Two Calvin councillors resign in wake of integrity commissioner reports

·4 min read

Calvin’s municipal council has seats to fill as two councillors, Heather Olmstead, and Daniel Maxwell, have resigned.

This is the third resignation from council this year, as Dean Grant resigned in March following a report from the integrity commissioner finding Grant contravened the municipal code of conduct.

During Calvin’s council meeting on October 26, Olmstead read her resignation letter to council, opening with a mention of Grant, a councillor “dedicated” to his work for the community, “someone always willing to ask questions when things didn’t look right.”

“He was dedicated to representing the will of his constituents,” she added, “and now I’ve been ordered to resign.”

This order harkens back to Calvin’s October 12 council meeting, when both Olmstead and Maxwell were sanctioned for infractions of the municipal code of conduct, as determined by an investigation from the municipality’s integrity commissioner (IC), Expertise for Municipalities, E4M for short.

The IC’s report explains that Olmstead “did contravene” council-staff relations policy “when she was found to have breached” the Occupational Health and Safety Act “due to her actions toward the Road Superintendent,” a contravention that is “also a breach of the code of conduct.”

Olmstead also “made disparaging remarks about councillor Cross and other members of council,” the report indicates, and during that October 12 meeting, council doled out the sanctions for these breaches.

Tammy Alber, representing E4M, clarified the matter involving the road superintendent was through the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which was “private, confidential and in a closed meeting. This is not relating to that matter.”

“This is code of conduct that may relate to that matter,” she added, “but it’s an integrity commissioner related issue.”

Council voted on Olmstead’s sanctions. First, they voted for her to resign immediately, then sanctioned her to go 450 days without council pay.

She was removed from all boards and committees and could have no direct contact with municipal staff, or access to municipal property.

For instance, Olmstead “can drop off her garbage, but cannot make contact with anyone at the landfill site” Mayor Ian Pennell said.

Those October 12 votes were almost unanimously for the sanctions, although Maxwell voted against them all.

Maxwell had just received his own sanctions from council regarding code of conduct breaches involving “heated and inappropriate comments” and “inflammatory” comments during meetings.

He was also found to have “insulted current members of council” during a closed session, and being a closed session, these comments cannot be revealed publicly.

“This is about a repeated breach of the code of conduct” councillor Sandy Cross said.

“Staff and council have been fractured because of comments that have been disparaging and disrespectful for the past three years,” Cross added, referring to Maxwell’s remarks.

Maxwell “is very passionate about his job, and he’s very approachable,” Olmstead interjected, “and we have to remember that we’re all human, and we’re all trying to do better.”

“I don’t believe that councillor Maxwell can control his behaviour,” councillor Christine Shippam said, adding that his lack of support for decisions of council “does not support the township and continues to cause a division within the township.”

“An apology to council is sufficient” as far as sanctioning Maxwell goes, Olmstead said, but council voted to include a 270-day pay suspension as well as an apology.

“We have to work together here, we have to get along,” Maxwell urged. “There is some real anger in here tonight.”

Council must “stop attacking one another” over “petty stuff,” he said, adding that the costs for integrity commissioner investigations are beginning to mount.

“The taxpayers are really upset about this,” he said.

Shippam did not share Maxwell’s view and did not believe Olmstead’s contraventions “are a frivolous thing,” expressing concern such actions “could put the municipality at risk for litigation.”

Councillor Cross mentioned that the pay stop might help the municipality “to recoup some of the costs of these investigations,” and urged Olmstead to “resign immediately.”

During the October 26 meeting, she did, noting “I don’t take any of this lightly, and my main concern is our ratepayer.”

“I no longer have the ability to be an effective councillor in this work environment,” she added. “As I continue to be targeted, the bills will keep adding up.”

Olmstead explained that at this point, given these circumstances, the “best way for me to represent the ratepayers is as a private citizen, and the best thing for the ratepayers and myself is to resign.”

“It was a great honour to serve on council,” she said, “and I will continue to serve our community as a private citizen.”

Soon after the meeting, councillor Maxwell resigned, via an e-mail to the mayor and clerk.

“I was planning on it,” he said, “I kind of knew I was going to resign, and I thought something might change my mind during the meeting, but there’s still a lot of negativity.”

“I’ve had enough, and I found the negativity was so strong,” he said, adding “it was getting worse instead of getting better.”

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca

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