On June 28, city council took the extraordinary step of sanctioning Mayor Mike Bradley for breaching Sarnia’s code of conduct.
In a 6-2 yes vote, councillors suspended the mayor’s pay for 90 days following an internal investigation by Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze, who said Bradley’s autocratic behaviour and treatment of senior staff created a “culture of fear” that led directly to the departure of two senior managers.
Here is how councillors voted:
Dave Boushy: No
Boushy asked the commissioner why he hadn’t interviewed certain people during his investigation, including two former city managers. Swayze replied he couldn’t interview everyone.
Boushy put forward a motion that would have seen the mayor not lose any salary, saying the penalty would be a financial hardship for the mayor.
“I worked with the mayor for a long term, and I can say very honestly that he loves his city. He works hard and he is very conscientious,” Boushy said to loud applause from the gallery.”
Andy Bruziewicz: Yes
He questioned claims that the commissioner’s investigation was biased because he hadn’t contacted individuals who might have spoken favourably about the mayor. He told Swayze:
“I do not believe that any evidence that you have gathered with this investigation, would actually change one little bit, whether you talk to the police chief or a former city manager, because that would not erase the evidence that you have, with affidavits and so on.”
The abuse of women in the workforce is not a victimless crime, he added.
“If we basically ignore this independent evaluation, we will not be fair, we will not be just.”
Anne Marie Gillis: Yes
She said internal problems at city hall have been going on for some time.
“A glimmer of hope came about when council approved the Code of Conduct – presented by the mayor – in April of 2015,” she said.
The Code’s purpose was to ensure no member of council could coerce, threaten or intimidate staff or subject them to malicious attacks on their reputation, she said.
“The Code of Conduct was written for all members of council, including the mayor. But therein lies the problem. The mayor does not consider himself a member of council, and therefore the rules do not apply.”
Mike Kelch: No
Instead of sanctions, Kelch proposed a third-party mediator to address workplace problems and harassment complaints.
“If we were having an election in a month, who cares?” he said. “(But) this group has to work together for two and a half more years. That can either be a productive, promising experience for us, or it can be hell.
“And I don’t want the hell part. And I think we’re capable of getting together to figure this out. I believe that there is the will to do that. I really do.”
Bev MacDougall: Yes
“(Bradley’s) persona in the community has won him many, many friends and supporters over time. He is a skilled politician. But we … are bound by labour law to provide a healthy and safe workplace for our employees.
“I personally feel great sorrow that this has gone on for as many years as it has, but I cannot condone humiliating staff, demeaning them in front of subordinates … We have a responsibility to each and every employee of this corporation, and because of that, we do need to take action.”
Matt Mitro: Yes
He said it is incontrovertible that city employees were “harassed, abused and bullied out of their jobs” by the mayor. “I want this to stop and it’s not stopping … there’s no admission of this having been wrong,” he said.
Mitro added that he tried to speak to Bradley to “set things right” but without success.
“In just a short time on council, I’m not here for 28 years, I’m here for a year and a half, and what I’ve witnessed, I could write another couple of reports. So, it’s real.”
Cindy Scholten: Yes
She said her one regret as a councillor is that she didn’t step in when she witnessed Bradley misuse his authority.
“Until I was elected and actually put inside of these walls, I never knew just how bad it really was, and until I myself also personally experienced the abuse of power that’s been happening … It’s absolutely our job to protect the community and protect the corporation and I support this motion, because there won’t be much of a corporation left if we don’t take a stand.”
Brian White: Yes
“(Mike Bradley) is well-liked in this community, and for good reason. And to many people this will serve as a surprise. But it’s not an excuse and it’s not a justification,” said White, who sought and gained council approval for Bradley’s benefits to continue during the 90 days sanction.
He noted the commissioner’s investigation was triggered by complaints from two senior managers.
“I know it’s our job to ignore the gallery when we’re up here, but I do find it a little troubling that at times the emotional and mental abuse of two women in particular seems to be fodder for laughter … This is serious. These are careers on the line.”