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Majority Council vote approves 30-day pay suspension for Bondy

- Mayor Snively complained of Bondy’s ‘negative comments’

about E.L.K. to the Integrity Commissioner -



by Sylene Argent

A majority Council vote approved Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze’s recommendation to suspend Councillor Sherry Bondy’s pay as a member of Council for 30-days, as a result of an investigation he conducted regarding a complaint Mayor Larry Snively made on April 23.

  The Mayor complained Bondy was publicly and continuously harassing the staff at E.L.K. Energy Inc., which is an electric distribution company the Town of Essex owns.

  In the Report to Council, Swayze added that if Bondy continues with her public criticism of any staff after this report, his recommendation will be 90-days each time.

  Snively, through the report on the matter, said Bondy was posting negative comments about the local utility on social media and recorded a video in front of the company’s premises.

  Snively, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, Councillor Chris Vander Doelen, and Councillor Morley Bowman supported the suspension of pay, while Councillors Joe Garon and Steve Bjorkman did not. Bondy declared a Conflict of Interest and did not vote. Councillor Kim Verbeek was not present at the meeting.

  Before the vote, Bondy asked about possible conflicts of interest as Snively, Bowman, Vander Doelen, Meloche, and Garon are on the E.L.K. Board of Directors. Swayze did not see how that would not be a Conflict of Interest.

  Bondy asked that Bowman Chair the meeting, as the County Council alternate, as Snively made the complaint and directed the Integrity Commissioner to the Deputy Mayor to confirm his complaints. The gavel was handed to the Deputy Mayor not for the entirety of the matter, but so Snively could provide his stance.

  Snively said the reason he placed his complaint was not political. “I want to protect our staff. I’m not saying she doesn’t work hard, but we have to have respect for staff.”

  In addition, Snively said he would not be running for Mayor next term and intends on spending more time with his grandkids.

  In Swayze’s Report to Council, it notes Bondy has, “A long history of aggressively criticizing the staff going back to before 2019, when she was on the Board of Directors. It became a concern to the Board and a letter was written to her on November 19, 2019, advising her that she was in breach of her legal duties and obligations as a Director. In response to that letter, she resigned from the Board and continued publicly harassing staff.

  Bondy said she was asked to step down from the Board if she wanted to be a public critic, so she did.

  At the December 16, 2019 Essex Council meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy resigned from the E.L.K. Energy Board, and Councillor Chris Vander Doelen was appointed in a separate motion.

   At the time, she said elected officials can’t speak about what goes on.

  In his Report to Council, Swayze noted the most, “egregious posting on her social media is an artist’s rendition of an electrical staff member being forcefully led as a prisoner to the gallows and about to be hanged…In her response to the complaint, she attempted to assert that the drawing was not intended to portray an ELK staff member which I found to be absurd, given her long history of criticizing ELK staff.”

  The cartoon in question depicts an individual with a lightbulb for a head being led to the gallows, surrounded by a crowd of individuals with candles for heads. In sharing the cartoon, she wrote, “I am not sure who the original artist is of this illustration but it’s very impactful.”

  Swayze continued that he has conducted interviews as part of the investigation and the “impact of her constant negative comments on the morale of E.L.K. staff is a serious concern.”

  Swayze alleges complaints from the public have substantially increased from four-years ago, “before she started stirring up the community. I am advised that the provision of reliable and good electrical service has increased over the past four-years.”

  In addition, Snively asked for the complaint against Bondy to include a social media post she made regarding a change of a Town of Essex staff policy regarding who can attend events during Covid. 

The post is as follows: “It is all lined up at that end – all planned and deliberate. What’s the difference if two more people go? What if they do shifts. Then they lecture me about acting like a team. There is no team here at the Town and I am the only one not afraid to say so. We need inclusive leaders not leaders who protect their turf and try to pick and choose who they want to be next in line. It happened last term and it’s happening again and expect to see more and more of it. This is not the leadership the people deserve. There are so many other ways to run a municipality. Run it like the councillors and the community matter.”

  As an Integrity Commissioner for municipalities over the past 13-years, Swayze said he has to explain to Councils that every member has the right to be critical of staff, “so long as it is to other members of Council and done privately.”

  He said Bondy could have requested a closed session of Council to call into question the performance of any member of staff. The same could have been done with the E.L.K Board with the Directors.

  “I suspect that she believes her public diatribes against staff will get her votes. I regard her behaviour against staff members as inappropriate politics,” Swayze wrote, adding that Essex’s Code of Conduct notes no member shall maliciously or falsely injure the professional or ethical reputation of staff and will show respect for the professional capacities of staff.

  As a result, Swayze found Councillor Bondy has contravened the Code by her conduct against E.L.K and Town staff.

  Swayze said he did receive many emails from residents in support of Bondy, noting how hard she works. “I understand they were invited by her, but that’s okay. I don’t dispute she works hard.”

  He said he was trying to teach Bondy to hire professionals to run electric distribution companies and manage the municipality as no member of Council has the competence or expertise to do so. Treating them poorly will result in losing those staff members, he said.

  At the April 19 Council meeting, when discussing Bondy’s Notice of Motion that asked Council to consider informing Hydro One of concerns within the municipality of frequent power-outages that are negatively impacting residential homes and businesses via a letter, Snively announced he was going to file a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner about Bondy’s video, which, at the time, he said was, “pathetic on your part.”

  In a recorded vote, her motion passed unanimously.

In his report, Swayze said shooting that video was inappropriate.

  When addressing the Integrity Commissioner’s report, Bondy said she is critical of E.L.K., its service delivery, and its Board of Directors. In her opinion, there is no way she ever contravened the Code of Conduct as she was critical of its operations before, during, and after being on its Board of Directors. She has also been critical of Hydro One.

  In the video, she said she shared resident frustrations about ongoing power-outages. As far as the cartoon, she said a friend sent it to her, so she shared it. “The irony of this picture being used as a way to silence me for poor service from E.L.K. is uncanny,” she said, wondering why she was never asked to take it down or undergo training and why her punishment is only suspension of pay.

  In referring to the April 19 meeting, Bondy said she felt the Mayor was publicly harassing her, which is creating a toxic workplace. Bondy claimed she reached out to the Integrity Commissioner twice about the Mayor’s treatment of her, and both times, the matters were dismissed.

  Bondy said there have been a lot of positive improvements in regards to E.L.K.

  “When residents reach out to me, I prefer to respond than do nothing,” she said.

  “You can take my money, but you can’t take my voice, because my voice is the voice of the people,” she added.

Meloche said there may be confusion about the charge against Bondy. It wasn’t about her being progressive or having an opinion. When staff is involved, a line has to be drawn.

  Bjorkman, however, said he was disappointed in the Integrity Commissioner’s report. Bondy, at the beginning of the Term of Council, identified herself as the official opposition on Council, so it is not a stretch she sees herself as the lightbulb in the illustration that is about to be hung. Her brand has always been about asking the tough questions. He was not sure how anyone could conclude the illustration had anything to do with E.L.K.

  Bjorkman added he watched her video a few times, looking for something that reflected the charges and could not find it.

  Vander Doelen, however, saw the illustration as a threat with a noose. He said Bondy has waged a two-and-a-half-year campaign of lies and insults.

  Snively concluded Council has done many good things. Moving forward, care has to be taken when on social media.

  Later during the regular meeting, the Notice of Motion Bondy put forward at the July 5, 2021 Council Meeting, was brought forward. It asked Council to consider requesting the E.L.K Energy’s Board meeting minutes be open to Council and/or the Asset Management Plan be shared with Council.

  She also asked that Essex Town Council request Ron McDermott, Chairperson of the E.L.K. Energy, to raise this request at the next scheduled meeting as per Mayor Snively’s suggestion at the June 21, 2021 council meeting.

  No one seconded Bondy’s Notice of Motion, so the issue was not discussed.