Councillor impugns Tehkummah’s reeve over payment of bill for changing municipal office locks

Council supports reeve’s decision

TEHKUMMAH—Tehkummah Councillor Ron Hierons suggested that Reeve Eric Russell had acted as a ‘lone wolf’ when he made the decision to change the locks to the municipal building in October following the ‘case of the disappearing files.’

As has been previously reported, following what she deemed as a lack of security for the municipal office files, Clerk-Treasurer Karen Gerrard (who is currently on a paid suspension stemming from a Ministry of Labour investigation) removed the files from the township office for ‘secure storage’ without disclosing the whereabouts of those files to the council. That action culminated in the closing of the municipal office for two days.

On November 25, 2017, Councillor Hierons circulated a letter to his councillors, the same letter he handed out to members of the public at the January 9 council meeting. In it he states, “I am in receipt of an invoice, as you are as well, for the cost of three office staff for two days that were on the payroll and given days off with pay when the reeve decided, on his own accord, to close down the township office and post a notice stating the office was being closed on Monday, October 16 and Tuesday, October 17. To me, this was exaggerated and inappropriate, to say the least.”

“Furthermore, the invoice included the cost of the deadbolt locks that were changed for the clerk-treasurer’s office and the municipal office around those same days. Again, this was conduct that reflected a threat and intimidation on the part of the reeve towards the office staff without any attempts in consultations or conversations with them, not even with the other council members. This sincerely makes all of us look incompetent and I am embarrassed by this action and cannot accept any responsibilities for this behaviour and therefore I am not prepared to cover any such costs from the township let alone of any personal nature.

“Eric, once again, you publicly stated that you closed the office for two days and changed the locks because ‘I am the reeve’ and you were also quoted as saying ‘I might be in trouble.’ Well I am of the view that you are the one responsible and should be made to cover any such costs on your own, as well as accept all of the responsibilities that might be afforded with your conduct. This is not something that I feel should be downloaded to us or the residents of this township.”

Councillor Hierons went on to call on the reeve to take care of the bill from Manitowaning Mill Home Hardware (for the new locks) in the amount of $1,283.60

At the January 9 meeting, Councillor Hierons said he had spoken with municipal lawyer Paul Prosperi who told him that the reeve has no authority to make such drastic decisions on his own, but rather this should have been made by a committee of the whole.

“Well, do you have the power to remove all the files out the back door?” the reeve countered, noting the rumour that Councillor Hierons had a hand in moving the files out of the municipal office.

“I had no involvement in that,” Councillor Hierons responded.

“Oh, you didn’t?” the reeve queried.

Councillor Lorie Leeson and Councillor Mike McKenzie said that unless they had Mr. Prosperi’s concerns in writing, it was “hearsay.”

Councillor Paul Bowerman noted his concern that the files could be contaminated as they do not know if they’ve been tampered with at their undisclosed location.

Councillor Leeson then made a motion to pay the Manitowaning Mill Home Hardware invoice, seconded by Councillor Paul Bowerman. All but Councillor Ron Hierons were in favour.