By Mike Williscraft
The writing was on the wall at Grimsby town hall Monday night. If one could see through the thick, dank tension which filled the air, one could read “motion carried 5-4”.
I had held out hope that a reasonable, open-minded debate would ensue when council went into closed session at a second special meeting called by Mayor Jeff Jordan to apprise fellow council members of just what transpired last Tuesday, Feb. 4, when CAO Harry Schlange was put on paid administrative leave.
Because there was so much going on Monday night, I won’t belabour the idiocy showcased for all to see when four members of council – Dave Sharpe, Dave Kadwell, Randy
Vaine and John Dunstall – all chose to boycott the Feb. 5 special meeting because the fifth member of the Grimsby 5 (no, not Tito) Kevin Ritchie was away on vacation.
Before we even get to Monday, for that gross dereliction of duty and lack of representation of their constituents, that group should never get another vote in any election.
In speaking to Kadwell on the topic, he tried to tell me he changed his mind after confirming his attendance because he thought all members of council should be on hand. By this logic, business of council of any consequence would stop every time any member of council was away?
The bottom line there is the Grimsby 4 not only does not have the same cache as the Grimsby 5, but four also cannot control council. Five votes are needed to pass a motion with all of council in attendance. That was what they were waiting for.
That is exactly why Dave Sharpe marched into the council chamber with a motion pre-written.
It’s a pretty good indication of the inflexibility of the Grimsby 5 when they chose to ignore two legal experts in the areas of employment law and municipal law who were on hand Monday night to explain why Jordan was provided with a legal opinion advising decisions of last week.
One was summarily dismissed from the council chambers within minutes of the closed session beginning and the advice of the other was ignored in favour of passing a motion written before council heard Word #1 from the remaining solicitor.
Your tax dollars at work, Grimsby.
As noted in this space before, Kadwell, Vaine and Sharpe were all made aware of a series of complaints and concerns raised by Town staff when they called NewsNow’s office to speak with me in December and January. This was before they all voted – again 5-4 – to implement whistleblower policy which is part of a new Code of Conduct for the Town.
After the meeting I asked Ritchie how the group could pass a motion citing there are no complaints when there are several formal written complaints and many more verbal complaints already on record? When pinned in a corner, Ritchie would simply say matters were discussed in closed session and he would not comment.
Fine, don’t comment, but why the insistence or rewriting history?
And just for good measure, after the Grimsby 5 threw the mayor under the nearest bus, they promptly backed it up and threw him under the bus again by approving a formal apology to Schlange for an action taken with full and proper research and legal opinion obtained beforehand.
To be clear, they did not challenge his authority to take the action he did as his fiduciary responsibility and oath to act in the best interests of Town overrode formal council approval in the legal opinion obtained. In most situations a council stamp of approval would be sought, as Jordan attempted to do the next day, but clearly that was not to be.
In his written comments, Sharpe was hung up on guilt or innocence. When I tried to explain the issue had NOTHING to do with that, he was not interested in listening.
So, again, to clarify, there are serious concerns which need to be dealt with. It is common in this day and age to ensure a healthy work environment and it is typical – if not demanded anymore – for the subject of a complaint to be on leave pending an investigation. It is not a reflection of guilt or innocence in the slightest, rather a process put in place to allow for an independently arrived at result.
As noted last week when the story broke, Schlange is deserving of all due respect and benefit of the doubt.
It is the conduct of the Grimsby 5 which needs to be under the microscope moving forward as they have assumed control of council to the detriment and liability of the Town.