By Mike Williscraft
What is left of Grimsby council’s integrity got another black eye Monday when Coun. Randy Vaine erupted in a tirade as discussion regarding him being in breach of the Town’s Code of Conduct for harassment got underway.
The finding of that Integrity Commissioner complaint, issued by Coun. Dorothy Bothwell was issued in tandem with another complaint filed by Coun. Kevin Ritchie, Coun. John Dunstall and Coun. Randy Vaine.
They issued 19 claims of Mayor Jeff Jordan breaching the Code of Conduct. All of which IC Michael Maynard either completely rejected or found did not have any standing to require a finding.
The Vaine complaint was 30 pages while the trio’s complaint vs Jordan was 44 pages long.
In his finding on the Vaine complaint, Maynard noted:
“We (Maynard and report co-author Benjamin Drory) have determined that Councillor Vaine contravened sections 4.1 (i) and 12.1 of the Code of Conduct.
Councillor Vaine contravened s. 4.1 (i) by his email of March 11, 2021, in which he wrote, in part, “in my opinion you try to come across as better than everyone else”. That comment was disparaging of Councillor Bothwell and was made in an email copied to all other Members of Council and several senior members of staff.
Councillor Vaine also harassed Councillor Bothwell, contrary to s. 12.1, as evidenced by various email exchanges between them over time, and on these occasions his interactions did not fall under the jurisdiction of a meeting chair under the Procedural By-law.”
The report also cited there are only two possible penalties – a reprimand, or a suspension of the remuneration paid for up to 90 days.
“In the circumstances, it is our view that a reprimand against Councillor Vaine would be appropriate. We do not find his conduct to be of a degree warranting a suspension of pay, and we also believe a public reprimand would be a meaningful consequence,” Maynard said in the report.
“We also believe all councillors have vested interests in working in a pleasant and collaborative “workplace”, and will understand the harms that would arise from working in a workplace falling beneath this standard.”
In the ensuing discussion after Maynard tabled his reports, Coun. Lianne Vardy suggested an immediate apology from Vaine also be part of the penalty.
But while Bothwell took her turn to address the complaint and the ongoing issues facing council, Vaine interjected and the whole discussion went south immediately.
She made a comment in the context of explaining the issues of councillors’ conduct going far beyond what was included in that one claim about Vaine – calling the issues “pervasive” – and that other councillors had serious issues not part of that process.
At 2:06:33 of the video recording of the proceedings, Bothwell stated, “When another councillor says to me that ‘the Heritage Grimsby Advisory Committee is just made up of a bunch of soccer moms’ or that I would be better as just a member of the Heritage Committee and not the chair because I could debate much better as just a member, those types of comments, those types of behaviours make it….”
“The councillor here is lying because I never said those things,” interjected Vaine.
“I didn’t say you,” answered Bothwell.
However, Vaine was having nothing of it.
“It doesn’t matter. Don’t be lying,” shouted Vaine while Bothwell tried to continue.
“Point of Order, Coun. Vaine,” interjected Coun. Reg Freake.
“Shut up, Freake,” said Vaine, while Jordan tried to get things under control.
“There is a good example of what I am talking about right there,” said Freake, referring to when he commented early that, “I’m so so disappointed that we have a councillor on this council that has gone so far and thinks it’s ok to continue to do it. How many times has he been asked and told in council, by the chair, to refrain?”
While Jordan is telling Vaine, “You’re being rude,” Vaine appears to call one of his colleagues an “idiot” and Jordan asks to have Vaine removed from the meeting.
At which point, Ritchie interjects with an immediate Point of Order – one of about a dozen on the night.
In the moment of quiet after Vaine was removed, Bothwell again clarified she was not speaking about Vaine regarding her comment about the heritage committee noting it was another councillor.
“We have the right to challenge that,” said Ritchie, speaking of the mayor’s ruling to eject Vaine for poor conduct.
While Jordan maintained he had authority to eject under the Municipal Act, Ritchie contended “you do not have that right unless it is a serious threat and this is a Zoom meeting.”
“He told someone to shut up,” said Jordan.
“That’s not a serious threat,” said Ritchie. “I will leave this meeting as well, and I hope everyone else leaves this meeting so we don’t have a quorum.”
“You’re welcome to leave, Councillor Ritchie,” said Jordan before conferring with town clerk Sarah Kim on proper procedure to follow. After that, Jordan confirmed council would vote on the challenge.
On challenges of ejections from council, five members of council – Ritchie, Vaine, Dunstall, Sharpe and Kadwell – all voted to adjust the procedural bylaw to allow those expelled from a meeting to vote on whether a challenge to reinstate is upheld or not.
With that, a screen saver for Vaine popped back up on the Zoom call as Vaine was never visible during the meeting. He claimed his camera was not working but at different times during the meeting items could be seen on the screen.
Once back on the Zoom, Vaine picked up where he left off.
“(inaudible) remove the other members of council that started before me? Is that correct? Because it wouldn’t be bias just towards me because I put a complaint against you is it?” said Vaine.
“Don’t worry, it’s all going to be in the local paper, buddy. I don’t mind. Just letting you know.”
“Your continual outbursts are not helping the situation, Coun. Vaine,” said Jordan.
“You had your friends yelling at first. I merely replied to your friends, but you chose to target me, again, showing your bias,” claimed Vaine.
“I want no more cross talk, no more Points of Order. We’re with this right now,” said Jordan, as the meeting got back on track.
When the motion to uphold the chair’s ruling to remove Vaine was put on the floor, Kadwell said Bothwell’s comments seemingly attributed to Vaine are what set off the whole issue.
“We were talking about Councillor Vaine. So I think everybody just took for granted that Councillor Bothwell – about the soccer mothers – was referring to Councillor Vaine,” said Kadwell.
“I’m listening and that is exactly how I interpreted it.”
However, as Bothwell had stated twice already to that point, she had attributed that point to “another councillor”.
With Dunstall not returning after the council meeting for Committee of the Whole, that left four of his usual voting group to kill the motion to uphold the chair’s ruling as Kadwell, Ritchie, Sharpe and Vaine voted against and the motion died in a 4-4 tie vote.
As the debate got rebooted, Bothwell confirmed for a third time she said “another councillor” in her earlier comment.
When it came to finally getting around to what the penalty would be, a motion suggesting a formal reprimand be issued to Vaine, a demand for an immediate apology from Vaine to Bothwell be issued and that Vaine be requested to “voluntarily retake the workplace harassment and sensitivity training originally provided to members of council.”
Vaine, who has a habit of figuratively slapping those he disagrees with one hand while offering an olive branch with the other did exactly that with Maynard.
“I want to make it very clear. I’m not upset. I expected this ruling. I didn’t expect them to do the proper investigation. In my world, where we do real investigations, we use all the facts available which the IC, unfortunately, did not in this case,” said Vaine.
“I have a lot of respect for this IC as I did for the previous one, so this is not a personal attack on him, but it’s just that, unfortunately, I had given nine witnesses’ names as well as other information to show that I was not harassing Councillor Bothwell. I don’t have a problem. You make whatever ruling you want. It doesn’t affect me in any way. I’ll take the workplace training. I’ve taken it a million times.”
He then cited an incident when he called Vardy a bully, not to say it was an error, rather, his mistake was doing it in a closed session.
“I should have done it to her privately,” said Vaine.
Vaine then issued a threat to “bring out all the wrong that has been done” and later claimed Bothwell got a positive ruling “based on no evidence”, and “none of my evidence was even considered.”
“You want to know the truth? I’m going to make sure the truth gets out, every bit of it because I don’t care. I’m not worried. You can go file another IC complaint against me. I don’t care…..I will not apologize,” said Vaine claiming that too much focus on heritage issues would jeopardize the town’s ability to fight climate change.
As far as Vaine’s claim the investigation left evidence he offered off the table, Maynard explained to council, as he did to Vaine directly and included in his report that Vaine only offered witnesses he said would show Bothwell to be the one in breach of the Code of Conduct.
Quoting from Page 29 of this report, Maynard read, “Lastly, we wish to note that a decision was deliberately made not to interview the various witnesses proposed by Councillor Vaine. He indicated that those witnesses would speak to Councillor Bothwell’s mistreatment of them, but we determined that even if that were true (which we take no position on, as it was not the subject of this investigation), that could not have possibly been a relevant defence respecting Councillor Vaine’s own conduct, and his obligations under the Code.”
Maynard reiterated he conducts and IC process, not a litigious process which allows counter claims.
“This hurts,” said Bothwell, in summing up the proceeding.
“It took a lot to do this and I knew – and I mentioned this to Mr. Maynard – that just by filing this and standing my ground on it, I would be a target and there would be retaliation.”
“As Councillor Vaine has threatened numerous occasions, ‘I’m going to make sure the truth comes out in another forum’, whatever.So you’re constantly living on egg shells wondering when is the next Integrity Commissioner complaint going to get filed against me.”
Vaine noted he was in the process of filing a complaint against Bothwell and would follow through on that now.
As Freake began to note it was unfortunate Vaine was taking the matter lightly, Vaine cut him off and accused him of lying as well.
In the end, the vote on a penalty was split with council voting to implement the reprimand and retaking the workplace harassment and sensitivity training.
Kadwell, Ritchie, Vaine and Sharpe voted to reject the notion of an apology being issued in a 4-4 tie vote.