Cobden – Whitewater Region Councillor Connie Tabbert has been exonerated in a Code of Conduct complaint filed against he

A report received from the law firm of Cunningham Swan and township Integrity Commissioner Tony Fleming found there was no breach of the Code of Conduct by the rookie councillor. 

“I do not recommend any further steps be taken with respect to this matter,” he wrote in his report to council. 

The complaint centred around a post and comments Coun. Tabbert made on Facebook regarding an upcoming council meeting as well as her conduct at a council meeting in January. Her comments on Facebook were about a rezoning application for a property that contains a kennel business. The post was commented on and shared. 

“Much of the commentary made by members of the public pertained to concerns about the condition of the kennels on the subject property and included statements calling the operation a ‘puppy mill’ and ‘disgusting’,” Mr. Fleming wrote in his report. 

The one comment he addressed was where she said on Facebook, “I am not sure of all the implications right now, but I will be talking to our by-law and planning officers about this. It seems to be an easy answer, but there are extenuating circumstances, as far as I am concerned.”

The complaint also alleged Coun. Tabbert “cheered, clapped and laughed to encourage the behaviour of members of the public who spoke publicly about their concerns regarding the standards at the kennel on the subject property.”

In his investigation, he looked at the social media post and conducted interviews, as well as looking at the video of the January 18, 2023 council meeting. 

“Based on our investigation, we find that, on a balance of probabilities, Councillor Tabbert presented a positive demeanor during the meeting and politely clapped following one speaker but that no ‘cheering’ or extreme gestures were made that inappropriately supported the comments by members of the public,” the report stated. 

In regards to the Facebook posts, he said there was no break of the Code of Conduct. He said she was not using behaviour which constituted “abuse, bullying, harassment or intimidation” in her postings and comments. 

“There is no evidence from the social media post and comments of Councillor Tabbert that she was not being conscientious or diligent in her duties as councillor,” he added. “While I acknowledge that the comment excerpted in this report expresses a viewpoint, it is my finding that the views expressed were in line with Councillor Tabbert’s role as a political figure and do not rise to a level that supports a finding of a closed mind or a breach of this section of the Code of Conduct.”

In looking at other sections of the Code of Conduct, he said the Code of Conduct “should be assumed to not be intended to contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects freedom of expression.”

He also pointed out the comments that form the basis of the complaint are her own comments and not those of council. He noted when she expressed an opinion she did use the language “as far as I am concerned” which showed it was her opinion and not that of council. 

The complaint was received on February 14. A response was issued by Coun. Tabbert and the complainant in March with interviews conducted in April. The councillor is in her first term on council. 

By Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 13, 2023 at 13:21

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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