WEST NIPISSING, Ont. — Citing turmoil within the West Nipissing municipal council, along with professional and family responsibilities, Verner's Jeremy Seguin has tendered his resignation as Ward 7 representative.
"Over the last year, I believe that our council has become nothing less than toxic and dysfunctional to the point where I question if the democratic process is often still in place," writes Seguin in his resignation letter.
Seguin acknowledged in a recent interview with BayToday the personality conflicts among West Nipissing council members had made governing difficult, at best.
"As everyone knows, I have been nothing but neutral and respectful throughout the last two years, to a point where this neutrality was a point of great stress," Seguin continues. "I tried my hardest to have a cohesive group, even going to people’s residences to talk about team-building strategies and mediation, but to no avail. I’ve had discussions with the mayor in regards to what I thought of as a lack of leadership, again, to no avail."
Seguin says he believes council did work to help the constituents but lately have been "wasting precious council time bickering over trivial things. Lately, we’ve been spending more time talking about how to run council (procedures) instead of discussing great projects, removing old-unjust bylaws. Overall, we’re not discussing matters that affect the people, which is why we are supposed to be there."
The breaking point for Seguin came at last Tuesday's council meeting, as some councillors pushed for an investigation into a public letter written by Mayor Joanne Savage. Several councillors maintained the actions constituted a breach of the code of conduct and discussions quickly deteriorated. General government committee chair Lise Senecal eventually dropped the subject from the agenda, pushing it to a meeting this Tuesday during which the contentious items are to be revisited.
Explains Seguin, "My decision to leave council happened at around the 1:23:20 mark of the July 14th meeting. It was my 'line in the sand' as I will state it, and by the end of the meeting, I was a mile past that same line. When people railroad, hush, speak over others and tell them that they cannot have an opinion...in a council meeting, that was enough for me."
Seguin adds, in his 25 years of experience in various political settings, he's "never seen a council act in the manner that ours has been acting since the last election."
In his letter, Seguin writes his new workplace responsibilities will require him to leave the region for extended periods of time.
"Due to the increase in hours that I will have to dedicate to my new tasks and training, I feel that I will not be able to make educated and researched decisions due to the time constraints that I will have, and that this will affect my ability to make decisions that best serve the residents of West Nipissing."
He hopes his time as a council member will be remembered for the "good that I did in our community before and during my time at council. In seven years, I have coached and presided over hockey for our youth, started a ball hockey league with a great team, partook in the Chamber of Commerce for multiple years, helped bring awareness to social causes such as Pride and many, many hours of volunteer work with various not-for-profit organizations."
Seguin concludes by clarifying the decision was not a knee-jerk reaction, acknowledging he had been struggling with it for some time. He says the stress related to the council situation has had an effect on his family and his own comportment.
"My personality is changing from a fairly relaxed and easy going person to a wound-up ball of anger, which has caused me to lash out lately at some of our residents as well and making less than professional comments. The stress that I bring home is not one that I want to continue bringing home any longer."