Which of the following words or phrases do you feel best describe Collingwood Council (you may choose more than one):
- Slavishly loyal to their Great Leader
- All of the above
Imagine this (cue the Twilight Zone soundtrack…): a council member is participating in an in-camera Zoom meeting, this one a training session about the importance of in-camera confidentiality in which NO CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION was shared. It should, of course, have been held IN THE OPEN but because this council is so passionate about operating in the shadows, it was inappropriately held in secret.
An 11-year-old child, unaware that his mother is in a closed-door meeting, and completely unaware of any issues being discussed, comes home late from school, opens the room’s door to announce he is home. But, he says, his sister has not returned. A worried mother, happy her child has come home safely but concerned about the missing other, says hello and tells him to leave. At the mayor’s suggestion, she leaves the meeting briefly to call her daughter and assure herself she is safe.** The councillor returns shortly and gives her attention to the meeting after this brief, unexpected interruption.
In a state of high snowflake dudgeon, a fellow councillor (aka The Harridan) in this meeting went ballistic over the interruption. Surely it besmirched the council’s integrity! Confidentiality was breached! A child was in the room! A spy! Go to DEFCON 1! Accusations spewed forth.
Seeing a vulnerability in a peer she can attack, The Harridan’s claws came out. In quick order, she self-righteously accused her colleague of violating the town’s increasingly byzantine and authoritarian Code of Conduct.
Not once did The Harridan consider that maintaining actual confidentiality and secrecy in any Zoom meeting where participants are in non-secure homes is difficult if not impossible, and that sometimes mistakes happen. Especially where children are involved. Outsiders may unexpectedly intervene. After all, whose home is a secure place with locks on every door?
In fact, there is absolutely NO guarantee that any one of them doesn’t have someone listening to the allegedly confidential conversations just outside the sight of their phone or laptop cameras. You can often see council members in open Zoom meetings looking at and typing on other devices, or out the window. Madigan (ever the disrespectful councillor) even had his laptop in his retail store when a meeting was ongoing (and yet no complaint was filed over his behaviour)!
Who knows if there is another person just out of camera view in any of their homes? Besides, this was a child, not a Kremlin spy. No secrets were stolen to be sold to neighbouring municipalities. And a second child’s safety was legitimately a mother’s concern.
But common sense and compassion be damned! The viper struck.
Not content with merely spewing her righteous hypocrisy at the offending councillor away from public scrutiny (where character assassination is done best), The Harridan wrote up a formal complaint to the integrity commissioner (IC). All councillors know that any complaint can become public and smear a colleague, so it was a deliberate move, planned over the next month. One can almost hear her chanting, “Dorothy! I’ve got your dog!” as she filled out the paperwork.
But she didn’t stop with merely simply filing her complaint herself. The Harridan then took her complaint around to the rest of council asking for their support. When the Politburo smelled blood in the water, she allegedly got five more councillors to sign it, including the mayor. They all submitted identical documents to the IC.*
The mayor, as might be expected, avoided even the pretense of acting like a leader, much less a mature one. Instead, he jumped on the punitive bandwagon and signed a complaint. After all, the offending councillor had not been one to tug her forelock at him. The Great Leader cannot let such slights go unpunished. He had encouraged the offending councillor to check on her daughter, but that was likely a trap he was setting so he could pounce on her later.
Of course, you’re thinking the mayor should have acted like a real mayor: he should have calmed the frothing Harridan, gathered the clerk and the councillor being accused to explain the process, and discussed calmly the necessity to ensure in future that doors might not be opened by 11-year-olds. But, of course, that would be doing his job, acting like an adult, and taking responsibility. He didn’t even come close to that. Well, to be fair, when has he ever?
After the meeting ended, the councillor in question somewhat naively made a comment on social media that,
When you’re on with council keeping an eye out for your kid who’s an hour late getting home only to find out they were having a blast learning the C2 at open paddle…
Nothing sarcastic or confidential there, but the Politburo carefully watched Comi’s social media posts carefully for any sign they could exploit. And they did. The offending councillor compounded her only-too-human mistake by exposing the plight that working mothers face when taking on the responsibilities of family as well as council:
Tonight’s council meeting was also a reminder women continue to wear the stigma of “figure it out.” We say we want working moms at the table but how many truly want to offer support? Spoiler alert – not many.
Ah, that smacked of sarcasm. The puritanical, self-righteous hypocrites on council cannot stand to be even gently mocked, especially not when they’re on a hunt to burn witches at their stake. Or one witch in particular; a potential rival for votes. And despite Seneca’s comment that “To err is human (Errare humanum est), the Harridan and her cohorts don’t forgive; when they sense blood in the water, they attack. Just what you’d expect from a gang of bullies.
If all this seems too fantastic to believe, far too juvenile for adults: consider this from the integrity commissioner’s report on next week’s council agenda (imagine it read in a Rod Serling voice…)…
On August 25, 2021, we received complaints from Councillors Doherty, Jeffery, Madigan, McLeod and Mayor Saunderson alleging that, during a virtual in camera (closed session) meeting held July 19, 2021, Councillor Comi was observed to be speaking to someone during the meeting. In accordance with the agenda for the in camera meeting, staff were providing training focused on the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of in camera meetings.
UPDATE: The IC left out Coun. Berman, who allegedly was the first to sign his name to the document.
The complaint was filed more than a month after the meeting against Coun. Tina Comi (the bullied councillor who resigned last week; you might get a sense of why she did it, now…) by Mayor Saunderson and Couns. Berman, McLeod, Doherty, Jeffery, and Madigan, all of whom filed identical paperwork.
My sources suggest McLeod was the original author of the complaint, but I sense Saunderson’s crabbed, lawyer-ish hands all over it.
Does anyone else see a pattern of hypocrisy and malevolence here? The group that hoisted the anti-bullying flag over town hall ganged up six-to-one against Comi. And, yes, you have to wonder why the report was made public the week after she resigned… aside, that is, an opportunity for that gang to continue to bully her, especially when she’s not even at the council table to speak for or explain herself.
The flogging will continue until morale improves. Or until our council bullies have had their revenge in full.
The Integrity Commissioner’s report starts on page 25, It strikes me as an appallingly pompous and heartless document. It seems to ignore the simple facts that 1) nothing confidential was discussed in the meetings, and 2) an 11-year-old entered the room briefly out of concern over his sister’s unaccounted absence not to steal any secrets, and 3) the submission of identical documents a month after the event, knowing they would be made public in an election year, seems a clear signal that the complaint was politically motivated.
With the conspicuous references to the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry in the IC’s report, it’s hard not to believe the mayor had a hand in crafting it. He’s always shown himself to be big on petty vengeance.
It is clear from the IC’s report that the majority of council was offended that Comi was not sufficiently servile in her responses to their verbal assaults. It refers to Comi’s “unapologetic response” during the meeting and puritanically concludes without citing any evidence,
Had she simply apologized and committed to take more appropriate steps for future in-camera meetings, it is doubtful the complaints would have been filed.
So had she bowed with proper deference and obsequiously tugged her forelock enough times in the face of their collective chastisement, they might have let her off. But only maybe (if the mayor won’t let a decade-old slight to his ego go unpunished, what chance did Comi have?).
The rest of the report continues the flogging. It doesn’t even mention her Dec. 17 letter directly, let alone quote her own words (nor is her lawyer’s letter quoted or referred to: what sort of justice system only allows one side of the story to be judged?). On page 10, the comment from the IC is,
…Councillor Comi’s response to the concern can be likened to the making of a mountain from a molehill
But it never lets the reader know what her response was, only the verdict: guilty! Have I mentioned how similar this all seems to Stalin’s show trials yet?
The punishment recommended by the IC seems rather self-serving (emphasis added):
That Councillor Comi be requested to attend training provided by the Integrity Commissioner on a Council Member’s obligation to maintain confidentiality, particularly with respect to closed session matters, and related governance matters, and
2. That until such time as the training is conducted, Councillor Comi not serve in the capacity as Chair or Vice-Chair of any meetings to which the Procedural By-law applies
Sure looks questionable to make her attend “training” that the IC itself provides (at taxpayers’ expense). Reads a bit like “give us more money and we can fix the problem.”
Comi was the only one on council with young children, the only working mother who had to deal with school kids, yet the accusers would not take that into account. It really irked them, too, that she was the only one who was not elected on their Politburo slate. Hence the collective dislike and their ongoing efforts to belittle, discredit, embarrass, and disempower her whenever possible.***
Comi made matters worse for herself, first by writing a letter to explain her actions. How dare she defend herself against bullies! What should be noted in it is her statement that (emphasis added),
Please note that in Principles’ initial complaint letter it was stated that following my written explanation a Zoom call would be held with me to further discuss the matter, to-date I have not heard from anyone from Principles to schedule a meeting.
So the IC didn’t contact her and discuss the complaint before writing up their judgment? That’s disturbing. Little wonder she felt the need to write a response. Also, you can read that she appears to refer to disparaging remarks made to her by other councillors during the meeting:
I did not interrupt or distract my colleagues with this information and was so taken aback by their response to my explanation that I was placed into a defensive posturing… The complainants appear to have not included any of their callous remarks in these findings.
Just what you’d expect from a gang of schoolyard bullies, all piling onto their single victim but not acknowledging the hurtful things they said. Where was the mayor in all of this and why wasn’t he maintaining decorum?
Comi even tried to be conciliatory and offered a solution:
I do commit to seek ways to reduce any potential future interruptions and welcome the opportunity for any further discussion that the Mayor or Council feels is warranted for members working from home with young family members.
A bit naive, expecting the mayor to actually act like a mayor and show leadership or at least some obligation to his role. He hasn’t done so yet this term, so why expect him to start just as he’s about to leave? Her offer was ignored. (Remember the petition to get him to act like a mayor? He ignored it, of course, as did the local media.)
When her first letter didn’t change anything, Comi enraged the bullies more by paying a lawyer from her own pocket to help her file a more suitable defence. This sent the accusers into a froth. How dare she defend herself? How dare she stand up to them? Victims are supposed to cower and cry. Like in Stalin’s showcase trials of the 1930s, the accused are supposed to admit their guilt, then meekly accept their punishment. No defence, no pleas of innocence were allowed. The IC haughtily commented:
While members of council may retain legal counsel to assist them when under investigation by an Integrity Commissioner, an Integrity Commissioner’s investigation is an administrative process which does not necessarily benefit from the involvement of litigation counsel.
So the accusers get the benefit of a taxpayer-funded lawyer to whip the victim, but the victim shouldn’t even pay for her own lawyer to defend herself? I seem to be missing the justice in that. Oh, right: show trials. Stalin’s victims were never allowed lawyers to defend themselves either. And how much did this bullying cost taxpayers?
The IC’s report notes (emphasis added):
However, the complaints filed by the majority (all but two) of members of Council, including by the Mayor, are a reaction to the fact that the incident occurred during a session the very purpose of which was to reinforce the need to properly protect the security of confidential information discussed during in camera meetings.*
Yes, but it was a TRAINING SESSION at which no confidential information was discussed, and more properly should have been open to all members of municipal boards and committees, and even to the public. Why, aside from this council’s obsessive need for secrecy and deception, would such a session be behind closed doors anyway?
Comi responded in writing to the IC on Dec. 17, 2021 (read it here). You can also read Comi’s lawyer’s letter here, starting on page 73. Why were her letter and her lawyer’s letter both stuck at the end of the agenda package instead of right after the IC’s report? Possibly in the hope that the public might not read that far to see how easily they challenge the charges. And yet the IC reported,
The Councillor has alleged to us that the complaint was politically motivated with no real basis.
Receiving six identical documents didn’t provide the IC with any clue that it might be the work of a politically-motivated gang of council members? And the IC report also says
To the Councillor’s assertion that, 2022 being an election year, this complaint must be seen a politically-driven, we say it was within her power to bring it to a must speedier – and less public – resolution at any time during the fall.
I find no evidence that the IC contacted Comi to help “bring it to a [much] speedier and less public resolution.” In the final paragraph of her Dec. 17 letter she says she would,
…welcome the opportunity for any further discussion that the Mayor or Council feels is warranted for members working from home with young family members.
But the mayor ignored this and did not do anything to resolve the issue either. No effort was made by anyone but Comi to find a resolution or to even discuss the issues further. The IC doesn’t chastise the mayor for ducking his responsibilities, however.
It’s clear to me from this action that Comi’s colleagues are loathe to encourage more working women or mothers to run for council. I suspect those who are abjectly subservient to the Great Leade prefer their candidates unencumbered so they can focus all of their energy on being sycophants, like themselves. Independent thinkers undermine their groupthink.****
By punishing Comi, these six bullies set an example to warn working mothers who think for themselves not to run for council. And they tell us who we should not re-elect this year.
Collingwood deserves better.
* UPDATE: My source tells me DM Hull and Counc. Hamlin refused to sign. The six co-signatories are Mayor Saunderson and his Gang of Bullies: Berman, McLeod, Doherty, Jeffery, and Madigan. Despicable, all of them.
** Comi says in her letter of Dec. 17 to the IC that (emphasis added): “I briefly left the meeting at the request of the Mayor to try to reach my daughter and returned once she was located.” So the mayor himself ASKED her to leave, then filed a complaint against her doing so. A proper, mature mayor would have stayed above the internecine fray. The epitome of his hypocrisy can be read in the Connection’s article on Comi’s resignation, where Saunderson “thanked Comi for her “contribution on our council” and wished her “all the best in her future endeavours.” The hypocrisy and pettiness of this man just drip from him.
*** Madigan is not the only one at the table accused of misogynistic behaviour. Don’t forget Berman’s self-aggrandizing refusal to stay at the table to hear Comi’s Women’s Day presentation on Feb. 24, 2020 because it mentioned former Mayor Cooper. And before the meeting, Mayor Saunderson sent an email to all of council asking if the historical fact about Mayor Sandra Cooper’s premiere role as this town’s first female mayor should remain in Comi’s presentation. Appalling, toxic behaviour, yet none of the other women on council stood up to defend Comi.
**** The power play in early December by some female council members to get Comi removed as an alternative stand-in for the absent mayor and deputy mayor was part of the bullying before the IC’s report was released.