The sanctions are gone, but the wall remains.
City council has lifted a laundry list of sanctions imposed by the previous council that had restricted Mayor Mike Bradley’s access to City Hall and its staff.
Councillors unanimously approved five of six proposals from Coun. Bill Dennis Jr. last week that restore the mayor’s access to his office 24/7, and enable him to speak directly to staff.
After obtaining legal advice and consulting City Hall employees, the so-called “wall” built to isolate the mayor will stay, though Bradley will have keycard access to the clerk’s, CAO and legal department offices during business hours.
The sanctions were imposed following two third-party investigations in 2016 that determined the mayor had bullied and harassed senior female administrators.
The previous council said they were necessary to shield staff from the mayor and avoid being sued should another incident occur.
Coun. Brian White, who voted for the sanctions during the previous term, noted the city’s joint health and safety committee was consulted.
“We have an opportunity to correct something that were uncomfortable for a lot of people,” White said.
“I think it’s important that we embrace this opportunity to start anew and encourage good healthy relations between our mayor and CAO.”
A new CAO will start on April 1 following the departure of Margaret Misek-Evans in December.
Council also agreed in a 6-2 vote to remove the workplace harassment reports about Bradley from the city’s website, though they can still be requested from the clerk’s office.
White and Coun. Nathan Colquhoun opposed that move.
Colquhoun said after the meeting one of Sarnia’s stated values is honesty and protecting access to truth. He called anything less “propaganda suited to protect those the truth exposes.”
“I think that the reports done by the staff and external lawyers are part of our history that we should not forget, and serve as a reminder of the kind of governance that we are leaving behind.”
Coun. Dennis said leaving the reports on the website would continue to air Sarnia’s “dirty laundry” and deter business investment and job seekers.
“I feel that we need closure on this and I don’t think it’s necessary that we keep it on the website,” he said after the meeting.
“It’s an ugly chapter in our city’s history.”