Jessie Timmons appears to be a big fan of Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan and has been posting supportive Facebook messages on the Valley East public group page on Facebook.
The only problem is that Timmons is not a real person and is, in fact, a pseudonym of Kirwan’s wife, Valerie.
So described City of Greater Sudbury integrity commissioner Robert Swayze, who in a report to city council also noted that Kirwan knew about the posts and is therefore in breach of the city’s code of conduct.
Specifically, he was in breach of the requirement that the city’s elected officials “always identify themselves without any attempt to cover, disguise or mislead as to their identity or status as an elected representative of the city when using social media.”
Swayze’s report was posted online earlier today in advance of next week’s city council meeting, which is set to take place virtually at 6 p.m. Sept. 14.
Kirwan said he will be addressing Swayze’s report when it is presented during Tuesday’s city council meeting and that he plans on drafting a statement to post online before then.
For now, he said he’s surprised Swayze would investigate his wife.
“It doesn’t matter,” whether he knew about the posts, Kirwan told Sudbury.com. “Does it matter if I’m aware of it? I’m not posting it. It’s not me. It’s my wife. She’s a private citizen.
“Mr. Swayze had no right to reveal that information based on the grounds he’s using.”
In his report, Swayze noted his investigation came as a result of a July 28 two-part complaint from a citizen who asked to remain anonymous. The citizen accused Kirwan of having an undeclared conflict of interest in the Kingsway Entertainment District, which Swayze later clarified there is no evidence of.
The second complaint noted that either Kirwan or Valerie disguised their identity on posts on the Valley East Facebook page using the fictitious name “Jessie Timmons.”
In response to these complaints, Swayze gave Kirwan a draft affidavit to swear he had received no benefits from Dario Zulich, the main developer connected to the Kingsway Entertainment District, and that neither he nor his wife had disguised their identity using the name “Jessie Timmons.”
Although he affirmed he’d never received benefits from Zulich, the draft affidavit was altered to read that he had never posted under the name “Jessie Timmons.”
The revised affidavit clarified his wife used the fictitious name “to post items and make comments to keep things operational with Facebook.”
Kirwan told Sudbury.com that fake Facebook accounts are “all over” and can be useful in managing a page such as Valley East, which is an almost 18,000-member public group he administrates with Valerie.
“Having a second account that allows you to get into your administrative role only makes sense,” he said, arguing that failing to have a backup account is “not being very smart.”
A backup account also allows you to message people you’ve previously blocked or been blocked by, he said.
While he said this is common practice, Kirwan added, “What’s unusual is the integrity commissioner making this kind of ruling.”
Kirwan pointed to a Facebook post by Steve May, who serves as an administrator for the Greater Sudbury Politics Facebook page, as helping explain his position.
“The Valley East group belongs to the Kirwans,” May wrote. “The (integrity commissioner) has already ruled that when he posts there, he does so not as a Councilor (sic), but as a private business person/citizen. The group isn't a place for discussion of Council business with a member of Council. So how can he, via his spouse, be in violation of the Code for shenanigans that happen on that site?”
In Swayze’s report, he clarifies that while he has no jurisdiction over a spouse or a member of council, “by allowing the posts, (Kirwan) colluded with his wife” to contravene the code of conduct, and that “the lack of transparency is obvious.”
Few of the “Jessie Timmons” posts are currently viewable, but a May 15, 2018, post commented “how stupid” regarding councillors’ “flip flop” vote of the day.
A post from Dec. 14, 2020, asked, “Do the people making these comments actually use their real names? Because I would be embarrassed to attach my name to some of these comments.”
Swayze’s report also notes that the complainant also forwarded comments attributed to Jessie Timmons from the last election cycle, which were “attacks against Councillor Kirwan’s political rivals,” but these were not included in his report because they were beyond a 60-day limit to be admissible.
During Tuesday’s city council meeting, mayor and council will vote on a motion recommending that Kirwan “be reprimanded for allowing multiple posts to his Valley East Facebook Page containing political statements supporting him which he knew to be from his wife who disguised her identity as Jessie Timmons: (a fictitious person), giving the false impression that such statements were the opinion of the community.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.