Thursday’s edition of the Mirror reported in detail on unfounded complaints from Councillors Pendlebury, Jeffery, Charlebois and Atwood that each of them was a victim of workplace harassment or violence perpetrated by Councillor Canning during a closed meeting of Town Council on November 25th.
These four complaints led our town to incur significant costs hiring Collingwood lawyer Harold Elston to conduct an investigation and report on the allegations. The full text of his report is set out here:Town of Midland Bill 168 Decision December 9 2013-2
Mr. Elston concluded that none of the complaints was supported by the facts and his report includes these specific findings:
“Accordingly, I find that there was no statement that it was reasonable for anyone in the room to interpret as a threat.”
“The evidence of a lunging motion comes from Councillors Pendlebury and Jeffery. On my review of all the evidence, however, I am unable to conclude that Councillor Canning lunged, or made any threatening movement or gesture in Councillor Attwood’s direction that it would have been reasonable for him to interpret as a threat of violence.”
“None of Councillors Ross, File, Deputy Mayor Kramp, Mayor McKay, or Clerk Fay, saw any lunging, the notes of the meeting do not describe any lunging, and the audio recording reveals no commentary about or reaction to such a scenario. It is impossible for me to believe that the version of events that present Councillor Canning as being on the verge of assaulting Councillor Attwood can possibly be true.”
It helps our understanding to know that the four councillors who made these unfounded complaints of violence or harassment all have long careers involving the criminal justice system. Charlebois is a retired Midland policeman; Pendlebury is an Ontario Parole Board case officer; Jeffery and Atwood each had long careers at the Oak Ridge Mental Health Centre, a facility for the criminally insane that Atwood describes as “the only maximum security hospital in the province”.
From their years of experience, each of them should understand what real harassment and violence looks like. Each of them should know that 30 seconds of understandable anger expressed in a meeting by a guy who runs a cafe and makes chocolates for a living is neither violence nor harassment. Yet for reasons known only to them, they all chose to press their complaints.
Mr. Elston presented his report at a special Council meeting on December 9th. At the meeting Councillor File asked him whether there are any penalties for those who make frivolous or unfounded complaints. He replied there are none provided in the legislation.
But there can still be consequences for councillors who waste our tax dollars pursuing unfounded complaints and who distract Council and staff from important duties running our town. If these four councillors knew their complaints were fiction but still made them, they deserve to be voted out of office. And if they ever genuinely believed they were victims of harassment or violence, we should ask ourselves whether they are capable of properly running a town.