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Council opts for no action on integrity commissioner’s findings

Facing complaints about inaction over integrity commissioner reports into the conduct of Coun. Murray Martin, his colleagues this week opted to stay the course.

In a 3-1 vote at Tuesday night’s meeting, councillors avoided calling on Martin to recuse himself from future deliberations over a proposed Maryhill gravel pit.

Woolwich’s integrity commissioner recommended council censure Martin for violating the township’s code of conduct in relation to the Capital Paving application.

An investigation was launched when complaints were filed following a July 13 committee meeting chaired by Martin. Bonnie Bryant of the Hopewell Creek Ratepayers Association alleged Martin had cut her off during a scheduled presentation and subsequently made an untrue statement related to her comments. Another resident, Susan B. Campbell, alleged Martin was in violation of the code by leaving early from the meeting and prejudging the Shantz Station pit application; the latter was upheld.

Integrity commissioner Ellen Fry recommended Martin be directed to apologize to Bryant for interrupting her to contradict her, that council reprimand Martin for prejudging the gravel pit application, and that Martin be excluded from any future meetings in which the application is considered.

The complaints were handled by the township’s contracted service provider, ADR Chambers.

At an October 5 meeting, Martin apologized to Bryant, but councillors argued legal advice they’d received precluded measures to prevent Martin from taking part in any future votes.

This week, Coun. Patrick Merlihan said council had yet to deal with all of the integrity commissioner’s recommendations, having quickly moved on from the issue on October 5.

“Last week, I thought we maybe fell down on the job actually considering those reports in a thoughtful manner – it was fairly rushed,” he argued, calling for council to seek accountability.

“We have rules that we all agreed to, and when rules are broken there have to be some consequences,” Merlihan added, noting a public airing would foster trust in the system.

“We have an integrity commissioner so that the public can feel assured when they feel like council has done something – we can go through that process, and it’s independent.

Other councillors had a different take, however.

“We should not be in the business of taking vengeance on each other. When Coun. Martin apologized, I felt his apology was genuine, I felt that it showed contrition, and I felt like that apology showed that no action that we would take as council would dictate further changes in future behaviour,” said Coun. Scott McMillan.

For his part, Martin said his apology was heartfelt, something he intended to do even before the integrity commissioner’s report was filed.

“There was nothing forced, that came right from my heart,” he said.

Though the integrity commissioner found Martin had prejudged the Shantz Station pit application, recommending he be excluded from future votes on the matter (perhaps a moot point given that the issue will be decided by a provincial tribunal), council opted to simply receive the report. Martin has not said if he would recuse himself should the application resurface at council.

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