The West Nipissing council meeting for Oct. 5 was adjourned before a single agenda item could even be discussed, making it over a month since council has dealt with any issue other than interpersonal gripes.
For citizens frustrated by council’s lack of action, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says it won’t be getting involved and directs discouraged residents to reach out to other offices.
“The ministry understands that council’s next meeting is scheduled for October 19. Residents can raise their concerns directly with council,” writes Matt Carter, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “If they are still dissatisfied with council’s actions, they may choose to discuss the matter with the municipality’s Integrity Commissioner to determine if any member has contravened the municipality’s Code of Conduct. Alternatively, residents may wish to share their concerns with the Ontario Ombudsman, who has the authority to investigate municipalities.”
He adds that the province rarely gets involved in municipal matters, as these are best left to local governments. “Municipalities are recognized by the province to be responsible and accountable governments with respect to matters within their jurisdiction. Members of council are accountable to the public for the decisions that they make. The ministry does not generally intervene with matters that fall within the purview of council.”
Last week’s meeting began with the agenda being adopted as presented, which was a step further than council got on Sept. 21. Then, under procedural by-law 5.1.10, Mayor Joanne Savage requested an apology from Coun. Rollie Larabie for conduct that led to his ejection from the Sept. 7 meeting. That meeting had also ended abruptly after Larabie was thrown out and three other councillors left the meeting in solidarity with him. Larabie noted that he was allowed to participate in the Sept. 21 meeting without apologizing, but the mayor argued that meeting had been cancelled. Regardless, Larabie expressed no desire to apologize.
“My constituents have indicated that I was correct in asking for fair treatment at the table when other councillors are commenting during a recorded vote, which contravenes our municipal by-law,” he insisted. “You can appreciate that when one has to endure lopsided treatment of rules, it gets frustrating. Once again, I am not apologizing, you will have to rule accordingly and decide whether you further wish to delay the business of the corporation.”