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CUPE files formal complaint against Saint John councillor

Click to play video 'Saint John councillor accused union representative of lying' Saint John councillor accused union representative of lying
WATCH: Things got heated when an accusation at a recent Saint John council meeting took place. As a result, the union is filing a formal complaint. Travis Fortnum reports.

Saint John City Councillor David Merrithew has had a code of conduct complaint filed against him for the second time in four months – both coming from union leadership operating within the city.

At a common council meeting on Jan. 13, 2019, Merrithew got into a heated exchange with CUPE National Representative Mike Davidson – who was making a presentation on behalf of CUPE Locals 18 and 486, as well as the Saint John Police Association and ATU 1182.

READ MORE: SJPA files complaint against city councillor for ‘misleading’ earnings comments

Davidson presented apparent research into the city’s consolidated financial statements that indicates the city had an accumulated surplus of $698-million at the end of 2018.

He went on to present findings on the tax rates paid by industry in Saint John, providing both as means to make up the city’s looming deficit instead of cutting funding to the city’s police and fire departments.

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At that meeting, Merrithew said that the data presented was “a lie,” and that the presentation “purposely misleads and comes to a convenient conclusion.”

The two began to speak over each other and deny the others claims, until Mayor Don Darling finally stepped in calling for calm.

READ MORE: Saint John Police Force to make over $1M in cuts this year

“This is unprofessional behavior,” Davidson said in a media conference Wednesday.

“I was aggressively accused of trying to mislead the public with the audit statements.”

Davidson says Merrithew’s behavior was in violation of the city’s Council Code of Conduct Bylaw LG-5 which in part states: “Members of Council shall conduct themselves in a professional manner with dignity and make every effort to participate diligently in the meetings of Council, committees of Council and other bodies to which they are appointed.”

Councillor Dave Merrithew reviews the formal complaint filed by CUPE.
Councillor Dave Merrithew reviews the formal complaint filed by CUPE. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Although Merrithew had the floor when the heated exchange erupted.

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In their formal complaint, CUPE requests that Merrithew “be given an educational seminar presentation by the Chartered Professional Accounts at Deloitte LLP who prepared the 2018 ‘Independent Auditor’s Report’ with the Consolidated Financial Statements of the City of Saint John.”

“It doesn’t matter to me what they recommend,” Merrithew says.

“I’m protecting the city of Saint John, and I wouldn’t let them try to pull the wool over the city of Saint John citizen’s eyes at that council meeting.”