We apologize for taking so long to update this follow-up – we needed to re-watch, as there were many serious concerns we and our members had about the City Council meeting, in particular.
Video: not available (held in camera)
This was an in camera meeting (not available to the public) dealing with a confidential Side Letter associated with the Amended and Restated Alectra Inc. Unanimous Shareholders Agreement. Councillor McCann declared a potential pecuniary interest and did not participate or vote on the matter – although remained present at the meeting, with his back turned. The recommendation of the Alectra Board was received, the Side Letter approved, and the Mayor and Clerk were authorized to edit, execute and deliver the Side Letter associated with the Amended and Restated Unanimous Shareholder Agreement for Alectra, Inc.
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/KW5bSNbZM_4
Engage's Summary: https://www.engagebarrie.org/post/city-council-monday-march-28-7pm
This was Mayor Lehman's last meeting as Chair, as he takes a leave of absence to campaign for the provincial election.
As noted above, there were many problematic instances in this meeting, and we have been very busy answering residents' questions about Code issues, among other things. Many of these concerns were later compounded by the details provided in the Barrie Advance article published four days later: "Firm that investigated allegations against Barrie councillor found his conduct 'inappropriate and demeaning'"
After a cheque presentation from the Barrie Pickleball Club ($20,500 to partially fund the pickleball courts at Painswick Park), there was a deputation by Blaine Hobson on behalf of Cornerstone, considering the failed motion to refund the project's development charges. Later in the meeting, N.Harris tried to re-introduce the motion, but was corrected that it must be referred back to General Committee in order to be re-introduced. This matter was referred back to General Committee, for an unspecified date. So this matter is still "alive", but no action being taken until it is re-presented to General Committee.
Some motions we'd like to point out from the Consent items – the Community Energy and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan was carried unanimously, the new Waterfront Parking Permit system was approved, the Naloxone Kit program is now permanent, there will be a new investigation into better needle kiosk designs (in the hopes of a new needle collection pilot project), and the next Council will be asked to establish a Youth Council Committee.
Councillor N.Harris withdrew her motion requesting that Ryan's Hope's "Breakfast To Go" program be allowed use of the Gazebo in Heritage Park – the good news is that Collier Street United Church has confirmed the program is welcome moving forward, however it was disappointing to see Councillor McCann's public criticism of this service (removing the opportunity for stigmatizing the patrons of this program was cited as a reason for withdrawal).
The meeting started to go off the rails in "Section I" (1:14 in the video), about the "Heart Barrie Landmark Sign". Councillor Aylwin presented an amendment that he said had been circulated in advance to all members of Council (and one which, if the number of comments we've received and seen in social media are any indication, would be supported by the vast majority of Barrie residents). In light of the media report over the weekend (he did not specify the article, but it was easily understood to be "City staffer files lawsuit against Barrie councillor for alleged harassment, sexual assault, battery" – which had been a "bombshell" article that had been the subject of much public discussion all weekend, and about which Engage Barrie Organization prepared and submitted to Council earlier that day, "Stopping Sexual Violence in the Workplace"), Aylwin's amendment was to refer this item to a future General Committee meeting, so that staff had time to prepare a memorandum with information on the costs the City might incur if the project was cancelled, and a process to return the funds received to date back to the appropriate donors. This motion failed, but not before some highly questionable antics by other Councillors. Despite the sign being his personal "pet" project, and the reason for the amendment being because of the article's revelations into his misconduct, Councillor McCann did not declare a conflict, and did vote on the issue. (There seems to be a great deal of confusion at the City regarding whether this is a personal project or a City project – Councillor Kungl did try to clarify some of that when asking about whether the website was a City or private website, however this project has been treated as a hybrid throughout the process, creating many "grey areas" of concern overall – whether it is considered a personal donation or a City project seems to swing based on which "angle" is more useful at any given moment.)
Despite this clearly being a referral motion – as confirmed by the Mayor and the Clerk several times – and therefore no debating is allowed before the vote, Councillors Harvey and Thomson repeatedly mis-used questions of process and clarification to evade the "no debate" rule, and present their arguments against the referral. (Note that the referral was to allow staff to provide clarification and information, and nothing more.) Councillor Harvey also repeated several times that he did not know what the article was, or why this amendment was coming forward (again, the amendment and reasoning had been circulated to Council earlier in the day, as had our Statement – so if he had, in fact, not been aware of the Simcoe.com article all weekend, he would have had at least two chances earlier on Monday to catch up with what everyone else already knew). These antics seem to be in breach of the Code of Conduct, sections 5.1 (making honest statements, not misleading the public), 5.5 (performing official duties in a manner that promotes public confidence and respect and will bear close public scrutiny), and 5.8 (truly, faithfully and impartially exercise his or her office to the best of his or her knowledge and ability; competently exercise his or her office by educating themselves either formally or informally, in matters pertaining to their official duties, exercise powers only for the purpose for which they were intended) and 5.12 (must seek to advance the public interest with honesty; may not make statements known to be false or make a statement with the intent to mislead Council or the public), among several others.
The troubles continued as conversation around the sign continued, with Councillor Thomson (1:39 in the video) using his office to cast aspersions on the civil case brought forward by the Barrie staff member – including claiming that "nothing has been proven". As had been stated repeatedly in 2020, as well as in the staff member's Statement of Claim, (and as now also known to have been stated in the Oct.20 Staff Report to Council) her allegations had already been substantiated by the City's own investigation (which also, presumably, is why the City entered into a settlement). Section 19.8 clearly states that "Members shall refrain from making requests or statements or taking actions which may be construed as an attempt to influence the independent administration of justice." There are many other Code violations (including most of Section 20) in Thomson's statement, including misleading the public and discreditable conduct towards staff. Although the public does not have access to the terms of the City's settlement with the complainant, considering the standard clauses in such settlements, he could very well have breached the terms of the City's settlement as well. Regardless of what regulations or agreements he may have broken, it was highly unethical to mislead the public about the veracity of the complainant's substantiated allegations, to use his position and platform as Councillor to cast doubt upon a staff member's honesty, and to use his position and platform as Councillor to influence public opinion on a legal matter going before the Court. Our jaws dropped even further when (1:41 in the video) Councillor McCann thanked the Councillors who supported him and his sign project, called other Councillors' comments inappropriate, and finished with "this will never be forgotten by me". Which seems to fly in the face of Section 6 (influencing the decision-making process), Section 14 (improper use of influence; holding out of the prospect or promise of future advantage in return for present actions), Section 20 (treat one another without intimidation).
Later, there was a presentation by the Anti-Racism Task Force, filled with lots of great information and initiatives (1:58). Disappointingly, it appears that Councillor N.Harris was not doing her job and paying attention to this presentation to Council – she chose this time to take to Twitter instead, to argue against our Statement "Stopping Sexual Violence in the Workplace" (which we'd released earlier that day, in response to the March 25 Barrie Advance article on the Workplace Investigation case). Her tweets also contained some very misleading claims – first, claiming that they didn't vote against investigating the complaint (easily disputed by watching the video to get the exact wording of the amendment being voted on: https://t.co/iDAbiYiTc5), then that they voted against changing the code (again, that was not part of the amendment, as easily seen in that same clip). She then went on to blame the staff member for not bringing her complaint to the Integrity Commissioner on time – at that point, nothing about that had been part of the public record, so it seemed at the time that Councillor Harris was revealing confidential information from the Staff Report and in camera meeting. However, when the second Barrie Advance article on the Workplace Harassment case came out a few days later – including details from the case about the timing of the complaint – it appears that Councillor N.Harris was once again attempting to mislead the public about this case, and how she had voted (the incident took place Dec.19, 2019, the staff member lodged a complaint on Dec.30, her manager was notified Jan.6, and the HR firm was contacted Feb.25 – the only delay appears to have been that the HR firm's investigation was postponed, due to the world being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NOT the staff member failing to bring the case forward on time). Councillor Harris's other Twitter claim that she voted against the IC being able to investigate the case "because city council should not be able to amend the code that governs us" does not seem congruous with her April 18 seconding of a questionable Direct Motion which proposed exactly that – not to mention, the fact that changes to the Code of Conduct WERE made by Council, as a result of this Workplace Harassment case. When Engage responded to her claims with the exact wording of the motion voted on (among other corrections), Councillor Harris then began to claim she was being bullied – a tactic she's used in the past when being held accountable by constituents, which has led to the Integrity Commissioner having to speak to her before, due to other resident complaints about being labelled bullies for holding her to account. Sections 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.7, 5.8, 5.10, 5.11, 5.12, 6.1, (we initially thought all of Section 10 regarding confidential information, although it seems that what she claimed was misleading instead), 18, 19.1, 19.6, 20.1, 20.3, 20.6 all appear to have been breached by N.Harris's series of Twitter posts during the Anti-Racism Task Force Presentation.
Compounding our concerns over Councillors' treatment of staff members, Councillor Harvey then used the "Enquiries of Staff" portion of the Agenda (2:45) to bring what should have been a confidential HR issue into the public forum – mis-using his office to malign the work of an identified staff member, and, essentially, publicly mistreat both her and Council process. As one member of the public wrote us: "I was stunned that Councillor Harvey publicly aired concerns about a specific staff member, identified their actual job title (same impact as naming them), exposed their salary, questioned their value. Beyond [Code of Conduct] issues, may expose city to damages." (We have subsequently been told that the salary Councillor Harvey quoted was also false, for what it's worth.) Whatever a Councillor may or may not think of a staff member or their work, exposing them like this in City Council is an egregious breach of not only the Code of Conduct (Sections 5.1, 5.3, 5.12, 14, 19, & 20, at the very least), but also the City's Respect In The Workplace Policy, Council-Staff Relations Policy, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Violence and Harassment in the Workplace section of the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act.
Once again, we apologize for taking so long to complete this update – as you can see from above, there were many apparent breaches of the Code of Conduct and other legislation to digest and analyze!
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/wPPELQh0vrA
Deputy Mayor Ward has now (temporarily) taken over as Chair, due to Mayor Lehman's leave of absence.
This was a very short meeting, as the first Public Meeting (Official Plan & Zoning amendment for proposed commercial development at 315 & 323 Mapleview Drive West) had no speakers, and the second Public Meeting (Zoning amendment for proposed multi-residential development at 505-533 Yonge Street) only had one speaker.
Seniors Advisory Committee
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/1hBAipBmsXc
One recommendation going forward to Finance and Corporate Services Committee – that Legislative and Court Services, in consultation with the Seniors Advisory Committee, establish an award in recognition of seniors and be included as part of the annual Spirit Catcher Award.
Watch Again: https://youtu.be/Hz4fg8Ev5-o