Maverick town councillor needs to 'step up his game,' peers say

·5 min read

A fellow councillor's negative opinions about staff and peers are indicative of confrontational and unnecessary hostility, says complainant.

Coun. Jon Main told MidlandToday people are missing the point by focusing on Bill Gordon's 'snowflake comment' that was part of a series of communications and dialogue shared with the integrity commissioner.

Main said he just rolled his eyes at Gordon's 'lame and corny' snowball comment directed at him.

"At the end of the day, we were discussing an issue we both agreed on," he added.

And even though it did happen earlier in the year, Main said he wasn't 'sitting' on information or gathering evidence to present to the integrity commissioner.

"We went in communication with the integrity commissioner in summer," he said. "The complaint would have been filed in the middle of summer and we've been discussing it this fall."

Providing context to the dialogue, Main said it was a back-and-forth exchange about responding to the pandemic and what council and the town were going to do.

It was spurred by a warning from him, cautioning Gordon to be careful about communicating to all of council.

"We're not supposed to be discussing issues with each other over email because of closed door policies and all," said Main. "We were talking about what's the best way of bringing information forward. It was a simple exchange of information and it kind of spiralled and clearly crosses a line."

But he said he would like to bring attention to the fact that it's part of a larger pattern of disrespectful of conduct from councillor to councillor. And a second matter of concern: disrespect in council and staff relations. It's indicative of a personality, confrontational and unnecessary hostility.

"This isn't a Main vs. Gordon issue," said Main. "This is really a Gordon vs. code of conduct issue."

And, he added, it certainly isn't (that) he, Coun. Jim Downer, and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross are out to get Gordon.

"There's no animosity between us," said Main. "We're really just trying to work with our colleague to make him step up his game so we don't see these code of conduct lapses and issues."

Another key point that he said residents need to realize is that of undue influence on town staff.

"I don't have any instances of that happening before," Main said, talking about the one set of circumstances quoted in the report. "I think this incident is quite important to review to make sure we follow the rules around council roles and responsibilities and staff responsibilities and make sure we don't cross the wires."

Main said prior to lodging the complaint, he had approach Gordon peer about his communication style.

"From my communication, I've said it in the nicest way possible to soften his approach and offered constructive criticism on how to go about raising issues and who to contact (for town-related matters)," said Main. "Those suggestions and advice have not been heeded or appreciated."

Ross played to a similar tune.

"Coun. Main reached out to Coun. Gordon and was pretty much told to go away and (Gordon said), 'I'll do politics my way and you do it yours way,'" he said in a conversation with MidlandToday. "I give Coun. Main credit for doing that. I was surprised by Coun. Gordon's response."

Ross added that in his opinion, Gordon could be one of the best councillors the town has.

"But unfortunately, he doesn't want to follow the rules," he said. "I have no idea why not. Maybe he's upset due to the fact that council of the day took him to court around the Midland Police Services Board. I would hope that isn't it, but he's said it in the past that it was his motivation to get on council."

And it's not a question of Ross against Gordon, said the deputy mayor.

"It's the code of conduct we all agreed to follow," he elaborated. "Unfortunately, things have happened that it's not been followed or adhered to. We all want to work together."

And where there are no conversations between the two included in the report, Ross said, he felt he had to back up his colleagues.

Addressing Gordon's suspicions around monetary sanctions, Main said, that wasn't up to him alone, adding he wasn't thinking of going that route anyway.

"I think people need to understand what a reprimand is," he said. "Financial sanction isn't the end-all and be-all of the integrity commissioner's report. The reprimand is really the only tool that council now has to censure somebody for misconduct.

"We're not looking to recall somebody or have anyone impeached or a special election called. This is basically saying we all agreed to this certain set of rules and we want to make sure everyone follows it. We are paid to agree or to disagree. The community expects us to work collaboratively and put all differences aside."

Ross was in the same corner.

"I'm not looking to push for monetary sanctions," he said. "I just want him to realize he's breaking the rules that were set out for all of us to follow. Be respectful to others, that's all I'm looking for. It breaks my heart that it came to this."

The code of conduct, Ross said, are rules all elected officials agreed to follow.

But why even have a code of conduct then?

To that, Ross said he didn't have an answer.

"I try go the other way and avoid being on social media," he added. "I do not want to be in a position that anything like this would happen. I don't want to be engaged with constituents there. If you want to talk to me, give me a call. I conduct town business that way. I think social media and the rest of it is so easy to get away with comments people won't say to you to your face."

Both said they want the matter to end on a hopeful note with all of council working together on common goals for the betterment of the town.

The matter will be discussed at council's Wednesday meeting.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,