Councillor Campbell docked pay over Code of Conduct violation

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

Municipality of Kincardine Councillor Gordon Campbell will lose 30 days’ pay after an investigation found that he had verbally abused municipal staff.

Robert Swayze, an integrity commissioner appointed by the municipality, attended last Wednesday’s Kincardine council meeting to report on his findings from a four-month investigation to determine if Campbell had violated the Council Code of Conduct. Swayze said he was appointed in early October and soon after received applications of complaint from CAO Murray Clarke and Water and Wastewater Supervisor Shamus Anderson regarding Campbell. He interviewed the complainants, a witness and Campbell on two separate occasions before reaching his decision.

The first complaint related to an incident on Sept. 15 of last year at the Kincardine McDonald’s where a witness had reported that Campbell was overheard criticizing Clarke and Anderson over how they had treated a local resident who had brought a lawsuit against the municipality after the municipality had required him to locate and replace an old water meter.

In his report, Swayze said that Campbell wrote a letter, in which he was identified as a councillor, in support of the plaintiff in the case and accused municipal staff of improper procedure. In the end, the claim was dismissed by the court.

“Assisting constituents is the role of all members of council,” Swayze stated in the report.“However, when staff is asked to go against a by-law to assist a citizen, they are entitled to refuse. The respondent (Campbell) refuses to understand that the policy relating to replacement of water meters applied to thousands of properties and if the municipality committed to attend at every site to locate old meters, the cost would be prohibitive.”

Swayze’s report outlined a second complaint launched about an incident on Oct. 16, 2016. According to the report, during a meeting between Campbell, Anderson and a contractor regarding excavation at the Kincardine airport, Campbell told Anderson that he had not done his job and should not be in his current role.  A third complaint resulted from a meeting between Campbell, Clarke, Anderson and another municipal staff person where the complainants again told Swayze that Campbell yelled at them for not having a piece of information that he wanted and said, “what good are you if you can’t provide account information.” Campbell has denied making the comments.

Swayze went on to say in his report that Campbell does not appreciate the level of work that is involved in managerial positions.

“He expects a manager to be on site watching a contractor find a waterline and dictating work practices.”

The integrity commissioner pointed out that the Code of Conduct is explicit in outlining how a member of municipal council should conduct themselves.

“I took no pleasure in writing this report, but I’ve learned there is a 10-year history of this councillor abusing staff,” he said.

Swayze said there is nothing wrong with a councillor disagreeing or being critical of a staff member, but they must act professionally.

“Don’t talk about a staff person at McDonald’s. Don’t yell at a staff person in front of his boss.”

Campbell spoke to The Independent late last week and acknowledged that he was wrong to submit the letter in support of the lawsuit against the municipality and should not have made comments at McDonald’s, but maintained that the second and third incidents did not happen as described.

“I’m honest and I tell the truth,” Campbell said. “I have no problem with Swayze, he was doing his job. But I don’t believe he had all the truthful information.”

He said he still believes the water meter situation could have been handled differently and unduly cost taxpayers money, and that the cost to excavate at the Kincardine airport to locate a plastic pipe was too high.

“It is money spent that is not necessary,” Campbell said. “I just try to do what’s fair to the public.”

Swayze factored a report of past allegations from municipal staff, which led to an intervention by a human resources consultant early last year and after which Campbell apologized for his behaviour, in his recommendation. Swayze said he views the more recent complaints as a second offence and therefore recommended that Campbell’s compensation for his role as a councillor be suspended for 30 days.

“I was just going to give him a warning, but I don’t think a warning is going to work,” he said.

Councillor Laura Haight said a constituent had contacted her to report on remarks they had heard Campbell make at McDonald’s the day prior to the council meeting about the investigation."

If he does it (behaviour) again and I receive a complaint I will be back recommending a longer suspension,” Swayze said. “This type of behaviour has to stop.”

Before council voted on the recommendation, Clarke asked if he could speak.

“I have comments I’d like to share with council; it’s quite important,” he said.

Mayor Anne Eadie said she had consulted with the clerk prior to the meeting and said that according to process she would have to deny the request, adding that both sides had have adequate opportunity to speak with the commissioner.

Council took a recorded vote and all, with the exception of Councillor Randy Roppel, voted in favour of Swayze’s recommendation.


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