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 closed-meeting investigation.