asking if he has the jurisdiction to investigate a complaint made against a member of city council when they are not acting on behalf of the city. Bortolin is currently running for the Liberals in Windsor-West.
In a twist, Bortolin accuses Haddad of “shopping around” his complaints of racism to political opponents in the upcoming provincial election, an allegation confirmed by NDP incumbent Lisa Gretzky’s campaign manager Kieran McKenzie.
“Mr. Haddad presented in the Lisa Gretzky campaign headquarters nearly a week ago,” says McKenzie reading a statement. “As he is a known partisan activist for the Liberal Party in Ontario and Windsor West, it was inappropriate for him to be in our re-election office for any reason. A fact I would expect any experienced political activist to understand implicitly. Therefore, he was politely invited to leave.”
Haddad tells a different story.
“Earlier last week I went to get new license plates from Service Ontario since my car was stolen, and on my way out I saw Lisa Gretzky had a campaign office next door. Being a political nerd, I thought I would pop in and say hello, and I was greeted by Kieran McKenzie who accused me of being a spy for Rino, and started to threaten me, and told me I can’t enter the office,” he says.
Haddad has in the past also filed complaints against former Mayor Eddie Francis and the Windsor Police Service.