Leeds and Thousand Islands councillors voted on Monday to suspend John Paul Jackson’s pay for 90 days after an Integrity Commissioner report found that the councillor breached the township’s code of conduct.
The tension was so thick at Monday night’s council meeting you could almost cut it with a knife.
Many were angry that Jackson went public with information they believe should have remained private.
“For me, this workplace has been poisoned. Trust has been lost and the impact on our township is one of shame,” said councillor Liz Huff.
Last May, four senior staff members brought forward allegations of harassment against the townships CAO, Greg Borduas. A lawyer was hired to investigate and it was determined the allegations were unfounded and malicious in nature.
As a result, two of the municipal officials were fired, the other two suspended without pay.
Borduas’ lawyer says the complaints were false, and Borduas himself has refused to discuss the matter.
As this all unfolded behind closed doors, Jackson went public with all these accusations and denials during a television interview, and for that, an Integrity Commissioner launched an investigation into Jackson’s actions that resulted in Monday night’s punishment. But the councillor remains undeterred.
“I believe the public expected me to do what I did if I believed that these four staff members were wrongly disciplined.” said Jackson following the tense council meeting.
One councillor spoke of the impact the ordeal has had on the municipality.
“Eventually, hopefully, we can all learn something and be better at the jobs that we were elected to do,” said councillor Vicki Leakey.
Mayor Joe Baptista says he would like to see changes made to the municipal act that would impose harsher penalties for such breaches.
“If there’s a finding by the Integrity Commissioner, it would go to a judge, the judge would determine that in fact yes there was a breach if it was a serious breach and then that seat declared vacant,” said Baptista.
Baptista says he brought this suggestion forward during a recent trip to the Associations of Municipalities of Ontario Conference in Ottawa.
In the meantime, council also voted in favour of obtaining an Integrity Commissioner that would serve for the remainder of the current term and for one year following.
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