If you tuned in to see West Nipissing council tackle their increasingly large agenda at their May 24 meeting, have another kick at that football Charlie Brown.
Even with Brian Searle of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs present on their Zoom call, the behaviour of council members didn’t improve, as the council “charade” continues.
The latest sticking point continues to be the letter threatening legal action that Mayor Joanne Savage and councillors Yvon Duhaime, Lise Senecal and Denis Senecal sent to the municipality and fellow councillors Chris Fisher, Rolly Larabie, Leo Malette and Dan Roveda. Two previous votes to proceed into closed session and receive advice from the municipality’s lawyer were blocked by the council members who sent the letter and if the vote to proceed into closed session is defeated again, the item won’t be able to return to council for a year.
During the portion of the meeting where members are required to declare any conflicts of interest, Coun. Fisher raised a point of order after the rest of council remained silent.
“I still don’t understand how you guys cannot declare a pecuniary interest – at least a conflict of interest – and recuse yourself for item 4.1.,” said Fisher. “You guys have gone and got outside legal counsel now, so you’re personally represented, and basically, you’re leaving us to represent the corporation. Unless you recuse yourself, we can’t do that. You’re essentially holding the taxpayers hostage. So, are we going to have a meeting or are we going to continue with this charade?”
At the previous meeting, the same point was brought by Coun. Dan Roveda and was overruled by the mayor, and the back-and-forth argument that ensued led her to shut down the meeting before it even began.
This time, the mayor ruled on Fisher’s point of order with the same arguments: that it’s up to members to self-identify if they are in a conflict of interest. IC Patrice Cormier wrote to council prior to their May 5 meeting that “the optics of conflict do exist here but can be saved by a resolution that would permit preliminary corporate legal advice for the four Councillors and ultimately for Council and the Municipality.” That opinion was ignored.