Palmer Rapids – The two members of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan (BLR) council who were asked to resign their positions after both allegedly contravened the township’s Code of Conduct and/or the Council/Staff Relations Policy have not done so and what will occur next remains to be seen.
“As of right now we have not received a reply from either councillor,” Mayor Sheldon Keller said late Tuesday afternoon.
Two weeks ago, the remaining three members of the five-member council accepted the recommendations of the mayor that Councillors Andrea Budarick and Trevor Lidtkie resign from council within 10 working days for their actions towards several township staff members on a number of occasions. The deadline passed last week.
His recommendations were basically what was recommended in reports presented to council by the municipality’s Integrity Commissioner, Peggy Young-Lovelace from the Sudbury firm Expertise for Municipalities (Em4). The remaining members of council – Mayor Keller and councillors Iris Kauffeldt and John Rutledge – placed the stipulation if the two councillors don’t resign that council strictly impose the following measures against them: they be removed from all boards and committees; they not be allowed to communicate with staff directly and that all communications to staff go through an anonymized email address; they not be allowed to attend municipal office or municipal worksites where staff may be except for retrieving council mail/packages, make bill payments, attend council meetings or otherwise fulfilling their statutory roles and that they be able to request the restrictions be reviewed in six months.
Mayor Keller told the Leader council was meeting tonight (Wednesday) and “we will see what happens.”
He said there are some steps council can take but they cannot force a member of council to resign.
“Unfortunately, this is not the law,” he said. “It is their choice. The only way they can be removed is by a judge through the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.”
The situation has been very frustrating for the mayor who is in his second term in one of the smallest municipalities in the county.
“You see ministers and MPs who have resigned for a lot less,” he added.
Council will be speaking with the integrity commissioner again as well, he said.
“We are still looking for a clerk-treasurer too,” he said.
BLR typically meets once a month and this meeting is a rescheduling of earlier in the month. As well, council is slated to meet again in early November.
“We usually don’t have the business of a larger municipality,” he noted.
While the news about BLR’s controversy has not been exactly pleasant to see published in local media, he pointed out it is good to keep the public informed.
“People need to know what is going on,” he said. “Everything in the last two years has led to this.”
With an election next year, people need to be informed, he noted.
BLR has a full-time population of about 1,700 and about the same number of seasonal residents. The investigation and all legal costs have already reached $200,000 with further costs anticipated. It is a big chunk out of an annual $3.2 million budget.
The Integrity Commissioner received requests for inquiries from the township after members of the public alleged both councillors contravened the Code of Conduct when they, by their actions towards Acting Clerk-Treasurer Valerie Jahn, former Clerk-Treasurer Michelle Mantifel, Deputy Clerk Virginia Phanenhour, Facilities Manager and Fire Chief Jordan Genrick and Roads Superintendent Charlie Behm on a number of occasions contravened the CofC policy and the Council/Staff Relations Policy and/or the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
It was also alleged both councillors, by their actions toward township employees, contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and further that Coun. Liedtke contravened the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader