Here are the choices Collingwood Council faces, Monday night, when dealing with the unethical, immoral and probably illegal actions of the two renegade members of council.
You’ll recall that these two sent out an unauthorized, and what I and others believe was a highly inappropriate media release late in December, without showing them to council first, bypassing the mayor, and pimping their own personal political agendas, while disingenuously presenting them as town positions. This also implicated staff in what looks like inappropriate, partisan actions on behalf of the two council members.
This violated the town’s code of conduct, council’s oath of office, and the expectations of the electorate for honest, ethical representation. And so far no one has explained anything in public, let alone apologized.
Selfish, anti-social behaviour cannot be ignored. Council must deal with their actions, and do so publicly, if it is to retain even shreds of credibility this term (not to mention discussing a media release in camera is illegal under the Municipal Act).
The public is waiting for something appropriate to be said, something appropriate to be done if there is to be any confidence left in this council and administration. Ignoring it is not a viable option. Monday will tell us everything.
Here are the choices I believe council faces, in what I see are descending order of acceptability, credibility and honesty:
- The most honourable and most desirable option: Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and Councillor Mike Edwards publicly apologize, then immediately resign. Since staff were allegedly involved (or coerced to partake) with this debacle, the CAO should also resign as a matter of personal and corporate honour: he is ultimately responsible for staff actions and any honourable person in that position would fall on the sword for them.
- The weasel-out-from-under option: Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and Councillor Mike Edwards publicly apologize, then promise never to act independently again, without council approval in future, and suffer the public shaming until it blows over. The CAO still does the right thing, and resigns for the reasons stated above.
- The blame-it-on-others option: Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and Councillor Mike Edwards publicly apologize, but say they didn’t know what they were doing, thought it was right, and blame it on bad advice, throwing staff under the bus. The CAO still does the right thing, and resigns for the reasons stated above.
- The unethical, dishonourable weasel option: Council goes in camera illegally (in violation of the Municipal Act) to discuss it. Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and Councillor Mike Edwards don’t apologize, whine about their rights and blame others. Nothing gets said publicly. The CAO saves face by publicly resigning for the reasons above, and to distance himself from the weasels.
- The worst possible, most dishonourable weasel outcome: Council goes in camera illegally to discuss it. Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and Councillor Mike Edwards don’t apologize, defend their actions, whine, blame someone else, throw staff under the bus, and council does nothing. Council comes out from behind closed doors and smirks at the media, saying nothing. The CAO doesn’t resign and ducks his job’s responsibility. It’s all business as usual.
I feel this last option would emphasize the point that this council accepts immoral, unethical and likely illegal behaviour as the modus operandi of this term. To me, that spells corruption.
If council does not deal with this in a credible, open and public manner, I expect concerned citizens who expect honesty and openness from their local government will demand an investigation by the provincial ombudsman, police, or even a judicial inquiry.
I also believe that, if this is dealt with in camera, illegally, it should be brought to the attention of the town’s secret meeting investigator.
Let’s hope that on Monday night it ends with one of the first three options and council proves itself accountable to the electorate.