The great divide remains at West Nipissing’s council table, as once again a meeting was cut short by a lack of quorum.
The issue? Section L-1 of the December 21st agenda, which marks a notice of motion from Mayor Joanne Savage, listed as “discussions between Mayor and CAO”—referring to Jay Barbeau, the municipality’s chief administrative officer.
Page 191 of that agenda provides information on that motion.
Mayor Savage explains in her motion that by-law 2019/94 “is to govern the proceedings of municipal council,” a reference to council's procedural by-law.
She cites section 8.5 which reads “the CAO and the Mayor shall meet weekly to discuss upcoming agendas.”
“The objectives of these discussions are for updates and to prioritize operational and council needs,” she explained in her notice of motion.
“Meeting and discussing with Mayor is an expectation,” the motion notes, acknowledging that “Covid-19 prohibited in-person meetings but not discussions.”
Mayor Savage’s motion then mentions she received “an email dated October 21st, 2021, issued by [the] CAO and also shared publicly indicated ‘I will not be speaking to you.’”
Discussions between the Mayor and CAO “are vital” Savage explained in her motion, “therefore I am seeking council’s direction and to find out if council wants to amend” section 8.5 of the by-law “and [the] CAO’s job description.”
This noticed of motion was first tabled during the November 2 meeting and has divided council since.
Councillors Leo Malette, Roland Larabie, Chris Fisher, and Dan Roveda were no shows at last night’s meeting.
Roveda explained via e-mail before the scheduled meeting that “the Mayor has told staff there will be a meeting tonight, perfectly knowing she has no quorum.”
He mentioned how Malette, Larabie, Fisher and himself “wrote to everyone including the mayor advising we will not attend if the notice of motion is still on the agenda.”
It was, so they avoided the meeting.
See: Four West Nipissing councillors skip meeting on Mayor’s motion here https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news/four-west-nipissing-councillors-skip-meeting-on-mayors-motion-4819368
“All the Mayor has to do is call the Clerk and have it removed,” from the agenda, Roveda said, and the “case would be closed and I would be more than glad to return to the table and get on with the work the citizens elected us to do.
Clearly, the mayor does not want to remove the item, as it has appeared on every agenda since November, so the council remains in stalemate.
Residents are becoming more frustrated with each failed meeting. Concerned citizen Lynn Murphy recently began an online petition calling on the province to investigate council’s actions.
As of today, that petition has 748 signatures, and a paper petition is also making its way through the community.
See: Petition launched to hold West Nipissing council accountable
Posting on her Facebook page, Mayor Savage noted that after another meeting cut short, “many matters affecting services to taxpayers remain pending.”
“Unfortunately, all matters for November and December [are] not dealt with” she said, adding, “it’s not a positive way to end 2021.”
Last night’s meeting, although short, was not live-streamed to the municipality’s YouTube page, which is usually standard practice.
Dave Lewington, who has been trying to present to council for months about the municipal vaccination policy (yet to be adopted), was present at last night’s meeting.
Today, via a video he posted to Facebook, which was shared to the Our West Nipissing Facebook page, he commented on the meeting and the failure of the live-stream.
The mayor “was not aware of that, and it was also a surprise to other councillors it was not being livestreamed.”
“Our local municipality has been unable to host a meeting for quite some time,” he summarized, a point not missed by others in the community.
Social media is ablaze with comments like “I am embarrassed of this town” and “so tired of this old story,” from council who “are all getting paid to do a job,” and neglecting to do so.
“Yes, people have reason to be upset,” Mayor Savage commented, although “some try to get business done and fulfill their commitment” to the municipality.
Ideally, “we can find a compromise in the new year,” Roveda hopes.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca