Amendment touches off debate on confidential report

By Mike Williscraft

An effort to follow up on recommendations and council’s direction following a workplace investigation report from June 2020 set off a lengthy debate at Grimsby council’s committee of the whole on Monday.

The discussion included a series of pointed questions and accusations, a request to go into closed session and a brief recess to review information. When the dust settled, the original motion by Coun. Reg Freake was approved.

It read:

“Resolved that staff and the CAO be directed to present a report to Council covering the status of the action items and recommendations related to the Third-Party Workplace Investigation Report presented to Council by Mr. John Curtis at the Special Closed Council Meeting held on June 4th 2020.”

It was a friendly amendment by Coun. Dorothy Bothwell which touched off the debate.

Coun. Kevin Ritchie and Coun. Randy Vaine wanted any discussion to go into closed session and became increasingly agitated as the discussion progressed.

The amendment read:

“I would respectfully ask for a friendly amendment to Reg’s motion to read…
And, that the report detail if the suspension action by the Mayor adhered to the Municipal Act and all applicable workplace policies and legislation;
And, that the report detail whether the actions taken by Council in the February 10th resolution were validated in the opinion of the investigator.”

This prompted Ritchie to jump in with two points of order to cut off discussion.

“We should not be having this (discussion) in open session,” said Ritchie.

Bothwell noted her amendment sought procedural clarification that the role of the mayor was properly adhered to.

While Vaine noted another point of order, Ritchie said, “ That was in a document that was no privy to the public. That’s totally out of line.”’

Clerk Sarah Kim noted her interpretation was the motion requested that she generate a report to follow up the investigative reports recommendations.

“That would come back to closed (session),” said Kim.

“I suggest strongly we go into closed session. We take it into closed session and discuss it there,” said Vaine.

Bothwell contended there was no part of her request which should be dealt with in closed session, citing the information dealt with by legal advice, rather it was a decision of council.

“We have not heard if the mayor acted appropriately or not. It is important we, as councillors, and the public know. That is the purpose of this,” said Bothwell, noting all the information he mentioned is already well-known in the public realm.

Ritchie said he had no issue with Freake’s original motion but maintained that contents of the report “would not be given to the public”.

Coun. Dave Sharpe agreed. He said the report needs to be kept confidential due to staff who are named in it.

“We’ve seen it. It’s a long report, hundreds of pages,” said Sharpe, saying he believed following through on Botwell’s request in open session would shed light on part of the 650-page confidential report.

Aside from that concern, Ritchie also contended the request was tantamount to a reconsideration of the original motion and should not be considered.

At that point, council took a brief recess to read an altered motion which had been circulated by email.

Upon return, Bothwell’s friendly amendment was voted down 5-4 with Ritchie, Vaine, Sharpe and Councillors Dave Kadwell and John Dunstall voting against. Bothwell, Freaks, Coun. Lianne Vardy and Mayor Jordan voting for.

Vardy closed the debate by suggesting the report should be released to the public with names redacted.

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