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Integrity commissioner finds Peterborough mayor didn’t breach code of conduct after CAO complaints

The City of Peterborough’s integrity commissioner says the mayor did not breach any municipal code of conduct bylaws following complaints filed by the city’s chief administrative officer.

However, he notes the city’s top two officials have not held any one-on-one meetings since February.

In a lengthy 19-page report to be reviewed by city council on July 12, city integrity commissioner Guy Giorno says he launched a “lengthy” investigation after CAO Sandra Clancy on March 2 filed a number of complaints regarding alleged actions taken by Mayor Diane Therrien.

The report says Clancy had a number of allegations stemming from multiple incidents in February 2021, including that Therrien “pressured” her to retire earlier than she had intended in the fall of 2021 and that Therrien’s position was not shared with city council.

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Clancy claimed that during a closed meeting in December 2020 she informed city council of her intentions to retire in late 2021 in order to give council sufficient notice to find a replacement. Giorno says Clancy and Therrien regularly met one-on-one and that at a Jan. 26 meeting, Therrien told Clancy that the timing of a fall retirement “would be too late” since it would be “sensitive to municipal calendar” with respects to budget planning and the November municipal election.

“Either following this meeting, or around the same time as the meeting, the Respondent (Therrien) communicated individually with various council members about requiring the CAO to retire earlier, subject to an appropriate package,” Giorno wrote.

During a Feb. 12 meeting, Clancy claims she told Therrien she only had to give council two months’ notice for retirement and then asked if she was being terminated.

“The Respondent clarified that this was not the case,” Giorno wrote. “Both individuals felt the discussion was uncomfortable and difficult.”

Therrien reportedly tried to arrange a private meeting in late February to “sort through some of the miscommunication.” However, Clancy was unwilling to meeting Therrien alone, Giorno reported.

“In fact, to this day, the complainant and the respondent have not held another one-on-one meeting,” Giorno noted in his report, dated July 6. “Consequently, the complainant has not heard officially of council’s position. Some council members have, however, informally communicated council’s position to the complainant.”

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In his report, Giorno concluded that the decision-making of council, acting as the employer, is not subject to the city’s code of conduct bylaws. Any constructive dismissal would fall under employment law, not Code of Conduct.

“It is true that the decision of the majority constitutes the decision of council, but being in the minority does not mean being in contravention of the Code,” he said. “Council members may take positions on how the employer (council) should manage the employment relationship, without the Integrity Commissioner second-guessing their leadership of the municipal corporation.

“In this case, when council became aware of the respondent’s February 12 discussion with the complainant, council confirmed that it does not intend to dictate the timing of the complainant’s retirement.”

Staff performance

Clancy also alleged Therrien “spoke unfairly and disrespectfully” about the performance of city staff in general, in particular over an apparent delay in completing a report on governance models for the construction of new affordable housing, Giorno noted.

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Clancy alleged that in late January and early February, Therrien’s comments during council meetings were a “rant” as she expressed frustration with “perceived delays,” and that council was was “fairly out of the loop” about the report from auditing firm KPMG, Giorno wrote.

Therrien also claimed during a meeting that the original proposal from Peterborough Housing Corporation was “on our CAO’s desk for over a year, and we needed to deal with it.”

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He also noted that other interview subjects described the situation as “very uncomfortable,” but “especially uncomfortable for the complainant.”

Clancy alleged Therrien used her position as mayor to improperly influence her and to interfere with her duties as CAO, that there was a “pattern of harassment” over the issue and that the mayor failed to show respect to staff and for their professional capacities and responsibilities.

Giorno notes Therrien later said she regrets her wording and that her “infelicitous expression” was not intended to “fix blame” on Clancy personally.

In his conclusion, Giorno said the mayor spoke “emphatically and with a sense of urgency” about a subject that is a “political priority for her and important to the community as a whole.” He said Therrien made no attempt to influence staff recommendations.

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“In doing so, she did not engage in harassment, abuse, bullying, or intimidation, and she did not fail to show respect for the staff,” he wrote.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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