The drama around Greater Sudbury's economic development body has taken another twist, with Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan resigning several weeks after his conduct on the board was called into question.
A Sept. 24 report by Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze criticized several social media posts by Kirwan, as well as his conduct at a meeting of the Greater Sudbury Development Corp. (GSDC).
Swayze misidentified the meeting in his report, saying it was related to the Kingsway Entertainment District. In fact, it was a GSDC meeting at which he told a female board member who disagreed with him to “grow up.”
“I made a mistake,” Swayze told city council Sept. 24, but added he was not wrong about the way Kirwan has responded to people who disagree with him.
“One common thread through most of the complaints is the allegation that Councillor Kirwan abuses and harasses members of the community if they disagree with him, which is contrary to the code (of conduct),” Swayze said in his report. “Many examples of his reaction to criticism of his ideas on issues were provided.”
Councillors approved the reprimand of Kirwan that Swayze recommended, and at the Oct. 29 city council meeting, he will formally resign from the board.
Kirwan is one of four councillors sitting on the board, along with Mayor Brian Bigger, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier. The remaining 14 board members are private citizens.
The GSDC made headlines in the spring when Bigger introduced a motion to replace the entire body with what he described as a select cabinet. He argued at the time that he campaigned on economic development, and city council needed to play a primary role in the process.
It later emerged that Bigger had concerns about the GSDC's penchant for holding closed door meetings. As a corporation, the body can go in camera for a wide range of reasons, unlike city council, which is restricted on when it can close a meeting to the public.
The board reviewed a consultant's report on reforming its structure in a closed-door meeting, even though it contained no confidential information. It also approved a plan to apply for federal and provincial funding for a feasibility study to remove the rail tracks from downtown — a study that assumed the arena would stay downtown, contrary to city council's decision to build the KED.
Since then, however, councillors and the board have committed to finding ways to improve communication and work together more effectively, rather than replacing the entire structure.
At the Sept. 11 city council meeting, Bigger said he and the new chair of the GSDC, Andrée Lacroix, were meeting to talk about his concerns and is optimistic an agreement could be reached on how the board will operate in the future.
“We have been working well together,” Bigger said. “I want to keep having that conversation to find solutions together."