Rep­ri­mand dis­cus­sion should be pub­lic

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - OPINION - — Hugo Ro­drigues

It would be un­for­tu­nate for South Stor­mont town­ship to start off this term on the wrong foot. hav­ing the un­pleas­ant­ness of dealing with a code-of-con­duct com­plaint filed against deputy Mayor david Smith in your first few meet­ings is likely not the way the new group of coun­cil mem­bers imag­ined they’d be spend­ing this time.

But it has been, as one of the gifts left by the de­part­ing coun­cil was to hire an in­terim in­tegrity com­mis­sioner to in­ves­ti­gate a com­plaint filed against Smith by the Cana­dian union of Pub­lic em­ploy­ees on be­half of one of its mem­bers.

on wed­nes­day, william hunter pre­sented his re­port into the com­plaint to coun­cil. It says quite clearly hunter be­lieves Smith ha­rassed the town­ship em­ployee on two separate oc­ca­sions: once at a res­tau­rant in the sum­mer and again in Septem­ber out on the street. hunter ad­mon­ished Smith for not hold­ing him­self to the stan­dard of be­hav­iour out­lined in the code of con­duct, par­tic­u­larly in deal­ings with an em­ployee who is gov­erned by the coun­cil he sits on.

to-date, this process ap­pears to be run­ning as it should and in the open as re­quired, but there have been a few in­di­ca­tions things have or could hap­pen in pri­vate that should hap­pen in pub­lic.

there was an odd in-cam­era ses­sion back in the fall un­der the past coun­cil to dis­cuss the process.

the most egre­gious, if it rolls out the way it was said on wed­nes­day, is that coun­cil would con­sider whether to im­pose hunter’s rec­om­mended rep­ri­mand for Smith be­hind closed doors.

I would re­mind this coun­cil of how the 2010-14 coun­cil sanc­tioned then-deputy mayor tammy hart twice for code-of-con­duct vi­o­la­tions. In both in­stances, the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner re­ports, dis­cus­sion and de­ci­sion to rep­ri­mand were all held in open ses­sion.

Mayor Bryan McGil­lis, speak­ing wed­nes­day, promised noth­ing would be swept un­der the rug, but said coun­cil would deal with hunter’s re­port in-cam­era. let me re­mind any­one who’s for­got­ten that McGil­lis was mayor of the 2010-14 coun­cil and should re­mem­ber how this works.

there is no rea­son for Smith’s rep­ri­mand to be con­sid­ered in closed ses­sion.

a pub­lic re­port rec­om­mends it, based on the ac­tions of a pub­lic of­fi­cial of the town­ship; ac­tions that breached the code of con­duct. Coun­cil mem­bers’ ac­tions are al­ways of pub­lic in­ter­est be­cause these in­di­vid­u­als were elected to gov­ern the town­ship in the pub­lic in­ter­est. this doesn’t meet the test of personal in­for­ma­tion.

Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion here is to ei­ther ac­cept hunter’s rec­om­men­da­tion and en­act it, with some lee­way on how it may choose to rep­ri­mand Smith, or to set it aside and move on.

If that dis­cus­sion and/or de­ci­sion hap­pens in pri­vate, we’ll be fil­ing a re­quest for a closed­meet­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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