Code of Conduct debate leads to three investigation revelations
GRAVENHURST – Council’s first meeting in a month provided controversy with the revelations Coun. Lola Bratty is the subject of two internal investigations with a third against the town potentially alleging the improper use of closed sessions.
The issues had only been discussed in-camera and behind closed doors since the apparent investigations began against Bratty after former revitalization coordinator Marilyn deLang’s sudden resignation June 10, due to what she described at the time as conflicts with town management.
That is until the meeting Sept. 4 when Bratty herself stunned staff and fellow councillors by addressing the accusations in open session during a debate on a proposed and ultimately approved Council Code of Conduct draft policy.
“This policy arises because of legal advice given to the municipality in an investigation of my conduct associated with the June 10 resignation (of deLang),” she said.
She went on to say the investigation regarding her actions in relation to the resignation “recommends no action against me, but has cost the taxpayers significant money”.
“I believe this investigation was unnecessary, but successfully transferred the focus from issues raised by Ms. deLang to me,” Bratty added, also revealing a second investigation of potential harassment of staff is ongoing against her.
“In addition, accusations have been made about future behaviour; it is as though the police investigate me for a robbery that might occur next month.”
While adding she does believe council requires a proper policy guiding conduct, Bratty said in the form it was presented by staff Sept. 4 “it should be turned down” and public commentary should be sought lest more similar investigations be launched against council members.
“(The council conduct policy should) espouse open and accountable local government and what it in reality it gives us is closed, staff-run municipal government,” Bratty said.
Bratty also revealed an Ombudsman’s investigation she requested is pending against the town in respect to “call of and reporting on closed council meetings,” and said council should wait for the results of that before creating policy.
Bratty said she requested the Ombudsman’s inquiry in relation to the closed session meetings during which accusations were levied against her.
“Costs must be considered…for an integrity commissioner and for judicial inquiries, for example. Mississauga just spent millions on such an inquiry,” she said. “Only after these steps and the Ombudsman’s review, should it (the Code of Conduct) be considered in a revised version.”
Mayor Paisley Donaldson declined to comment on the issue for the time being, however, the Code of Conduct draft policy was approved, with only Bratty opposed, and comes into effect as of Sept. 4.
CAO Frank Miele explained there details he could not discuss until after the harassment investigation is completed, but that at this point there are no costs associated with the report.
“We have not been given a bill, but we will release that publicly when it comes,” he said. “It is the same integrity commissioner investigating both claims so once the second (accusation) has been dealt with, then we will be billed.”
As for the Ombudsman’s investigation, Miele said the town has not been officially notified, however, once notice is received, it will be up to the municipality to fund an integrity commissioner, or specialized lawyer, to investigate the claims.
“That some of this information came to public light is bewildering to me and I can’t comment on what was discussed in-camera, but once the investigations are complete council will debate the recommendations and there will either be consequences or not, as in the first case (the first investigation against Bratty),” Miele said.
For complete stories on both the code and Bratty’s revelations, please see the Sept. 12 issue of the Gravenhurst Banner.