By Tristan Marks
West Lincoln Council issued an apology to a resident of the township after rising from a closed session last Thursday.
The apology regarded what council deemed an inappropriate communication from Mayor Dave Bylsma to a West Lincoln resident.
Bylsma said after the meeting that he, too, had issued a written apology directly to Emily Spanton.
As a result of other actions taken by council after the closed session discussion, Bylsma was also removed from positions on both the Peninsula West Power Inc. (PWPI) board and the West Lincoln Heritage Committee.
Council’s apology statement reads:
“The Township of West Lincoln would like to extend sincere apologies to Emily Spanton for what it considers inappropriate communication from Mayor Bylsma. Our role as a government is to create a safe place for residents and the Council of West Lincoln finds Mayor Bylsma’s actions unsettling and not in keeping with our Code of Conduct.”
Bylsma said this week Spanton was someone with whom he had previous informative discussions. He noted that he fully understands that his question – basically asking if her COVID-19 vaccine had affected her period – was needlessly personal and inappropriate.
“My thinking behind the question was legitimate but it was worded poorly and should not have been personal in nature,” said Bylsma on Monday.
“I could have worded much more along the lines of ‘Are you aware of any studies showing an effect…’ or something like that. I have sent a note to apologize.
Bylsma noted he has not received a response.
The meeting which addressed the Mayor’s comments took place largely in closed session, with all members present except for Coun. Harold Jonker who was absent.
Due to the nature of the issue council was considering, Bylsma stepped down as chair for the duration of the meeting. Coun. Cheryl Ganann took over.
Council came out of closed session to vote on three motions:
• To issue an apology statement;
• To remove the mayor from the PWPI board and name his replacement at the June 2021 council meeting, and:
• To remove the mayor from the Heritage Committee and name his replacement at the June 2021 council meeting.
Coun. William Reilly requested a recorded vote for all three motions, and all three were passed unanimously.
Reilly noted during the meeting that the last two motions represent the extent of action which council could take to hold the mayor accountable and “restore public trust”.
“There’s such little power a council has in holding an elected official accountable and I believe what we have here is the most that this council can actually do at holding an elected member of council accountable for their actions and comments,” Reilly said.
Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley also issued a statement condemning Bylsma’s comments, released in context of the mayor’s capacity as a member of regional council.
“It is exceptionally disappointing that a statement needs to be issued on a topic of conversation that is so obviously inappropriate. These types of interactions are embarrassing, and reflect poorly on our entire community,” Bradley wrote.
“I want to be clear: I completely condemn the councillor’s conduct in regard to this matter. This behaviour is not becoming of a regional councillor, nor is it the type of conduct the public expects and deserves from an elected official.”