In a dramatic turn of events at city hall today, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley had his salary suspended for 90 days following complaints he created a toxic work environment for two senior staff that abruptly quit.
Council voted 6-2 in favour of the recommendation from Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze, who had investigated the complaints and found Bradley to be an autocratic mayor whose relationship with staff is damaging to the city.
“This has been ongoing for years and it must stop for the good of the city,” Swayze told a special meeting held to deal with sanctioning the mayor.
Swayze, who is the hired Integrity Commissioner of 16 municipalities, and said he has never recommended the maximum penalty of a three-month pay suspension before.
“The City of Sarnia, with respect to the workplace, is not normal,” he said.
Swayze was hired to investigate the complaints of former planning director Jane Cooper and former city clerk Nancy Wright-Laking.
Wright-Laking stood with about 125 others in the packed city hall gallery.
She said she attended so people would “know that it was a person this happened to.”
Working in an environment in which the mayor’s behaviour was “insulting and abusive” toward her took a toll “emotionally, physically, professionally and financially, she said.
Wright-Laking, who is now the clerk of Lambton Shores, said council’s decision to discipline Bradley proves it took seriously the complaints and Swayze’s report.
“I’m very glad that they want to move forward,” she said. “It was a very hard thing for me to do but I did not want one more person to have to deal with what I had to deal with.”
Swayze wrote in his report Bradley contravened council’s Code of Conduct and Workplace Harassment Policy by operating unilaterally without the support of the majority of council, and in his dealings with staff.
Voting to support Swayze’s recommendations were councillors Bev MacDougall, Matt Mitro, Cindy Scholten, Andy Bruziewicz, Brian White and Anne Marie Gillis.
Councillors Mike Kelch and David Boushy voted against.
And it’s probably not the last residents will hear about harassment at city hall.
During Tuesday’s discussion, numerous councillors alluded to a second investigation at city hall related to workplace harassment. A human resources consultant has been hired to conduct that investigation that is currently under way.
Swayze also later confirmed that it’s possible for Bradley to apply for a judicial review of his 90-day salary suspension.
Following the meeting, Bradley issued a statement in which he thanked citizens for their support and offered an apology.
“Like anyone else I have made my share of mistakes and, if I have offended anyone when carrying out the people’s business of (sic) behalf of Sarnian’s (sic), I am sorry,” he wrote.
He also reiterated that the commissioner’s report was unnecessary, unfair and unhelpful, and called a suggestion to create an executive council going forward “ludicrous.”
“The citizens of Sarnia elected a Mayor in 2014 to lead them not an Executive Council,” he said.