It was another inefficient night at West Nipissing council as the Tuesday, Nov. 2 meeting was only half completed before curfew, and as usual members could not agree to extend the evening to tackle the remaining agenda items.
The meeting got off to another inauspicious start when half of council refused to go into closed session to deal with a human resources matter involving CAO Jay Barbeau – a matter that has gone unaddressed since late May.
The lone employee of council, the CAO’s HR complaint first appeared on council’s May 18 agenda. Because the complaint involves an identifiable individual, it needs to be discussed in closed session. But closed session discussions typically appear at the end of the agenda and council never gets through all the items, so the complaint has yet to be heard. A second human resources matter was then added to the closed session agenda for the Sept. 21 meeting.
Similar to council’s Oct. 19 meeting, a motion was brought forward to amend the agenda and prioritize timely matters first. But despite approving the altered format, Mayor Joanne Savage and councillors Yvon Duhaime, Lise Sénécal and Denis Sénécal voted against proceeding into closed session. The four took issue with the closed session agenda, which previously featured two items but now only had one HR matter involving the CAO.
Barbeau addressed council to clarify why the two items were merged into one. “In May, I made a request to speak to council. That request, I have since said, I have withdrawn that request because there’s a change to the issue, which is now before you,” he said. “So, the original May issue has been now blended into another issue, and that’s the issue that the Director of Corporate Services wished to discuss with council in closed session. It is the same issue.”
The HR file is under the purview of Director of Corporate Services Alisa Craddock, who also told council that regardless of how it’s presented, these matters need to be dealt with.
“I think we’re just arguing semantics at this point,” said Craddock. “We have an issue that I need to speak to council about. It involves an HR investigation and our CAO. However you want to call it, that’s what we need to discuss tonight.”
Speaking to the Tribune almost a week later, the mayor stood by her decision to ignore staff’s recommendation and said she’ll only hear the closed session items if they’re presented as they were on the Sept 21 agenda.
“It does not matter what staff say, whether it’s blended, whether the title was changed; as an elected official, you bring something forward and there’s been documentation provided to council, I as Mayor or any other member of council do have the right to discuss it,” insisted Savage.
Though the nature of the CAO’s complaint is not public, the mayor made it clear she wanted to be able to specifically address the May issue in closed session. “Even though it does make reference to the same employee, they are two different issues,” she said. “Whoever made that executive decision to blend it is taking away my right, my privilege, to make sure that I have the opportunity to discuss the first matter and to make sure that council discusses that matter and whatever course of action council decides, well it’s going to be reflected in the proper fashion.”
The CAO’s complaint will remain on the closed session agenda until it is heard by council.
Labbé Arena approved
Council authorized the renaming of the Sturgeon Falls Arena to honour two community icons; the facility will now be known as the “Marcel and Jane Labbé Arena.”
The idea to rename the arena was submitted by the Labbé’s daughter Dianne, in honour of her father, a former councillor who served Sturgeon Falls for over 30 years and passed away exactly one year ago.
While discussing the matter of renaming the arena after Marcel, council suggested including Jane’s name in the request as well, as both were instrumental in securing funding for the recreation complex. General government chair Lise Sénécal took the suggestion back to Dianne and she was thrilled with the idea.
“They were such a team and worked together on so many causes over the years,” says daughter Dianne Labbé. “The creation of community recreational opportunities, which began with the Arena and culminated with the Complex was hard-fought. I am very proud of their accomplishments and stand in awe of their tireless commitment to their community and its people… it is absolutely fitting that they are up there together as they were in life.”
A renaming ceremony will be planned in the future after the arena’s new signage is complete.