Integrity Report Rift – Espanola Council Meeting Abruptly Ends

Photo: Four Espanola councillors left council chambers at Tuesday night’s meeting, October 30th, after declaring a conflict of interest leaving Deputy Mayor Bill Foster, Mayor Ron Piche and Councillor Bob Yocum to pass a resolution calling for no financial sanctions against the remaining councillors. Staff then walked out of the meeting and with no clerk, the meeting was closed. Photo by Rosalind Russell

By Rosalind Russell – Espanola’s council meeting on Tuesday night, October 30th, ended abruptly when town staff walked out, including the CAO.
At issue was the Integrity Report calling for financial sanctions against four councillors: Ron Duplessis; Ken Duplessis; Ray Dufour and Heather Mallott.
Integrity Commissioner Shearer Parnega recommended they lose a portion of their stipends for what she deemed abusive and intimidating behavior.
The four declared a conflict of interest on a proposed resolution and left council chambers while the three remaining voted in favour of not imposing financial sanctions, rather calling for the implementation of a vision plan to improve relationships between council and staff.
At that point, the staff including department heads all walked out and with no appointed clerk present, the meeting was abruptly shut down.
Still with the story, town lawyer Paul Cassen told The Moose the resolution is legal because of a ruling under the Municipal Act that states if a quorum is present at the beginning of a meeting and conflict of interests are declared, the remaining members can vote on resolutions.
A special emergency meeting between council and staff will have to be called by Mayor Ron Piche within days to try and move forward on the plan.
The case came to a head this year when nine department heads complained to the Integrity Commission about how council treated them.

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