By Mike Williscraft
Another 5-4 vote at Grimsby council Monday night will allow for a town procedural bylaw change which backdates signatory processes to cover early April.
At issue for the dissenting four members of council is the fact the Town’s CAO Harry Schlange approved staff sign banking documents when they had no authority to do so.
Another heated debate ensued with all sense of decorum going out the window with Coun. Dave Sharpe repeatedly cutting off Mayor Jeff Jordan and injecting many comments while Coun. Lianne Vardy was speaking at another point.
The core of the issue arose when several members of staff were terminated in succession leaving a shortage of council-approved signing authorities for the municipality.
Melanie Steele, new interim director of finance/treasurer, submitted a report to council to clear up “inconsistencies” with banking documents and signing authority designation.
Up to March 31, she noted all practices were “reasonable and did ensure that the Town could continue to make payment for goods and
services during this transitional period.”
The plan of the process was to “make sure that our bylaws agree to what is on file at the bank and as well as what all staff are doing on a day to day basis.”
Steele noted that a legal opinion was obtained prior to the report being submitted and that “retroactive application of this bylaw is appropriate.”
The fundamental process of staff changing bank documents without council approved authority to do so did not sit well with four members of council.
“On March 31 when the staff person signed these banking resolutions and changed the names, they did not have the authority to do so. I don’t know who directed them to do so, but the document that is a legal document at the bank was signed without council’s corporate resolution being passed,” said Coun. Dorothy Bothwell.
CAO Harry Schlange offered council a mea culpa on the matter.
“When you ask who directed the staff to look into this it was myself. I am fully responsible and accountable,” said Schlange, adding that he chose two staff as signatories “to avoid any emergencies or risks in the operations.”
After legal counsel John Mascarin told council there was nothing in the Municipal Act to preclude council from backdating its bylaw but later in the meeting acknowledge an issue could arise.
“I suppose someone could come back and say, ‘Hey, those were the correct signing authorities. You didn’t have the resolution of council at the time’, so there could be question.”
The debate included many heated moments including Sharpe cutting off the mayor at several points and continuing to talk over others.
At one point, while Jordan attempted to encourage debate, Sharpe continue to jump in, offering, “Mayor Jordan, stop cutting me off. I’m speaking. Mayor Jordan, stop it,” Sharpe said.
“That’s your first warning,” answered Jordan, who noted a special meeting in early April – if the CAO had communicated with the mayor it would have negated the entire matter.
The motion to backdate the bylaw was approved 5-4.