Members storm out as council meeting devolves into dispute, again

No, it’s not breaktime. This was a view of the Sept. 7 meeting, after four councillors left resulting in a lack of quorum. By-law required the meeting continue for 30 minutes after and with nothing to do, the remaining members of council wandered off.

The endlessly conflicted West Nipissing Council may have reached a new low last week, after personal spats and infighting led to four members leaving the Sept. 7 meeting, resulting in a lack of quorum that ended the session.

The debacle began during a recorded vote on another motion seeking punishment of Coun. Chris Fisher for past statements made about Coun. Denis Sénécal. During the vote, Coun. Rolly Larabie raised a point of order, arguing that Coun. Lise Sénécal was using her time to make additional comments instead of saying yes or no. Mayor Joanne Savage denied the point of order, saying it was “just a mechanism to prohibit her from continuing her train of thought.” Larabie then alleged a double-standard when the Mayor also used her voting time to make a statement, which prompted a warning from her about Larabie’s intervention.

“The next comment that is provided to either attempt to be sarcastic in any way towards anyone, you will be asked to be recused; consider this your final warning,” Savage told him. 

Larabie chuckled in response and was then asked to leave the meeting.

“If Rolly goes, I go,” said Fisher, who was the next to leave. Coun. Leo Mallette logged off shortly after without word. It briefly appeared there might still be quorum, before Coun. Dan Roveda said he would also leave, citing “mismanagement of a meeting.”

Because of the resulting lack of quorum, the remaining councillors couldn’t even hold a vote to end the meeting. Council’s procedural by-law required they awkwardly wait around for half-an-hour before the meeting could be automatically adjourned. 

Speaking to the Tribune several days later, neither Coun. Larabie nor Mayor Savage said they’d have done anything differently. 

“The lack of respect and being able to obey to the chair by not being disruptive, it’s clear as far as behaviour, it’s clear as far as insulting remarks, and if one doesn’t like the rules, well, we have rules for a reason, to comply with them and to facilitate the process of being able to deliberate matters that could be more contentious than others, matters that could be unpleasant to deal with, but we still have to comply. And if we don’t comply, then you know what? It becomes a fiasco,” says Savage.

Larabie continues to allege that the Mayor doesn’t enforce those rules evenly. “It’s getting really unbelievable how biased it is,” he charges. “To the point where points of order are not followed… This Mayor throws in her comment anytime and every time one speaks and that’s against the rules of engagement in a meeting. She contravenes that constantly and you call her – and this is what I was saying, it’s a double-standard – you cannot do that. And she doesn’t like to hear the truth when it doesn’t suit her agenda.”

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