TLTI fast-tracks de­bate on whistle­blower law

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE

In one of its first of­fi­cial acts, the new coun­cil of the Town­ship of Leeds and the Thou­sand Is­lands voted to fast-track a whistle­blower pol­icy to pro­tect staff and coun­cil mem­bers who go pub­lic with per­ceived wrong­do­ings.

Sup­port­ing a no­tice of mo­tion by Deputy Mayor Jeff Lackie, coun­cil this week or­dered town­ship staff to pre­pare a draft pol­icy for con­sid­er­a­tion at its Dec. 10 reg­u­lar meet­ing.

The whistle­blower pol­icy should “fa­cil­i­tate the dis­clo­sure of wrong­do­ing or per­ceived wrong­do­ing that is con­trary to the pub­lic in­ter­est, with rec­om­men­da­tions that would en­sure staff and mem­bers of coun­cil who re­port wrong­do­ing in good faith are pro­tected from reprisal,” Lackie said in the mo­tion.

In his mo­tion, Lackie noted that the town­ship es­pouses open and trans­par­ent gov­er­nance, adding that “this com­mit­ment should in­clude the pro­tec­tion of all staff and mem­bers of coun­cil em­ployed by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity where there is the ap­pear­ance that the pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic in­ter­est is not be­ing ad­hered to.”

Coun­cil mem­bers agreed to sus­pend coun­cil’s own rules to fast­track Lackie’s mo­tion and al­low it to be de­bated at the next reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing.

Nor­mally, coun­cil­lors make no­tices of mo­tions that they want to put on the agenda for de­bate at the next com­mit­tee of the whole meet­ing of coun­cil. In this case it would mean that Lackie’s mo­tion would have been de­bated at the meet­ing on Jan. 9.

At com­mit­tees of the whole, the pub­lic is al­lowed to com­ment dur­ing the meet­ing, some­thing that is pro­hib­ited at reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ings. (Lackie said, how­ever, that coun­cil could sus­pend its rules to al­low the pub­lic to speak at the Dec. 10 meet­ing.)

But not only did coun­cil speed up the tim­ing of the de­bate, it also or­dered town­ship staff to have a draft whistle­blower pol­icy ready for the next meet­ing.

Greg Bor­d­uas, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, cau­tioned coun­cil that he would be hard-pressed to come up with a “ful­some” pol­icy for the next coun­cil meet­ing in less than a week. He sug­gested that coun­cil give him more time.

But coun­cil mem­bers in­sisted that they get some kind of pol­icy from Bor­d­uas in time for the next meet­ing.

Coun.Bri an Ma bee sug­gested that Bor­d­uas could present coun­cil with some ex­am­ples of whistle­blower laws from other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Lackie said “this is not a new mo­tion” and he sus­pected that Bor­d­uas al­ready had a draft re­port on the is­sue. Bor­d­uas, how­ever, said he didn’t.

Lackie was re­fer­ring to the fact that his mo­tion ap­pears iden­ti­cal to one drafted by for­mer coun­cil­lor John Paul Jack­son dur­ing the last term of coun­cil.

Jack­son’s mo­tion, which was pre­sented as a no­tice of mo­tion but never de­bated, was part of one of the most frac­tious is­sues dur­ing the pre­vi­ous coun­cil.

Jack­son had made pub­lic a re­port from an in-cam­era coun­cil meet­ing that saw dis­ci­plinary ac­tion taken against four se­nior staff mem­bers. Two of those staffers later found other jobs and left the town­ship.

Jack­son went pub­lic be­cause the staffers were be­ing un­justly treated, he said.

How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil, with the ex­cep­tion of Lackie and the late coun­cil­lor Harold Em­mons, voted to sus­pend Jack­son’s pay for three months for vi­o­lat­ing coun­cil’s con­fi­den­tial­ity pol­icy. [email protected]­

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