Finally weighing in on the accusations lodged against him, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini has denied wrongdoing in a conversation he had with Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc last week.
Leduc claimed that Vagnini threatened him by phone after the Jan. 25 city council meeting. Although Leduc declined to offer any additional details, he said it was a “very serious” matter.
“It’s got more to do with the safety of my family – me as a public figure, I’m fine with that, but my family has a private life … and I have to look out for their personal safety now.”
Greater Sudbury Police Service confirmed that they had received a threat complaint from a city councillor in relation to a Greater Sudbury Police Services board member, which Vagnini sits on.
To “protect the integrity of the investigation and to ensure objectivity,” they passed the investigation on to North Bay Police Service.
Sudbury.com reached out to Vagnini for comment last week but did not receive a response despite repeated attempts.
Leduc had been striving to have his fellow councillor removed from the Police Services Board. The issue came to a head at the Jan. 25 council meeting when Leduc tabled a motion that sought to have Vagnini removed from the police oversight body.
Leduc took issue with a story Vagnini shared during the Jan. 18 finance and administration committee meeting in which Vagnini said: “There’s one big large tent where I was (at Memorial Park) on Saturday night, and there was about eight gentlemen in the tent and they were yelling at an individual woman, and she got out of the tent and ran for her life when other two people from the shelter tried to get her to come back into the shelter and she just kept running.”
Leduc believes Vagnini should have phoned 911, while Vagnini previously indicated to Sudbury.com that the incident had been overblown and that the woman in question wasn’t in any genuine danger.
But the dispute between the two councillors seems to have started in 2020. Last week, Sudbury.com was forwarded an affidavit written by Vagnini’s daughter that alleges Leduc phoned her on two occasions in 2020 during which the Ward 11 councillor inquired about Vagnini’s health and asked if he was “on drugs." The purpose of the signed affidavit is unclear.
Leduc told Sudbury.com that he didn’t quite know what to make of the document, as it doesn’t cite any law or breach of the city’s code of conduct.
As for the motion to remove Vagnini from the police board, Leduc said he plans on withdrawing it, “for the safety of my family and for the safety of myself and my health, and the health of my family, and because of the current active police investigation.”
On Jan. 31, Vagnini issued a written statement through his lawyer, Toronto-based attorney Michael Lacy.
“I categorically deny that I committed any criminal offence,” according to Vagnini’s statement. “There was a witness present at the time of the call. I will co-operate with any independent investigation but until that investigation is complete my lawyer has advised me not to speak further about the matter. I have retained Michael Lacy to represent me and inquiries can be directed to him.”
Lacy said that he doesn’t have much more to add about this matter and that he knows as much as the public does as it relates to the ongoing police investigation.
However, with the investigation in the hands of North Bay Police Service he said the hope is that it’ll be an “independent, objective investigation.”
After declining comment on the nature of the phone call between Vagnini and Leduc due to the discussion being between him and his client, Lacy reaffirmed that Vagnini intends to co-operate with whatever investigation takes form.
“My client, as we indicated, denies he did anything criminal that would attract any kind of criminal liability.”
This isn’t Lacy’s first foray into the world of politics, with the lawyer representing Liberal party member Gerry Lougheed Jr., who was accused alongside another member of bribing a candidate to not run and to support another candidate in the 2015 byelection.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.