PETER CONRADI/Bullet News
Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin wants a provincial supervisor to investigate his own council’s conduct at closed-door meetings, and says he won’t attend any more of them until he gets a response from the new minister of municipal affairs.
Martin wrote to the media late today, advising of his position.
“By way of this media release, I would like to advise my constituents, that effective immediately; I will not participate in any further closed session meetings with my Council until my request of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) is answered,” Martin wrote.
The mayor has been at odds with some members of council almost since the last election was held two years ago. There have, for example, been persistent leaks coming from council closed-door sessions. In addition, Martin accuses an unnamed councillor of unethical conduct away from the public eye.
For example, council has held several closed meetings in the current term while attempting to hire a chief administrative officer.
In addition, last year, the director of legal services was fired after a series of closed meetings. Martin tried unsuccessfully to have terms of her severance package released to the public.
“As mayor, I am the Chair of Council, and as the one elected to represent all of the constituents of Fort Erie, I cannot in good conscience or good judgement do anything else,” Martin continued.
“In my opinion, there have been serious breaches of ethical and moral issues that confound my integrity and there are things going on behind closed doors that are just not right.
“It is further my opinion that the MMAH Act and procedures were never intended to provide sanctuary to politicians from public scrutiny and accountability. Confidentiality in closed meeting sessions are meant to protect the innocent though proper and appropriate observance of privacy laws and to protect the integrity of contract tender procedures for fairness purposes only.”
Martin said he would be asking MPP Kim Craitor to help his request make it to the new cabinet of premier-designate Kathleen Wynne.
Craitor would not talk about the issue Monday evening.
“I really don’t want to comment now,” he wrote in an email. “I just read (Martin’s) email and I will need time to digest it and get advice from (Queen’s Park).”
On Monday night, Fort Erie council went into a closed session to discuss a personnel matter, but Martin did not enter. Ward 4 Coun. John Hill chaired the meeting.
When council voted to re-convene to into closed session from the chambers at Town Hall, Martin did not enter and turned the chair to Ward 4 Coun. John Hill.
Wrote Martin: “Further, and I feel this extremely important, is that there should be no doubt by a town’s constituents that the actions of their council behind closed doors is not an opportunity to wreak havoc on staff, plot and plan strategies that would not otherwise be allowed in open sessions, use town resources to pursue those strategies and do so with apparent impunity.
“After almost 30 years in public service and politics at the municipal and regional levels, I can say without any exaggeration, that these past two years on council have eroded my respect for the Municipal Act and its inability to provide any significant resources to help or advise to Council and Councillors to manage their way through complex and difficult procedures, all of which have legal and cost implications, aside from “taking it to the courts” or “reading the latest applicable court rulings.
“In my opinion, there are too many things not right in closed door sessions with my council and none of us are serving the better good of the constituents of Fort Erie until this gets cleaned up. We owe that to our constituents. We owe that to our staff.”