Posted November 29, 2013
When Gloria Kovach went to police headquarters recently to obtain the full report of her daughter’s death last March, she was informed that she had to obtain a freedom of information request to receive it. She was told the cost of obtaining that report would be $2,500.
On March 14, Constable Jennifer Kovach died in the line of duty on her way to assist another officer. The Guelph Police investigated the accident and reported that speed and icy road conditions contributed to the fatality.
Let’s back up a bit. In January 2010, when the new council chose its members for committees, it unanimously appointed Coun. Kovach to a four-year term on the Guelph Police Services Board.
In December 2011, council fired Coun. Kovach from her police board position by an 8 to 5 vote. Then, council immediately turned around and appointed Coun. Leanne Piper by the same margin. Voting members of the gang of eight include: Karl Wettstein, Todd Dennis, Lise Burcher, Leanne Piper, Maggie Laidlaw, June Hoffland, Ian Findlay.
This became known as the night of the long knives as all seven of Mayor Farbridge’s supporters plus the mayor, voted to replace Coun. Kovach with Coun. Leanne Piper, a key player in the gang of eight. Piper’s explanation was Coun. Kovach was only elected for one year.
But Coun. Bob Bell produced a copy of the minutes that recognized that Coun. Kovach was elected for four years.
Coun. Kovach’s removal was unprecedented and was illegal according to council’s own procedural bylaw, that required a majority of nine council votes to change a previous council decision.
The Farbridge majority of councillors ignored it.
Today, that vindictive action by the gang of eight plays into Police Chief Bryan Larkin’s explanation that his hands are tied by the law.
“As chief of police you must follow the rules of the law. The Freedom of Information (FOI) and Protection of Privacy Acts simply do not allow me to hand out police reports and information, “ he is reported to have said.
The chief stated he consulted with other police forces, the Guelph police lawyer and its FOI coordinator regarding the Kovach request. He admitted that he had not discussed the matter with Coun. Kovach personally.
He said that he only learned Wednesday (November 26) that the waiving of the FOI fees of $$5 and $2,500 was a possibility. He added that he was upset that the issue had been made public.
No amount of crocodile tears will save this blatant disregard of Ms. Kovach’s rights to know the truth of her daughter’s death and to ask specific questions.
Did not the police lawyer lay out the procedure to allow the chief to waive these ridiculous charges? What was the reaction of the “other police forces” who were asked to advise the chief? What was the role of the FOI coordinator? Is that individual on staff?
One has to wonder how deep the resentment of the Farbridge gang of eight is toward the most capable councillor in the administration.
What if Ms. Kovach was still a member of the police services board? Would she have been treated the same way?
Chief, this action was not one of your smarter moves, especially when you are trying obtain $34 million for a renovated police headquarters.
And, when do we hear from the Mayor and Coun. Piper, members of the police services board, supporting one of their colleagues being treated in this shameful manner?
Don’t hold your breath.