Mayor Saunderson and his gang of bullies continue to take flack for their hostile, childish behaviour towards the former Councillor Tina Comi, who resigned her seat late last month. The week after she resigned, the town’s integrity commissioner (IC) revealed a complaint against Comi filled by the Gang of Six because her 11-year-old son entered her room during a council training session that should have been held in public. You can read the story about their disgraceful, vengeful act here.
And once again, our council lowers the bar when dealing with the public.
At the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee (SISC) meeting of Feb. 7, there was a three-page letter criticizing council for the complaint and their collective harassment of a female councillor. Plus there was a presentation by resident Mark Stewart (starts at 0:20:09 in the video). The letter and the presentation were briefly covered in the Connection online.
In her letter, resident Kelly Caldwell wrote (emphasis added),
True leadership comes from a mindset that is not about oneself, but rather about service to others; those who are successful leaders are in the trenches leading by example, and when their fellow leaders are struggling they inspire by lifting each other up. As the members of Council who launched this complaint, your actions display anything but the qualities of a true leader. Your short-sighted decision to launch a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner not only sends the message to the tax-paying members of the community but also to an entire generation of children that you are anything but approachable and supportive; at the very least you have remained consistent.
It’s somewhat naive to expect Saunderson to show any sort of leadership this term. He hasn’t done so to date, why expect him to start just before he leaves to campaign for a better-paying job at Queen’s Park? Besides, he abdicated his responsibilities to the office when he announced he was running for that role in January, 2021 (he refused to do the right thing and resign, yet he continues to take the town’s paycheque for a job he clearly wanted to get out of a year ago).
His minions have yet to show any initiative, wisdom, or spine this term. But like any gang of bullies, they sure like to condemn others. The letter is well worth reading because it expresses a widely-held sentiment about the treatment of Comi.
Service to others? They have fervently pursued their own advantages, including four pay raises and a huge hike to their expense accounts at a time when none are travelling (and lest we forget the Queen of the Unlimited Expense Account). At the same time, our roads are decaying, sidewalks crumbling, potholes grow, the terminals continue to decay, First Street lampposts corrode, parks and boulevards are scruffy, and when local businesses and workers struggling to get through the lockdowns needed it most, our council offered no financial help. But they revoked an Order of Collingwood from someone they disliked, tried to erase our local history, and got another to resign from council. They gleefully wasted more than $10 million of taxpayers’ money on The Great Leader’s personal vendetta. That’s their legacy: petty, myopic, and selfish. The last council that did anything for the good of the community ended its term in 2014. But I digress.
In his delegation, Mark Stewart comments that in all his 45 years of watching municipal councils, he has never seen the sort of “shocking, bullying, misogynistic, anti-family, and perhaps ironically childlike behaviour” he has seen from this council. I suspect few in this province have: Collingwood stands out in that category.
At 0:21:07, a scowling Saunderson interrupts him, stiffly saying “We have rules of decorum here!” like a Jeeves-ian English butler admonishing unruly schoolchildren. He threatens that if Stewart doesn’t “change his wording,” he’s going to be cut off. Saunderson, you will recall, never interrupts his favourite, Coun. Madigan, whose boorish, puerile behaviour towards female council members has been well documented here. But a member of the public isn’t a privileged lapdog to coddle. Off with his head!
For newcomers: back in 2012, Saunderson led numerous protests against council for not giving the YMCA a $35 million handout, and his followers made several delegations to council at which the council was criticized, abused, chastised, and insulted. Doherty’s partner marched in front of town hall with a sign demanding someone “inpeach council” (yes, he spelled it that way on one side of a hand-lettered sign). People in front of town hall shouted at councillors entering the building. That council accepted it stoically. But now he’s in power, our little thin-skinned mayor won’t take any criticism and demands decorum. Oh, the hypocrisy…
Look at the faces in the video, look at the expressions as our councillors listen to Stewart (or ignore him): Saunderson scowls throughout Stewart’s comments, McLeod smirks and makes faces, Madigan looks distracted and seldom looks up, Jeffrey appears pre-occupied much of the time, too, and Berman has his usual, baffled, deer-in-the-headlights look. Only Doherty and Hamlin appear to be listening to him, but Doherty looks pained and sour throughout Stewart’s presentation.
At 0:22:44 Saunderson again makes the laughable statement that “at council we have certain rules.” Rules which he doesn’t apply to his favourites, of course. He then gets all lawerly and rambles on about points of order, but we all know how little enforcement there has been when one of his cabal is misbehaving. You don’t punish your guard dog for barking at outsiders.
At 0:24:30, Stewart comments that COVID has created unprecedented issues for working from home, but that “childcare is different. Working from home creates new challenges for parents. Most employers adapt. Not Collingwood Council.”
Well, adapting to anything would require thought, empathy, and compassion; fleetingly rare commodities among our council.
At 0:25:02 Stewart compares council meetings to a “super-toxic workplace” for a working parent, confounded by “workplace jealousy and petty politics” when Comi’s colleagues at the table “turned on her.” That ruffled the harpy’s feathers.
At 0:25:14, Coun. McLeod, screeches in to interrupt with a “point of personal privilege'” saying rather imperiously, “I am not interested in hearing what my motives or any other member of council’s motives were.” McLeod has belittled and attacked public speakers in the past (see here) for daring to question council’s profligate spending on Saunderson’s vendetta against everyone who bruised his precious ego back in 2012. She is always ready to defend The Great Leader’s honour.
At 0:25:33 McLeod sputters with righteous indignation that “This council is being impugned by having those opinions expressed.” Last time she said council’s reputation was being besmirched by a citizen’s criticisms. I suspect she got a word-a-day calendar in her Xmas stocking. My bet is that she’ll use the word “excoriated” next time. Or maybe “vituperated,” but only if she got the advanced learner’s calendar.
At 0:25:45, Saunderson again raises the byzantine rules of procedure, decrying a comment that “impugns the credibility of council or their conduct” (he must have received the same calendar) and demands Stewart apologize or withdraw his statement. Otherwise, The Great Leader says, he won’t allow Stewart to continue. This garners another smirk from McLeod; free speech by a resident has just been successfully stifled. Nothing at all like a Soviet politburo, is it?
Stewart apologizes, sort of, and continues, saying that the “means to go after Ms. Comi was using tools in a way that they were never, ever meant to be used.” True: integrity complaints are supposed to delve into deep ethical breaches, not be used to enact petty revenge on someone who won’t vote like you do. But the smirks keep coming.
At 0:26:55, Stewart complains that the “way council is treating me as a citizen is appalling and further bullying.”
At 0:27:33 he says “In any other workplace, a manager would have put an end to this nonsense.” He goes on to say in a workplace the focus would not be on punishing someone, as it was by Collingwood Council, but on making things better for the future and supporting working parents “in a very difficult environment.” But, Mark, surely you know by now how this council LOVES its petty revenge and hurting others.
Being supportive of anyone not in his coterie of sycophants has never been on Saunderson’s agenda and even then it’s iffy unless they show absolute, unflinching loyalty. Comi was too independent to be supported; she didn’t want to waste more public money on his vendetta, and voted against it: thus she had to be punished for that temerity. Besides, his minions worried she was a potential rival for votes come next election.
At 0:28:49 Stewart says he’s having “real difficulty” putting his thoughts together outside his prepared speech because Saunderson censored him by “not allowing citizens to state what they think.” He went on:
I have never seen such a thing in politics. Politics is about listening to the public, and if it hurts your feelings, I am sorry about that, but that’s what happens. I’m sure Ms. Comi’s feelings were hurt, but nobody’s concerned about that.
Nobody remaining on council, that is. A lot of the community seems concerned by the evident harassment and bullying. Not that this let-them-eat-cake council cares about what the community thinks.
At 0:29:25 McLeod again unsheathes her claws to interrupt with another “point of personal privilege” accusing Stewart for the second time of “impugning the character of this council.” (Maybe she gets extra points for using the word of the day twice). And again Saunderson tells Stewart to “comply with the rules” of a bylaw that likely no one outside council has ever seen, let alone read, and is hard to find on the town’s user-hostile website.*
“Say it in a way that does not inflame the circumstances,” Saunderson warns Stewart, although how circumstances can be inflamed is beyond my ken. I suspect he means that the tissue-thin skins of some council members can be easily bruised by a little criticism.
Stewart responds at 0:30:32 with, “What you are asking me to do is refrain from criticizing the actions of any councillor.” Of course: delegates should only say nice things about them.
He adds that he has “deliberately not named names” even though we all know who the six are who signed identical complaints that allegedly drove Comi to resign (Saunderson, McLeod, Madigan, Berman, Doherty, and Jeffrey).
At 0:31:14 a dishevelled Madigan finally looks up from whatever it was that occupied his attention all this time, makes a jeering face and appears to laugh at Stewart’s comments. Jeffrey looks puzzled.
At 0:31:44 Stewart reads a statement by a young woman he knows, taken from her social media post in which she criticizes council’s actions towards Comi, after which, the woman wrote, “There is no way that any parent in their right mind will run for council. Good luck in finding young people to stand up for you politically.”
At 0:32:14, Madigan smirks, then appears to go back to doing whatever it was he was doing, which doesn’t seem to be paying attention to a member of the public who was speaking. I suppose it’s more attention than when he attended a meeting from his store then went MIA during important votes. Disrespectful behaviour which the decorum-infatuated Saunderson defended.
At 0:32:50 Stewart says people on social media are all coming together to say “this [the bullying of former councillor Comi] is a disgrace; this is an affront to decency; this is an affront to families, and this is an affront to motherhood.”
At 0:33:09 Stewart asks that council provide an apology “both public and private” to Comi and her family “for the just horrible way she was treated” (note Mcleod smirks as he says this). He also suggests she be awarded “severance pay” for the remainder of the term.
Nice ideas, Mark, but there is absolutely NO chance any one of this self-righteous council will ever apologize for anything. That would be admitting they were wrong; that they were fallible, not the divine messengers of The Great Leader they must imagine themselves to be.
At 0:34:12, after saying we did not have a diverse council, Stewart recommends setting up a task force to “encourage diversity from all groups” to be represented on council. McLeod and Madigan both smirk at this, while Berman looks as if Stewart had just tried to explain string theory in Latin.
Stewart concludes at 0:34:52 by saying he has “never been as embarrassed by a council” as he has this one (a common sentiment, I understand) and was “unhappy with the way you treated me today. I’m not surprised, but I’m not happy.” And, to my delight, he ended with “Collingwood deserves better, and I hope we get it.”
But it’s not quite over, Swooping in with talons again bared, at 0:35:09 McLeod says to Stewart in her haughtiest school-marmy manner that “it’s unfortunate you had to be reminded of your manners.” Now go stand in a corner, Mark.
Then her dog barks loudly, interrupting he comments, and, without excusing herself, at 0:35:31 McLeod abruptly leaves the room. Will a complaint by the others be filed to the IC from this interruption and inexcusable departure without asking the mayor’s permission? That would seem fitting. But the mayor doesn’t do anything about her lack of decorum or complain that her dog might be sharing confidential information.
At 0:35:49 McLeod is back and goes into pre-campaign mode by boasting that “work is underway at my suggestion” and then runs off about something that might benefit future councils that has nothing to do with the way the Gang of Six bullied Councillor Comi. Self-aggrandizing twaddle.
None of the others speak. Stewart ends by saying he will publish his “uncensored comments on social media” but the mayor replies that “social media is known for having no decorum.” I suppose Saunderson is talking about his own, adversarial Facebook and social media pages for “Better Together Collingwood” and those of his spiteful blogger friends who pushed his agenda and sang his praises, while shaming and attacking town staff and councillors, (those friends included at least one local media person).**
PS. You can read Stewart’s original comments here.
But wait… at 0:37:02 Saunderson makes sure he defends council’s actions like a good puritan preacher would after burning a witch. Bullies always try to justify their actions thus. You didn’t expect even a suggestion of humility or responsibility from him, did you?
Here’s a quote by Saunderson from 2013 when he was protesting in front of our town hall about council’s decisions that he didn’t like:
“We have to get past the incrimination. But council also has to take some responsibility, because in a very basic way, the community feels (council) has not respected their trust.”
Oh, the irony, the irony… Back to the SISC meeting…
Our obsessed mayor just felt he had to raise the judicial inquiry report again, many of whose recommendations about apparent conflicts of interest he and other members of council have ignored this term. But they’ve always been a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do bunch. And his comments are, as usual, just bloviated, self-serving piffle. Just gotta flog that $10 million long-dead horse that no one else cares about, doesn’t he?
And here’s what Saunderson said when he formed his anti-council group in 2013:
“To comply with the letter of the law (conflict of interest) is the bare requirement. I think what the community wants is a higher standard.”
A higher standard for council members? Like disclosing you were voting for your former employers for several sole-sourced contracts, Mayor Saunderson? Or keeping your campaign promise of “no exceptions” to tendering contracts over $25,000?*** Or disclosing who is suing you and why? Oh, the irony again… or is it the hypocrisy? Maybe both. Let’s return to the SISC meeting…
No one at the table, of course, recommends an apology to Comi or giving her severance pay. After all, The Great Leader Would Not Approve. Besides, taking responsibility is not permitted in this regime.
Caldwell’s letter gets accepted on the consent agenda, later on, and of course, is ignored; accepted without comment, but you should notice the weasel words added to the motion:
AND FURTHER that the information and opinions provided in the General Consent Agenda Items are that of the author(s) and are not verified or approved as being correct.
As Mark Stewart quoted me, “Collingwood deserves better.”
* The procedural bylaw isn’t even listed on the town’s page of “frequently requested bylaws” or even in the expanded “other frequently requested bylaws” section. To find it you have to search through a page showing 13 folders arranged by random date, not by subject or alphabetically. The folders are labelled in order: 2022, 2012, older, 2021, 2003, 2020… but do YOU know what year the procedural bylaw was written or last amended? Good luck finding it, then.
If you simply search for “procedural bylaw” you get four pages of results that include notices of meetings, and results like “Council approves Procedure to Evaluate Requests for Building during the Land Use Policy Study.” The search engine on the site is appallingly bad and the whole website is designed to frustrate users and deter public access. Much like how some residents are treated when they speak as a delegation to council.
** Surely he can’t mean moi?
*** Saunderson’s exact words in 2014: “Change the purchasing policy to ensure there can be no sole sourcing of any contract for goods or services over $25,000, no exceptions.” After he was elected, council handed out dozens of sole-sourced contracts like party favours, including those to Saunderson’s former employers and to the lawyer who represented the town during Saunderson’s Vindictive Judicial Inquiry. Higher standard? After three years of continually lowering the ethical bar, methinks he doth protest too much.