Was it an official council meeting, or a friendly get-together over breakfast?
That’s now the subject of an independent investigation into alleged meetings involving Belleville’s mayor, several councillors, and at least two city staff members.
Bill Sandison asked for the investigation and says he first became aware of breakfast meetings held at Eggsquis, a popular restaurant in the Bell-Front shopping centre, in 2016.
“I have spoken directly with Eggerton Boyce and he mentioned to me there is no quorum of council, that there’s no issue,” Sandison said.
Boyce is one of the councillors that has attended the controversial breakfasts.
Sandison disputes the quorum claim, saying that may be true for council as a whole but doesn’t hold true for many of the smaller subcommittees councillors sit on.
“At a quick glance,” he said, “I saw about a dozen committees where there is a legal quorum in attendance at these sessions.”
Taso Christopher, mayor of Belleville, declined to be interviewed by CKWS about the breakfast club meetings.
Ward 1 councillor Mike Graham says he’s attended the meetings for over a decade.
“I’ve been part of a group for the last 15 or 20 years that met for breakfast every Saturday morning,” he said.
Graham says the makeup of the people at the breakfast changes and it’s not always politicians or city staff.
“People come people go and we’ve been at 7 or 8 different restaurants,” Graham said. “It’s just the guys getting together with the guys.”
Councillor Garnett Thompson has attending some of the breakfasts over the last several years, and says city matters have never been discussed in the busy restaurant.
“If we could hear people talking behind us, in front of us,” Thompson said, “if we start talking city business, that follows us and we don’t want that to happen.”
Fellow councillor Kelly McCaw sees it differently, saying appearances matter.
“Perception sometimes is everything, whether something is being discussed or not,” McCaw said. “If the appearance is there, I think that’s problematic.”
Mitch Pancuik, also a city councillor and mayoral hopeful in this fall’s election, says the veteran politicians should have know better.
“The key thing is there are five of us that have not participated in these types of meetings.” Pancuik said.”We’ve done that because we understand the municipal government act and the requirements for us and how we conduct ourselves.”
The complaint launching the independent investigation was filed May 7th, 2018.