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Council only receives Integrity Commissioner Report

- The report recommended over $1,500 of Voakes’s pay be suspended -

by Sylene Argent

At the Monday evening Essex Council meeting, in a recorded vote, Essex Council voted to only receive a report the Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze, submitted after the Town’s CAO, Donna Hunter, filed a Code of Conduct complaint against Councillor Randy Voakes.

  Through the Report to Council, Swayze recommended the remaining remuneration, payable to Councillor Randy Voakes for his services as a member of Council, in the amount of $1,560.45, be suspended.

  In the report, Swayze said he received a complaint from Hunter on October 24. She claimed Voakes attended a closed session of Council on October 1 that was held to discuss the step increase of the salary grid of the CAO. She alleged Voakes disclosed the quantum of her salary to an employee of the Town, who was not entitled to receive closed session reports or minutes. The amount also appeared in a local blog, but no direct evidence linked to Voakes was discovered.

  Swayze said he contacted Voakes via email on November 2, 2018. On the same day, Swayze wrote, Voakes responded to him and copied all members of Council. The email, he claimed, “contained boorish and unrefined language. On the next day, he sent an email to the complainant with vulgar and offensive language directed at her for filing the complaint.”

  Swayze pointed out the Code of Conduct for Members of Council that says members should “conduct themselves efficiently, with decorum and with proper attention to the Town’s Procedural Bylaw. They will treat each other and others with respect at all times…”

  He also pointed out that under the “Confidential Information” section in the Code, it states: “A Council Member shall not disclose, release, or publish by any means to any person or to the public any Confidential Information, as defined in Section 4.00.”

  “His disclosure of the salary of the CAO to the employee was clearly contrary to the Code since the information came from a closed session of Council and it was not part of the public domain at the time of disclosure,” he wrote.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy disagreed that disclosing the CAO’s salary was against the Code as any public service worker who makes over $100,000 a year is published, with their salary, on the Sunshine List. She said this was an open file.

  “Now we spent more taxpayer dollars investigating this on a Councillor who is no longer going to be here,” Bondy said. “What is our aim? What is our goal, and why?”

  Bondy said, though it may not be right how people get treated, but sometimes there is passion and there is a little bit of anger, and a little bit of people being upset.  

  When Bondy was discussing the Sunshine List, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche called a Point of Order, noting Council had to deal with the information presented.

  Mayor Ron McDermott agreed with Meloche’s Point of Order.

  Bondy wanted to know what Council had to gain? “Sometimes it is hard to follow our Code of Conduct…and, I hope, going forward, we can all work together, but I really, truly feel, and I know that my residents truly feel, that when you question things in the Town of Essex, you get sh** on. I believe that. I believe that with every 843 [of] my votes. So, heaven forbid, I could be next.”  

  She said she would not support the recommendation and urged Council to do the same as next time it could be them questioning matters. “I’m not saying he was respectful to the CAO, I m sorry for how he treated you, if that is how he treated you…,” she said

  Councillor Ron Rogers moved to only receive the report.

  McDermott claimed Bondy made a few statements that were false. He said the salary will be published in the Sunshine List in April, not released in September. He said he was going to vote against the motion to only receive because as long as he is in office, he will do his job. He wondered how the new Council would be able to work with others who are going to finish their jobs.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman called a Point of Order on the Mayor, noting the conversation has to be directed to the question, which received a round of applause from the audience.

 


© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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