‘A tough day for all of us’

Mayor is sanctioned with 90 days loss of pay as Council votes on Integrity Commissioner report

Robert J. Swayze, who serves as Integrity Commissioner for the City of Sarnia, spoke to Council at a meeting on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Robert J. Swayze, who serves as Integrity Commissioner for the City of Sarnia, spoke to Council at a meeting on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

Mike Bradley has had his pay related to his duties as Mayor of Sarnia suspended for 90 days.

The action was approved Tuesday afternoon (June 28, 2016) at a special meeting of Council, with a recorded vote of 6-2 (Councillors Dave Boushy and Mike Kelch opposing the sanction; Councillors Brian White, Ann Marie Gillis, Matt Mitro, Cindy Scholten, Andy Bruziewicz and Bev MacDougall voting in favour).

The vote followed a presentation of a report by the City’s Integrity Commissioner, Robert J. Swayze, who was appointed to the part-time post about a year ago (July 1, 2015).

MacDougall chaired the meeting in Bradley’s absence. Andre Morin, director of Engineering, was sitting in for City Manager Marg Misek-Evans, who was absent.

Swayze, who represents 16 municipalities in a similar role, had investigated two complaints filed by former City employees Nancy Wright-Laking (who had served as City Clerk) and Jane Cooper (who had served as director of planning and building). Wright-Laking, who now serves as Clerk of Lambton Shores, resigned her City position effective December 31, 2015. Cooper resigned effective January 29, 2016.

“This is a tough day for all of us.”—Councillor Bev MacDougall, prior to a vote on Tuesday that suspended the pay of Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley for 90 days.

In their complaints, both former employees accused the Mayor of creating a “poisoned work environment.” While there were references to those accusations in the Integrity Commissioner’s report, it was the Mayor’s decision to meet with three presidents of labour unions representing City workers that “was enough” to justify the penalty to the Mayor, said Swayze.

During a short presentation to Council on Tuesday, Swayze said Sarnia “has a Mayor who believes he is the head of the corporation. He is not.”

Swayze also told Council that he has never before recommended the maximum penalty. “I did in this case because this has been going on for 20 years and it must stop for the good of this city.”

Councillor David Boushy, one of two members of Council who voted against the sanction (the other being Councillor Mike Kelch), put forth a motion that would have seen Bradley’s pay as Mayor untouched. That motion was defeated, again in a recorded vote, 6-2.

In the final vote (which occurred after the motion to remove the pay as a sanction was defeated), both Kelch and Boushy were the only ones voting against the original motion.

A separate motion, which received the majority support of Council (Boushy and Kelch voted against), has asked for a report by City staff on the idea of an Executive Committee of Council. A three-part motion, made by Councillor Cindy Scholten, included a request for a staff report on the idea of an executive assistant to the Mayor and Council, that position reporting administratively to the City Clerk. The third part of the motion was to have a report by staff on options for creating a Deputy Mayor position for the City.

In an e-mail sent to various media outlets following the vote, Bradley said the Integrity Commissioner’s report was unnecessary, unfair and unhelpful.

The Mayor also said he did not support the idea proposed by Scholten.

“Suggesting an Executive Council as a way of moving forward is ludicrous,” Bradley wrote. “The citizens of Sarnia elected a Mayor in 2014 to lead them, not an Executive Council.”

Bradley also said he continues “to be greatly concerned about the direction of the City of Sarnia in this term of Council,” pledging to “be the public’s watchdog on spending and services.”

Council gallery June 28 2016Bradley made references in his e-mail to “the largest budget increase in memory in 2015” and expressed concern about “ignoring of the City’s fiscal fitness direction (and an) aggressive debt reduction plan that would have made us one of the few debt-free cities in Canada in a few years.”

Bradley apologized in his e-mail “if I have offended anyone when carrying out the people’s business on behalf of Sarnians.”

He also wrote that “the role of administrative leadership responsible for the workplace environment was ignored and that needs to be addressed along with a review of the Human Resources department.”

Bradley believes issues related to the Integrity Commissioner process, including the fairness and cost, “need to be reviewed by Council and other bodies that have jurisdiction like the Ombudsman of Ontario’s office.”

Bradley also said the responsibility for making changes to the workplace environment lies with all members of Council. “In early January (of this year), I asked the City Manager for a meeting with the Human Resources department to deal with issues in the workplace,” he wrote in his e-mail. “To this date I have not received a response. A way must be found to find solutions.”

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  • Kicker

    Good job council for stepping up and doing the right thing. The mayor’s abuse of position and workplace harrisment has gone on for too long. I witnessed the meeting and was shocked at the mayor’s cheering section of current and former police officers actively cheering for Boushy and Kelch. They even laughed at the victims of workplace abuse. This is bad for the city of Sarnia to have a politicized police force tight with a disfuctional mayor. Well done councilors Mitro, White, Scholton, Gillis, MacDougall and Bruziewicz.

  • Opinionated3

    The mayor’s office should be isolated from City Staff and he should interact only with the City Manager and no other member of staff. Councillors should be kept in the loop on all communications between any Councillor, including the Mayor, with City Staff. These actions, in my opinion, should allow staff to freely do their work without fear of outside interference.

  • Ashley Mann

    Council Sholten, please stop. She is back on Facebook this morning a day after the special meeting saying council works well together but the mayor doesn’t work well with council or staff. Please Council Sholten, please stop with your message about the Mayor. We have had months and months of this same message and we’ve had months and months of constant never ending negativity coming from city hall. We need a break from your message, We need a break from all the negativity. Please Council Sholten. Please stop. Cindy, I’m begging you. Just stop, for a few weeks perhaps, a month even. We just need a break from all this. Please.