City Council votes to ‘use tools at its disposal’ to address perceived staff issues

Results of 'symbolic' move are as yet unclear

Photo by Sean Marshall via
Photo by Sean Marshall via

Recent resignations of two senior City staff appear to at the core of a motion brought by Brian White at Monday’s Sarnia City Council meeting.

White, a City Councillor, put forward a motion—ultimately passed—that Council “immediately make use of the tools at its disposal in an effort to stabilize the operations” of the City.

The Councillor’s preamble to the motion, which was brought up under “new business,” acknowledged that it was largely a symbolic one, perhaps in reference to the fact that Council has no administrative role to play other than giving direction to staff through the City Manager.

That appears to be what irked Councillor Mike Kelch, who said he wasn’t sure what the resolution meant in the end as it lacked any semblance of specific direction.

“I’m not sure we know what we passed,” he said.

Only he and acting mayor David Boushy voted against the motion (Mayor Mike Bradley was absent).

Specific wording in White’s motion referred to the recent resignations of Clerk Nancy Wright-Laking and Jane Cooper, director of planning and building. Wright-Laking left to take a job at the Municipality of Lambton Shores; Cooper has decided to retire after about a year and a half on the job.

Media reports have circulated over Council concerns, specifically following Cooper’s accusation that unnamed “senior politicians” were undermining the work of administration. She told another media outlet that “until those dinosaurs are contained, Council’s ability to deliver citizens’ expectations will continue to be compromised.”

Bradley, contacted after Monday’s meeting, said he “was deeply disappointed with the image and impression the Council meeting and actions created in the community about Council and City Hall.” Bradley said he based that comment on public feedback received since Monday’s meeting.

What’s next? That may not be clear, although White has said he hopes the resolution will spark an “organic process.”

Kelch said he would “rather work the back channels as I have done in my past term of Council to work with staff, to work with everyone on Council.”

White said later that he disagreed the resolution was directed to any single individual.

“The motion was to simply acknowledge the fact that there appears to be a systemic problem that we as a Council have to reflect the concerns of the community and the concerns of ourselves as stewards of the corporation and that in taking ownership again, what we did tonight was to reaffirm our commitment to maintain the integrity of the operations of this building,” he was quoted as saying.

For his part, Bradley has said he would like to see a survey of City workers, one that could assess overall staff morale.

“That’s what bothers me: If you’re looking to attract new city employees, it’s not conducive to that attraction,” Bradley told another media outlet.

Bev MacDougall, one of several Councillors who voted in favour of the resolution, stressed the importance of “using the tools we have and go forward.”

It is still not clear as to what those tools might be.

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