By Mike Williscraft
“The resolution is not enforceable, correct?”
That exchange at Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting between Grimsby Coun. Lianne Vardy and the Town’s legal counsel John Mascarin summarized and capped a long and heated matter regarding a push by a majority of council to force Mayor Jeff Jordan to pay a series of invoices connected to a phone call he made.
The call was found to be in breach of the Town’s code of conduct, but was “trivial and not of consequence” by then-Integrity Commissioner Charles Harnick, who was subsequently relieved of this duties a short time later after a closed session debate on his tenure.
Mascarin attended Monday’ meeting to speak to his 10-page review of the legality of a motion approved by council 5-4 to have the mayor pay $1,302.62 in bills which resulted from a phone call made after his confidential emails somehow turned up at the home of Coun. Kevin Ritchie. The emails were discussed in a closed session of council, with Ritchie choosing not to return the information, claiming that the information was now his.
Key to Mascarin’s findings was the phrasing of the motion passed by council which said the mayor had to “pay” the prescribed amount as opposed to “suspension of pay”.
He noted at several points in the meeting that councils only have two options when implementing sanctions for a code of conduct breach – reprimand or suspension of pay.
Mascarin went through the process in detail and noted all was done by the book in terms of process, debate, vote and approval. The issue was with what was approved.
Coun. Dave Sharpe, who made the motion and had the support of Councillors Dave Kadwell, John Dunstall, Randy Vaine and Ritchie, acknowledged he made an error but noted he sought correction of that error both at the initial meeting it was made and when it came up in the meeting minutes to approved at the subsequent council meeting.
On Monday night, Sharpe repeatedly blamed Coun. Dorothy Bothwell – at one point noting she “denied me to correct the motion” – for the improper wording being the demise of the push to penalize Jordan.
The motion Sharpe was referring to was a motion to lift the item from the COTW minutes so it could be revisited. That motion to lift was defeated with Dunstall, Bothwell, Vardy, Jordan and Coun. Reg Freake all voting against. This meant the motion was put to council as it was stated and it was approved as is.
However, with that wording, “It is a financial penalty and it is not authorized at law,” Mascarin said.
The debate included more fireworks among councillors after Ritchie claimed the whole matter would not have come about if Jordan had not made any calls dealing with closed session information.
Vardy noted the phone calls would not have been necessary if Ritchie had simply returned the confidential emails he happened to find in his possession.
“I’m sorry, Coun. Ritchie, it was you who got this ball rolling,” said Vardy, noting all her comments were public information discussed during an IC debate.
Ritchie demanded an apology, which Vardy refused.
“You asked if I ‘wished to apologize’ and I do not,” said Vardy.