WEST NIPISSING, Ont. — Following the cancellation of the scheduled August 11 meeting of West Nipissing Council, the four members who preferred to continue meeting remotely are clarifying their stance.
Councillors Chris Fisher, Roland Larabie, Leo Malette and Dan Roveda have once again banded together in opposition to Mayor Joanne Savage, and Councillors Lise Senecal, Denis Senecal and Yvon Duhaime when it comes to municipal affairs.
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In a statement, Fisher, Larabie, Malette and Roveda stress their actions go beyond concern about in-person meetings — they speak to the way the meetings themselves are conducted.
"We are trying to manage important municipal business during difficult times. Too much time is being spent on filing baseless complaints with the Integrity Commissioner at the taxpayers' expense," they say.
In their opinion, Fisher, Larabie, Malette and Roveda feel the "democratic process has been circumvented by the Mayor, and consequently by three other councillors, so that quorum could not be reached."
They say Mayor Savage expressed an ultimatum to Council via email: “If we are to proceed with our meeting next week in the same way, via phone conferencing, I will abstain from such proceeding and will not be attending. If need be I will explain to the public my reasons and the efforts done to change how our meetings are presently conducted because they are not working.”
Monday, Savage released her own statement to the public and media on the cancelled meeting and the reasons behind it.
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According to the group of four, Senecal, Senecal and Duhaime "responded that they also would not attend the meeting unless it was held in person, in contravention of our agreed-upon Procedure By-law and practice. Apparently, our by-laws, legislation, their Oath of Office, and the personal liberties of others do not apply."
The four also take issue with Mayor Savage putting her thoughts on the official letterhead of the Corporation and say her "statements are an opinion piece." By the same token, Fisher, Larabie, Malette and Roveda acknowledge this statement they have provided is also an opinion piece as "unless we are representing the views of Council as a whole, we must declare our communications around Council business as our personal opinions," in accordance with the procedural by-law.
They observe Mayor Savage has but one vote of nine (currently eight, due to Jeremy Seguin’s resignation because of a toxic and dysfunctional council) and the Mayor's vote carries no weight above any other vote.
"One of the most important functions in the position of Mayor is to represent the will and decisions of Council, whether the Mayor agrees with them or not," they say. "Clearly, this is not the case here."
The four say they often prefer using the Zoom platform for meetings instead of meeting in person, "as they give one the ability to turn the volume down when decorum gets out of hand, [with] people shouting, talking over one another or in long monologues. It helps with sanity and composure."
Fisher, Larabie, Malette and Roveda add, "the Mayor’s assertion that as-presently conducted meetings are not working is her opinion — in our view, they were not working before the pandemic either."