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Where now for city council?

Published on

Cathy Dobson

City hall seldom sees such drama.

Just hours after suspending his pay 90 days for contravening the city’s Code of Conduct, Mayor Mike Bradley issued a written apology and called for council to move on.

Mike Bradley
Mike Bradley

Whether the mayor’s assertion that it’s time “to set aside our competing interests and put the needs of the people of Sarnia first” puts the matter to rest, remains to be seen.

Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze found Bradley to have breached the conduct code by openly criticizing staff in the presence of others and by interfering with the duties of the city manager.

Swayze spoke at length about a Jan. 6 meeting at which Bradley met privately with three union presidents whose members might be affected by benefit reductions.

By meeting alone with the union presidents and without the city manager present the mayor disregarded the city’s own bylaws, Swayze said.

That in itself was sufficiently wrong for him to recommend the harshest financial penalty possible under the Municipal Act, he said. In a 6-2 vote, council agreed and suspended Bradley’s pay for 90 days.

Robert Swayze
Robert Swayze

Bradley is expected to carry out his role as mayor during the salary suspension. His benefits will continue, though, and he will still to be paid as a Lambton County councillor and Sarnia Police Services Board member.

Though he could ask for judicial review, Bradley has said he will not take legal action. However, he hasn’t ruled out a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman about the process and Swayze’s report, which the mayor claims was unfair and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, another report from a human resources consultant investigating a city hall workplace harassment complaint is anticipated in coming weeks. The nature of that complaint has not been made public.

For his report, Swayze interviewed the two complainants, former city clerk Nancy Wright-Laking and former planning manager Jane Cooper, who abruptly left their positions in December and January respectively.

Swayze also interviewed Bradley, six of eight councillors – the other two did not respond to an invitation – and all staff members he considered relevant. They included city manager Margaret Misek-Evans, city engineer Andre Morin and retired city manager Ron Brooks.

Asked why he hadn’t interviewed more people, including two recent city managers, Swayze replied he “can’t interview everyone.”

Swayze told council during a special June 28 meeting that Bradley is an autocratic mayor who created a toxic environment at city hall.

“This has been ongoing for years and it must stop for the good of the city,” he said. “The City of Sarnia, with respect to the workplace, is not normal,” he said.

Wright-Laking was among the 125 people who packed the council chambers gallery. She said she attended so people would “know that it was a person this happened to.”

Nancy Wright-Laking
Nancy Wright-Laking

The mayor’s behaviour was “insulting and abusive” and took a toll on her emotionally, physically, professionally and financially, she said.

Wright-Laking, now the clerk of Lambton Shores, said the councillors’ decision to discipline Bradley showed they took her complaints and Swayze’s report seriously.

“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.”

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