At a special meeting held on May 10, West Nipissing council approved the budget for 2022 and learned who the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) selected as facilitator to help fill the vacant Ward 7 seat.
Council was informed by Kathy Horgan, manager of local government and housing with the MMAH, that Nigel Bellchamber would be working with them to fill the vacant Verner seat, and that the process would start very soon.
“Probably before the end of this week Mr. Bellchamber or I will be in touch with the municipality to set up that first meeting where he can start the process,” Horgan said.
Council had received an order under Section 14 of the Municipal Affairs Act from Minister Steve Clark on April 28, requiring them to fill the vacant Ward 7 seat on or before June 30.
Bellchamber is a municipal consultant and owner of the firm N. G. Bellchamber & Associates.
“The facilitator will also provide strategic advice to council and facilitate council deliberations related to the filling of council vacancy,” said Horgan of Bellchamber’s duties. “Based on feedback from members of council and staff, the facilitator will prepare a draft process to select a person to fill a vacancy on council and provide a copy to you for your review and adoption.”
Along with ordering council to fill the vacant seat, Minister Clark also directed his staff to do a review of West Nipissing’s policies, practices and procedures to address “workplace function and council conduct concerns.” Horgan told council that Brian Searle, municipal advisor for their Sudbury office, would be leading that review, including publishing a public report offering suggestions for improvement.
After Horgan’s update, council moved on to approving the budget for 2022, the reason the special meeting was called in the first place.
Council approved the budget, which calls for spending of $36,065,388 and a tax levy increase of 1%. According to the municipality, that represents an increase to the average homeowner of $19 annually.
The vote was unanimous for councillors that were in attendance, but Coun. Denis Senecal was absent due to a lack of internet access.
Regular meeting adjourned after IC email mentioned
The special meeting had to be called so the 2022 budget could be approved in a timely fashion, after the mayor adjourned the May 3 regular council meeting in just over seven minutes.
During the declarations of pecuniary interest, Coun. Dan Roveda was granted the floor by the mayor to make a statement. His comments addressed an email that all members of council received from the Integrity Commissioner that afternoon, in response to a complaint from himself and Councillors Chris Fisher, Leo Mallette and Rolly Larabie regarding the ongoing blockade of their access to the municipality’s legal counsel. The four have been trying to proceed into closed session to receive legal advice about a letter sent by Mayor Savage, Coun. Yvon Duhaime, Denis Sénécal and Lise Sénécal, which threatens a possible defamation lawsuit. However, every time they try to enter the closed session to receive legal advice, the latter four members of council vote against allowing the closed session.
The IC, Patrice Cormier, wrote that because the complaint is urgent in nature, a potentially quick resolution should be considered. He recommended the closed session be allowed.