FORT FRANCES – POLITICS – Fort Frances Councillor Douglas W. Judson made the following statement:
“As previously reported, on September 3, 2021, I commenced an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Mayor June Caul. This was not an action taken lightly. I made the decision to do so after repeated abuses of authority by the Mayor, to which the rest of Council turned a blind eye.
“These actions were inappropriate and unlawful, as the Integrity Commissioner’s December 2021 report indicates. In the preceding months, the Mayor unilaterally instructed the Town’s lawyers, which only Council can do. She unlawfully claimed on multiple occasions to be the CAO of the municipality. She unlawfully ordered staff to block me from municipal information. She requisitioned consultant work without Council approval. As reported in the media, she also leaked a privileged and confidential document to a member of the public who continues to foment meritless conspiracy theories.
“The rest of Council ignored these concerns – including multiple, documented instances of acting without authority that were brought to their attention. The Mayor was also given opportunities to acknowledge that she did not have this authority. These, too, were rebuffed. By late summer, it was apparent that legal action was necessary to address these issues.
“In my court application, I sought orders which would confirm the limited authority of the Mayor’s office under the Municipal Act and the Town’s by-laws and policies. Ontario municipalities have a “weak mayor” structure, and the orders I pursued would have confirmed this limited scope of the Mayor’s authority and her relationship to staff, councillors, and Council. I did so at my own expense, and I sought no monetary damages.
“The legal constraints governing the Mayor’s office are well known and should have been obvious. Yet the Mayor’s taxpayer-funded lawyers opposed this proceeding for the past 5 months.
“A hearing was scheduled for this Friday, but tonight I can confirm that this hearing will no longer be necessary. After my lawyer served our written argument on February 4, the Mayor conceded. She has signed an acknowledgment of her limited authority under the Municipal Act and her agreement with the declarations I sought from the court. She also read this acknowledgement during tonight’s Council meeting. A signed copy was published on the agenda. The Mayor has also apologized to me for her improper remarks.
“While this brings the litigation to a close, I am disappointed that it has taken over half a year to reach an acknowledgement that the head of council does not have authority to unilaterally act for the municipality, cannot order staff or obstruct councillors, and cannot hold office as the CAO.
“I am also disappointed that instead of speaking up to address these serious governance and accountability issues, some members of Council chose to vilify me for doing my job of ensuring our municipal government and the people within it follow the law.
“Going forward, I trust that the Mayor will constrain herself to the lawful scope of her duties. I have accepted her apology and am content to have this matter behind me. My focus is on the 2022 budget, making sure that it serves young families in our community, and advocating policy changes to help elect a more diverse and representative Council later this year.”