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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  News Central Elgin Resident Calls On Council To Adopt Integrity Commissioner's Recommendations


Leith R.A. Coghlin

Central Elgin, ON (Feb 25, 2018). - Sparta resident David Harding recently filed a complaint with the Municipality of Central Elgin regarding profane and unprofessional conduct by Councillor Dan McNeil. The incident occurred in January during a public meeting where consideration of a draft sign by-law for the Municipality was being discussed.

In a multipage finding, Central Elgin Integrity Commissioner Mark McDonald declared: "As Integrity Commissioner, I reiterated that the Councillor's conduct was a clear violation of the Code of Conduct to which Councillor McNeil said 'I couldn't care less about the Code of Conduct and would react the same way in similar circumstances.'"

McDonald added that Mr. Harding's account was beyond dispute given Councillor McNeil's admissions.

McNeil's comments during this investigation stand in stark contrast to statements he made months earlier.

In a September 11, 2017 meeting of Central Elgin Council, Councillor McNeil asserted that the Code of Conduct made council "more effective," that such investigations do not "happen very often, only once in my seven years on Council." These comments also appeared in an article published by the Port Stanley News.

McDonald also took issue with how the Municipality, specifically Mayor David Marr, handled notification by Harding about McNeil's behaviour. McDonald suggested Marr did not afford the degree of seriousness Mr. Harding's complaint ought to have been given.

"The Mayor and, for that matter, all Members of Council, have an important obligation to treat complaints or potential complaints seriously and refer the complainant to the remedies available," McDonald advised.

"I wish to highlight the importance and obligation of all members to inform complainants of remedies available to them and to refresh their understanding of the Code [of Conduct]." McDonald concluded that McNeil should be both reprimanded and his pay suspended for thirty days. It is now up to Central Elgin council to decide whether to adopt the recommendations as submitted, with changes, or not at all.

As complainant, Mr. Harding said: "I am deeply troubled that it takes an investigation to remind an adult and public official that swearing at a citizen and flipping them the bird in a public meeting is wrong."

"But even more troubling is Dan doesn't seem to care that he behaved that way as a councillor. He was so flippant to say he'd do it again," Harding added. "I'm also worried the rest of council doesn't have a clue about what their basic standard of behaviour must be that their Integrity Commissioner needs to ask them to re-read their own code of conduct."

Harding is calling upon Central Elgin council to adopt McDonald's recommendations without amendment or delay.

By suspending his pay for a month, Harding hopes taxpayers can recoup the expenses of Mr. McDonald's investigation. "This whole episode would not have occurred if Dan simply expressed himself like an adult," Harding remarked.

He concluded with "what kind example are we setting when a councillor behaves like an impulsive teenager and we need an authority-figure to admonish him like we're in high school?" Central Elgin council will discuss the report and consider McDonald's recommendations at its regular meeting scheduled at 7:30 p.m., on Monday, February 26th.

Last Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2018 13:46:37 PM EST

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