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Code of conduct not broken by TBM mayor: Integrity commissioner

Complaints made against mayor alleged 'bullying, abusive' written and verbal remarks made against two members of the public
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The Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever. Contributed photo

The Blue Mountains Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig has ruled that Mayor Alar Soever did not violate the town’s code of conduct in a series of emails with local residents.

Craig conducted a full investigation of the complaints against the mayor that were alleged to have occurred over the past year.

“The complaint relates to alleged conduct of the respondent (Mayor Soever) towards two members of the public (the “complainants”). In particular, the complainants allege that they were subject by the respondent “between April 2020 and March 2021, individual and collectively, in written correspondence and remarks delivered at public meetings” to “behaviours [that] were threatening, derogatory, offensive, bullying, abusive, intimidating and [that] represent sustained harassment and persecution,” the commissioner states in her report on the matter.

The complainants were not named in the Integrity Commissioner’s report.

After conducting a thorough investigation, Craig ruled that Soever’s behaviour was not a violation of the code of conduct.

“I find that the respondent’s statements in emails and otherwise to the complainants were not contraventions of the code. They were statements of fact or his opinion and were responsible communication about public matters regarding town and staff business,” Craig writes in her report.

Craig delivered the report at council’s meeting on July 4 and made two recommendations to council:

Firstly that the mayor did not contravene the code of conduct. 

And secondly, that council consider an amendment to the code of conduct for members of council, local boards and advisory committees to include a limitation period within which complaints will be received by the Integrity Commissioner.

Members of council had few comments about the report, other than to thank Craig for her work on the matter.

“It’s all about maintaining public trust,” said Coun. Paula Hope. “It’s really important for all of us to learn what we can do better.”

Hope also asked Craig if the town should consider creating an Accountability and Transparency Committee that would be in place to review such matters before they rose to a complaint to the IC.

Craig said many municipalities have such a committee in place that allows review of code of conduct policies and other matters.

Mayor Soever also thanked the integrity commissioner for her work on the matter.

“These complaints do need to come out to the fore,” he said. “There are people that disagree with us, passionately, at times.”

The mayor also noted he hoped that prospective candidates for this fall’s municipal election aren’t discouraged from running for office because they may face complaints in the future.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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