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Newspapers Diverge in Coburn-Carnevale Scandal

Yesterday afternoon the City of Toronto fired the two leading characters in the Municipal Licensing and Standards division hiring scandal.

It is interesting to note the divergences in how this story is being covered by the newspapers in town.

Yesterday's Toronto Star headlined a story alleging that the MLS department was involved in conspiracy involving a dirty cop and gang-related tow truck operators. An inspector was threatened, and his supervisors were eventually suspended by Coburn and Carnevale.

Then, John Barber's column in today's Globe and Mail suggests that the MLS connections to this story were merely a red herring laid out by Coburn and Carnevale to suggest that they might be the victims of a more sinister plot. Barber writes:

Ms. Coburn, after failing to fool enough people with her bizarre "soulmate" story, somehow convinced the Toronto Star to publicize her latest craven and vicious attempt at self-exculpation: a bizarre and unsubstantiated story that somehow implicated her three suspended managers -- in some nefarious plot involving crooked cops and bikers, of whom she and Soulmate Joe, valiant but vanquished reformers, were the victims.

...Let it be known that the "evidence" used against them was so weak that they are now being welcomed back into the fold at city hall. ...[S]pokesman Brad Ross quietly allowed that the city hopes "to come to a resolution that will get [the three suspended managers] back to the work force as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, the Star is sticking to their story:

Coburn said last week that she believes the root of her troubles lies in her attempts to clean up the department and that her decision to suspend three senior staff led to her downfall. ... Sources say Coburn and Carnevale may not have followed the proper procedures when the trio were suspended, paving the way for their reinstatement.

And in the same newspaper Royson James writes:

What blows the matter apart is Coburn and Carnevale's suspension of three departmental supervisors. One of the three is greatly loved, and this causes a huge rift in the ranks. Someone complains about Carnevale's hiring of friends. Next thing, there are complaints the boss and the deputy are lovers. Anonymous letters are sent to the city. HR investigates and says everything's fine. More complaints emerge, accompanied by email evidence, and finally, an auditor general's investigation.

...The city can't fire the two for an illicit relationship, so city officials were careful yesterday to claim that love had nothing to do with the firings. Breaches of conflict-of-interest guidelines and hiring practices is what did them in, city officials say. Judge for yourself.

Even as they fired Coburn and Carnevale, who were no doubt trying to clean up their department, the three supervisors they suspended are likely to be reinstated "in as expeditious a manner as possible," the city said yesterday.

...An investigation into dirty cops, bikers and city inspectors may be imperilled. The pall continues to hang over the city. And the mayor says sleep tight.

So, in one corner we have the Toronto Star running with the story that two reformers, trying to clean up the system, have been fired for an inappropriate relationship. In the other corner, the Globe and Mail is telling us that the two lovers, conspiring to hire their friends and squeeze out their enemies, have been found out and fired.

We'll see who's right. (I have a hunch, based on past performance, that it's not the Toronto Star.)

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