The recent sanctions against West Nipissing councillor Chris Fisher are “not enforceable,” explained the Municipality’s chief administrative officer, Jay Barbeau.
On June 22 council voted to sanction Fisher, who was found by the municipality’s Integrity Commission (IC) to have breached the municipal code of conduct.
The IC’s report was based on an investigation from 2020 regarding an email sent by Fisher to councillor Denis Senecal that contained “vulgar” language. The IC also found a social media post violated the code as well.
See: West Nipissing councillor sanctioned
Both investigations were initiated by formal complaints to the IC.
The IC recommended an apology from Fisher would remedy both issues. Council voted to have Fisher purchase an ad in the local paper to issue said apology.
At the time, Barbeau cautioned that such a resolution was outside of council’s purview. He recently sent an email to West Nipissing council to clarify the issue.
“The resolution passed is not enforceable,” he explained, adding that according to the Municipal Act, section 223.4 (5), two penalties are allowable: “a reprimand and / or a suspension of pay” for up to 90 days.
“Even an apology as recommended by the IC is also not a remedy contemplated in any relevant legislation,” he wrote, adding that as such, council’s request that Fisher apologize is “invalid.”
“Despite this,” Barbeau emphasized, “Councillor Fisher graciously agreed to apologize but it was not accepted by Councillor Senecal.”
Fisher expressed similar views in an email to council. Referring to the request to purchase an ad, he told council “you have no authority to do so.”
Fisher, in a separate email to BayToday, also explained that he “chose not to make a defence” of the allegations to the IC during his investigation to save costs on billable hours from the IC’s office.
By not submitting a defence “I’ve been found guilty by default.”
See: Complaints costing West Nipissing taxpayers
Asked if this issue will return to council, Barbeau explained that “it is not my intention to bring this issue back.”
“In my opinion,” he continued, “this matter is closed as the treatment of Councillor Fisher at the meeting would certainly be construed as a form of rebuke.”
“Though I appreciate that such salacious issues are news-worthy,” Barbeau said, “as CAO, I would want to focus on the issues and services that are more important to our ratepayers."
See: West Nipissing council turns off Verner’s public tap
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca