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No salary suspension for Montpellier as council opts for reprimand instead

Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier apologizes for his actions
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier will not be suspended the roughly $6,600 in salary that had been the ruling of integrity commissioner Robert Swayze. (File)

Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier will not be suspended the roughly $6,600 in salary that had been the ruling of integrity commissioner Robert Swayze.

City council opted instead for a reprimand of the councillor for his contravention of the Code of Conduct.

Meeting Tuesday evening, councillors weighed in on the ruling handed down by Swayze on March 8 in response to a complaint that had been filed by Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland. 

Swayze revealed on Tuesday that McCausland was not the only councillor that had filed a complaint, as Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo had also written to the integrity commissioner with a very similar complaint that was not included in Swayze's ruling.

Montpellier was given the opportunity to address his fellow councillors and defend himself, though he was not permitted to vote on the matter.

While apologetic for his actions, Montpellier remained steadfast in his opinion that his comments made about personnel matter involving city CAO Ed Archer were public knowledge at the time that he made them.

"I did apologize for my ignorance of not knowing if it's out there, if it's on the Internet, if it's in the news it's public domain, I did not know that," said Montpellier.

Swayze maintained that Montpellier purposely attempted to injure the professional reputation of the CAO, and wouldn't budge on his ruling that Montpellier have 60 days salary suspended.

"That's not acceptable, these professionals have to preserve their reputation and it's not acceptable for a councillor to do that publicly."

The entire ordeal began at a Dec. 21 meeting of council where Archer called Montpellier's behaviour "buffoonish" in a typed message to another city staffer. Archer reportedly believed the message was sent privately, but it was visible to councillors and anyone else watching the livestream of the meeting.

"When I'm doing my work in a calm voice and I'm called a hostile buffoon, is that not disrespect for the professional that I am?" said Montpellier.

Swayze acknowledged the comment made by Archer, noting that he believed it was a technical error made by the CAO without the intent of damaging Montpellier's reputation, while Montpellier's actions of a written letter and speaking on the record with local media were intended to hurt Archer's reputation.

Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti touched on Archer's comment that became public, noting that city employees need to be held to a certain standard and that it shouldn't matter whether the comment was meant to be sent in private.

"When a comment is put out there whether it's meant to be or not, it was still put out there by a certain individual within the organization that is held at a high regard and is the face of the whole organization," said Signoretti. 

"I think it's harsh what's being recommended, there have been other municipalities out there with situations that have been more severe and the punishment is not even close to this amount."

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini echoed Signoretti's point about the message from Archer, stating that while it may have been a technical error, the message was still broadcast and was made public.

Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo spoke of the high standard that is expected of city councillors and that they are in fact held to a higher standard than city staffers.

"We have been entrusted by residents of our wards to represent them and the entire city in the progress of our city, so we are held to a higher standard," said Jakubo, touching on the differences of what is said in both social media and local news media.

"When something is posted on Facebook, when a letter to the editor is published, it's speculation. When an elected member of council goes out in the media, pens a letter to the prime minister and puts it out on social media for everybody to see, that is the difference and that is the higher standard that we as elected officials have to be held to."

Jakubo was one of two councillors who filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner, along with Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland.

In an interview with last week, McCausland said that a financial penalty against Montpellier wasn't a major concern and that his complaint was more intended to acknowledge that Montpellier's actions were unaccetpable according to the Code of Conduct.

On Tuesday evening McCausland backed his words, tabling an amendment to remove the financial repercussions against Montpellier and instead opt for a reprimand.

The amendment was carried with all councillors but Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer*, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo and Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan voting in favour.

When the motion itself was read, it was just Sizer and Kirwan voting in opposition.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's meeting Montpellier used his opportunity to speak during question period to personally thank members of council, his family and community members who have supported him.

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated which ward Coun. Al Sizer represents. That has been corrected.


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