Fort Frances Councillor Douglas Judson Issues Statement

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Fort Frances – POLITICS – There has been ongoing issues within Fort Frances City Council.

Councillor Douglas W. Judson made the following statement:

“Last night the Mayor publicly apologized to Council for her unlawful release of privileged and confidential material to David Kircher. Regardless of whether the Mayor provided this document to the media, she was the cause of it being leaked, and ultimately published.

“This leak of materials was revealed in documents released to Peter Howie in response to a freedom of information request. The documents definitively confirmed that the Mayor was responsible for this leak. The full set of documents Mr. Howie obtained also made clear that no other member of Council was responsible for sharing the legal opinion with third parties.

“While I appreciate some of the Mayor’s words last night and her reflection on her oath of office and duty to the community, I remain concerned about the intention of this leak.

“It is self-evident from the email communications I have seen that this material was not shared to vindicate or protect our staff and advisors, as she suggested. It was done to undermine them and question their integrity. This is reflected in numerous emails to Mr. Kircher and our former clerk. She leaked the material on June 22 and then engaged in an ongoing email discussion about its contents.

“With all due respect, the Mayor’s apology does not fully account for the impact her actions have had on our staff and other members of Council. She misled Council about her responsibility for the leak on two occasions – on October 28, by email, where she denied knowledge of the legal opinion in question, despite commenting on its contents in the newspaper the day before, and on November 8, where she did not declare a conflict of interest and then stated in Council that “we cannot just assume that it was one of our members of Council.” That remark was quoted in the newspaper on November 10, and openly suggested that a member of staff or another member of Council was to be blamed, when she knew otherwise.

“The Town and the Mayor have received legal threats from third parties as a result of this behaviour. We have previously adopted resolutions to try to repair those relationships. The Integrity Commissioner, in his December 13 report about the Mayor, also found that Mr. Kircher’s concerns were unfounded and that the integrity of our staff ought to have been protected.

“The Mayor likes to talk about her leadership role in the organization and to claim powers she does not have as CEO of the municipality. Those roles actually come with more robust responsibilities than they do any actual powers. One of the most important responsibilities is to uphold and be seen to comply with our policies, and to set an example in the municipal corporation and community.

“The Mayor’s leak and subsequent dishonesty to Council is an obvious breach of several sections of the Code of Conduct, the Towns’ procedural bylaw, and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. If complaints and applications were made, those breaches could include sanctions up to and including removal from office by a judge. Her conduct could also attract criminal charges for breach of trust. That’s how serious this is.

“I also measure her misconduct against what would happen to a member of staff who did this, and the reality is that they would be fired, pursuant to our Employee Conduct Policy and Employee Confidentiality Policy. There is no “CEO” who would withstand these revelations of their misconduct. I expect better, and as we enter the final months of this term, I hope we will start to see better conduct from the Mayor. The freedom of information documents I have seen, in full, are deeply disturbing.”

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