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McLeod appointed deputy mayor amid concerns

McLeod has been in acting deputy mayor role off and on since Nov. 2021; Hamlin – who is running against McLeod for mayor’s seat – says council is ‘interfering in the election process’
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Although she’s been doing the job in an acting capacity for about a year, a vote was split this week regarding dropping the ‘acting’ from current Deputy Mayor Mariane McLeod’s title.

At the end of discussions during Tuesday’s (Sept. 20) regular meeting of council, councillors voted 4-3 in favour of appointing Acting Deputy Mayor Mariane McLeod as deputy mayor for the rest of the term. Every councillor spoke to their reasons for voting either for or against the motion, some citing public outcry over the decision.

Coun. Kathy Jeffery initially put the notice of motion forward in August. At Tuesday's meeting, she said the matter was “simply housekeeping.”

“I’m saddened that people have managed to politicize such a simple thing,” she said. “I stand by the fact that if the person is doing the job – no matter who they are – that we respect that.”

McLeod was first put in the position of acting deputy mayor in November 2021 when then-deputy mayor Keith Hull took a three-month leave of absence.

Hull returned from his leave on Feb. 28, however when then-Mayor Brian Saunderson took a leave to run for Simcoe-Grey MPP as the PC candidate starting in April, Hull stepped into the acting mayor role, and McLeod again stepped into the acting deputy mayor role.

Saunderson won the MPP spot in June, and Hull was appointed mayor (no longer acting) at the end of July, which is the first time the deputy mayor chair was officially "vacant." McLeod has maintained the acting deputy mayor role since April.

Both McLeod and Hull have been attending Simcoe County council meetings as voting members.

By waiting until the end of July to officially appoint Hull as mayor, council did not have to fill the vacant council seat because it was close enough to the municipal election.

As McLeod is currently running for mayor in the upcoming municipal election against a current councillor, Yvonne Hamlin, and a former councillor, Norm Sandberg, some councillors voiced concern that a change in title now could give McLeod an advantage in that race with the election only six weeks away.

“I’m speaking against the motion and not the individual,” said Coun. Deb Doherty, noting the role of mayor has a specific set of responsibilities and therefore it was necessary to appoint Hull to that role earlier in the term when it was vacant.

“However, the role of deputy mayor has no such unique role or responsibilities other than acting on behalf of the mayor in his absence, so I feel no need to appoint, particularly at this very late point in the term of this council barely a month before the election,” said Doherty.

“I feel it puts all of the members of this council in an untenable position,” she said.

Hamlin echoed Doherty’s statements.

“I know it’s an odd thing for me to weigh in on, but I’ve had people reach out to me in the past two days and ask me to speak to this,” said Hamlin. “It behooves us to look further into the impact of what this vote is.”

“Voting starts in 18 days. I’ve heard it’s inappropriate. One person’s word to me was ‘outrageous,’ for council to be interfering in the election process by giving a nod to one candidate who is running for mayor,” she said.

Coun. Chris Carrier responded to Hamlin’s comments.

“It would have been nice if those folks who had expressed concerns had maybe sent an email to all of us and put their names to those anonymous comments,” said Carrier. “As the councillor who finished first in the (2018) election, McLeod has done... the work. She’s stepped in when the community asked for her to be there because that was her privilege having finished first.”

Coun. Steve Berman said he would be voting against the motion due to his opposition to the process that was followed.

“We’ve known (about this possibility), going on for a year and a half since Brian Saunderson was announced as the PC candidate,” said Berman. “We saw this coming. This has all caused some confusion.”

Berman noted that as the bylaw regarding the appointment would need to be passed at the Sept. 26 council meeting, that would mean only one council meeting would remain before the election.

“I don’t think this should even be on the table. For the reasons of this flawed process, I won’t be supporting this,” he said.

Hull said he was in support of the process, while acknowledging that there may have been flaws along the way.

“I think it would help with better continuity not only around this table, but also working with staff and throughout the community,” said Hull. “More importantly, it is a recognition... and supporting the individual so they can do the job properly.”

“We have unnecessarily muddied the waters. That should not take away from the contribution of the person,” he said.

McLeod said she had conferred with the town’s Integrity Commissioner on the matter and had been told she had the right to place a vote.

On Tuesday night, council voted 4-3 in favour of appointing McLeod as deputy mayor for the remainder of the current term of council with Hamlin, Doherty and Berman opposed. Coun. Bob Madigan was absent from the meeting.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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