Letter: The Accountability of Elected Officials is a Matter of Public Interest
Updated: Jan 20, 2022
The Fort Frances Times received a letter to the editor from Diane Maxey, which it printed in its January 19, 2022 edition. The editor contacted me and offered me an opportunity to respond to this letter in the same issue of the newspaper, which I have done. My response is below, and Ms. Maxey's letter is available at the bottom of this page. My earlier statement on the Mayor's leaking of confidential materials is available here.
My Response to Ms. Maxey's Letter:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Diane Maxey’s letter.
Here are the facts: the Mayor broke the law by releasing privileged and confidential material to David Kircher. She then misled Council about it, twice, and even suggested (as reported in this newspaper) that someone else was responsible. These events are serious breaches of numerous laws governing members of Council. If a member of the Town’s staff did this, they would be fired.
The Mayor has apologized and claimed that she did these things to exonerate the Town’s staff and advisors. Yet her prior public comments and emails to staff and Mr. Kircher reflect an effort to wrongly impugn these professionals and the information they provided to Council.
I am deeply troubled by this pattern of behaviour. In the past year, the Mayor has taken steps to unilaterally instruct lawyers for the Town, which only Council can do. She has unlawfully claimed to be the acting CAO of the municipality and wrongfully used that presumed authority to block me from getting information from staff. She has requisitioned consultant reports without Council approval. She has taken actions which have resulted in legal threats from our economic development services providers. These are not mere allegations – the Mayor has either admitted to doing these things, they are matters of record, or they were findings of the Integrity Commissioner.
Our democratic system requires that the accountability of elected officials be known and considered in public. Likewise, I disagree with Ms. Maxey’s assertion that I should not share my concerns about the Mayor’s actions publicly. I don’t work for the Mayor – I work for our citizens, and it is part of my duty as a councillor to address impropriety within the municipal corporation and to hold my colleagues accountable for exercising their role in accordance with law. There is no glory in being the messenger on these issues, and I take my fair share of abuse for it, but the public has a right to know.
I am aware that my website and social media distinguishes me from other members of Council. It is how I choose to keep my constituents informed about my position on an array of issues and the business before Council. I also use social media to bust myths and misconceptions about municipal government and to correct misinformation. Sometimes that makes me unpopular, but it is the public who will ultimately decide what is acceptable to them. Most people appreciate that I make municipal affairs and information accessible to them and respond directly to their comments and questions.
While I have serious concerns about Mayor Caul’s pattern of acting without lawful authority, it is important to note that the Mayor and I agree on many of the issues that come to Council. The majority of work that is done at Council goes ahead without disagreement and typically does not attract attention from the public. That work continues.
But in municipal government, like all public institutions, following the process matters just as much as the outcomes. You can’t do the wrong thing for the right reasons. We must adhere to the laws governing the institution.
I am going to continue to use my platform to keep the community informed about the issues before Council, including on matters of accountability and law, and issues where I part ways with Council decisions. I am also going to continue to provide a strong voice for change and renewal at Council, and to continue raising the concerns of young families in our community.
Douglas W. Judson
Ms. Maxey's Letter:
I am sick and tired of hearing Mayor and Council being continually harassed and berated on social media and one’s personal webpage, by one of their own members. Enough already!
In my opinion, all issues can be brought forward, either in camera or in the public portion of the meeting, when appropriate, and dealt with in Council Chambers. There is NEVER a need to put personal agendas on social media. That is just inappropriate and unprofessional! Don’t involve the public!
As a longtime resident of Fort Frances, I would personally like to thank those members of Council who have worked tirelessly over these past months to find positive solutions to some very complicated issues. A huge thanks to those members who actually work as a TEAM with
Administration to achieve what is best for our community.
Things do not happen magically by waving a wand. All decisions take time to research, discuss and implement, when decided upon. It is common knowledge that any decision made will NOT please everyone. That’s just LIFE and part of the democratic process.
Does anyone truly believe that our Mayor does NOT have the best interests of our community in mind when dealing with ALL matters concerning Fort Frances?
Her reputation as a teacher and integrity as a leader in our community outside of Council stands on its own merit. Yes, she may have made some errors in the handling of certain situations, but I can assure you that they were absolutely done in good faith. She truly has our best interests in mind, at all times. I’ve known June for many years, as a colleague and close friend and I can honestly say that any material or e-mails between the Mayor and Mr. Kircher were made in an attempt to stop any further escalation of the issue. Again, Mr. Kircher’s issue has been ongoing for several years as media has reported. In reading many articles that Mr Judson has written, it feels as though our Mayor can do nothing correctly and no apology is enough! They wrote that sanctions could include: removal from office by a judge and criminal charges for breech of trust. I find those to be extreme and ridiculous! Mayor Caul has publicly apologized, no one has been injured or died because of her missteps, so why keep expounding!! No one is perfect and we all make mistakes!
As a longtime volunteer in Fort Frances, I can honestly say that when we work together, with one purpose in mind, great things CAN and WILL happen.
The endless barrage of negativity towards June Caul, our mayor and Council does NOT sit well with me and I know with many other residents. We need to be supportive. POSITIVITY is ALWAYS the best solution, no matter the issue.
I will continue to show respect and support for the leaders who have our best interests in mind and I know, without a doubt, June Caul will ALWAYS be that person!