Add walking out of a meeting to a list of Woolwich council firsts that includes an audit review of two members, and the removal of the mayor and another councillor. There’s even a common thread to Tuesday night’s antics, as the huffy exit was sparked by Elmira resident Alan Marshall.
Allotted a delegation spot to speak about election expenses – members of the public can register to address council for up to 10 minutes – Marshall went on a meandering discussion involving Mayor Sandy Shantz, the Chemtura plant, contaminants in the Canagagigue Creek and the Ontario Ombudsman, among others. When Coun. Larry Shantz, chairing the committee of the whole meeting, attempted to get Marshall on track, the Elmira resident refused to stop.
Councillors then got up and left the room.
“We’re going to recess,” he said when Marshall refused to relinquish the floor.
Staff members, looking around bewilderedly, eventually got up and exited the council chambers as Marshall turned around and continued speaking to people in the audience.
Eventually, councillors returned and attempted to take back control of the meeting.
“I will not be silenced by council,” Marshall interjected, refusing direction from the chairman. “You, sir, are a shame.”
After a bit more shouting, joined by a couple of other audience members supporting “democracy” and the right of the public to speak, Marshall and some others stormed out of the room.
Clearly rattled, councillors and staff then continued with their agenda.
The acrimony is very much personal, as it was Marshall who brought to light the fact that Coun. Mark Bauman’s failure to file an election expense report, despite being acclaimed to his Ward 2 seat, meant he was in default. Bauman was forced to go to court to be reinstated. Marshall’s digging led to Sandy Shantz’s default of her seat due to technical issues with her election expense statement. She, too, had to go to court to be returned to council. Marshall had also been involved in Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee (MECAC) hearings looking into the filings of Shantz and Coun. Scott Hahn.
Hahn’s expense report prompted MECAC to meet for the first time in the history of Waterloo Region.
Ironically, council had earlier appointed members to a pair of new committees replacing the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, changes prompted largely to reduce public input by Marshall and others deemed disruptive, a bid to get the chemical company and Ontario Ministry of the Environment to rejoin the public meetings.