Springwater Township Mayor Jennifer Coughlin called out Coun. Phil Fisher for ‘grandstanding’ and ‘petty politics’ at Wednesday night’s council meeting.submitted photos

Two weeks ago, Springwater Coun. Phil Fisher was chastised for “petty politics” by the township’s integrity commissioner (IC).

On Wednesday night, at the township’s last council meeting before summer break, he was accused of “grandstanding,” in addition to “petty politics,” by the mayor after he brought forward a motion of reconsideration to receive the report from Robert Swayze, the municipality’s IC.

“In the last council meeting, council received a report from our integrity commissioner,” Fisher said. “I would like to have council reconsider receiving that report.

“I don’t think it was worthy of our council,” he added.

Coun. Danielle Alexander seconded the motion and, in a recorded vote, Deputy Mayor George Cabral and Councillors Fisher, Alexander and Anita Moore voted in favour of the reconsideration.

Mayor Jennifer Coughlin and Councillors Matt Garwood and Brad Thompson voted against. 

For Coughlin, she said the reconsideration didn’t make sense.

“I won’t support this,” the mayor said. “To me, reconsidering something is to have an outcome different than the consideration in the first place. Reconsidering this, the outcome’s the same.

“This is simply, to me, grandstanding and petty politics,” she added. 

According to Renée Ainsworth, the township’s clerk and director of corporate services, the reconsideration is little more than window dressing.

“There is no requirement in the Municipal Act that an integrity commissioner’s report be received or approved,” Ainsworth said. “The only requirement is that it be made publicly available.

“So, whatever the outcome of this motion is, the report would still be publicly available,” she added. “It’s still listed on last meeting’s agenda and nothing would be able to change that.”

Alexander supported the reconsideration because she believed the IC report lacked substance.

“I don’t want to speak, per se, to the findings of the report,” she said. “The findings are the findings.

“My issue with the report is the lack of information it provided. It was not what I was expecting and it was not in line with previous IC reports in terms of the research done, the information provided. That is my issue,” Alexander added. 

She said the township was charged a lot of money — about $30,000 — for a report that “quite frankly, my daughter in university probably could have produced.”

Cabral was of a similar mind when it came to the report’s contents.

“There was no finding of a contravention; it was a disservice to council,” Cabral said. “Not in what the content was, but the fact that the report was flawed and no investigation took place. 

“It was an inadequate report at the time and it still is to this day,” he added.

Not all members of council agreed with that assessment.

Garwood called the reconsideration “a waste of time.”

“Not receiving the report does not mean it didn’t happen,” he said. “It is out there, it did happen.”

Thompson said he thought the IC report was as complete as it needed to be.

“He (the IC) gave the reason pretty accurately in his report,” Thompson said. “The information he gave was factual. I don’t understand the purpose of not receiving the report or reconsidering it.”

Coughlin said the issue provided her with a sense of “deja vu.”

Over the course of her career in municipal politics, she said councils have been fairly consistent when it comes to IC reports — if they don’t like the findings, they call them no good or they fire the IC who wrote it.

“I’m hearing tonight that this report is not to the same standard of the previous IC reports,” Coughlin said. “However, the previous IC came forward with findings that the council of the day didn’t like and we told them it was no good and we fired them. And now, we’re using that report as a standard to compare this one to.

“This to me, again, as it was stated in that report, is petty politics,” she added.

By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 04, 2024 at 12:54

This item reprinted with permission from   BarrieToday   Barrie, Ontario

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