Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney in hot water again apparently for dissing town CAO

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney has been ordered to undergo training after his colleagues found that he violated council’s new Code of Conduct apparently by making derogatory comments about Jamie Burke, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).

At a closed meeting yesterday, councillors passed a motion declaring that Phinney had violated three sections of the Code that relate to the treatment of other people, including town staff.

One section states that members of council “must not maliciously or falsely injure the professional or ethical reputation, or the prospects or practice of the Town Administration.”

It’s believed council found Phinney violated the Code after he responded to an e-mail from residents opposed to the proposal to build a small-scale slaughterhouse in Sackville’s industrial park.

The residents worried that taxpayers could be stuck with the clean-up costs if the facility went bankrupt.

Clean-up costs an issue for Phinney

In 2019, Phinney called for the firing of senior town staff including Jamie Burke after the town manager negotiated a deal with CN Rail to buy land for Sackville’s new flood control pond that was later found to be contaminated with toxic materials, which cost all three levels of government more than half a million dollars to remove.

It appears that Phinney may have referred to that clean-up in his response to the residents concerned about the proposed slaughterhouse, although it’s not known what he may have said about Burke.

Earlier this year, council found Phinney violated the Code of Conduct during a meeting in which he was the only councillor to vote against appointing Burke as CAO to replace Phil Handrahan.

“The reason I’m voting against it is I feel that the other candidates that we had were much more qualified,” Phinney said. Although it’s not known for sure, it seems likely that Phinney violated the Code of Conduct by disclosing confidential information about another candidate.

During that meeting, Phinney also accused Burke of being responsible for the CN clean-up costs.

The motion that council passed last night requiring Phinney to undergo training says other councillors may participate in the training too.

To read the motion and relevant sections of the town’s Code of Conduct, click here.

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10 Responses to Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney in hot water again apparently for dissing town CAO

  1. Roger Gouchie says:

    Sounds like the town has been taking lessons from trump. I feel Jamie Burke should have been let go over over the contaminated soil/land trade with CNR. Claiming to be well educated and doing that deal ??? I saw what seemed to be too many cover ups over that project.You have support Bruce and you should be able to voice your opinions.

  2. Erna Duchemin says:

    Good for Bruce for speaking up! He’s the only Councillor that has the guts to speak the truth. We need his honesty in Sackville. He cares for the town and does his best to represent the people who voted him in.

  3. G says:

    It is my understanding that in this province you can not purchase land without having the land drilled and tested for contamination. As for Bruce keep up the great work you are doing.

  4. Azi says:

    We all know Mr. Phinney in Sackville (he is honest, responsible and hardworking). The more other councillors consider these actions towards him the more we understand Mr. Phinney is doing the right thing. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Phinney and his integrity.
    If other councillors are worried about Tax payers they might as well realize that tax payers voted for councillors to represent the public. Therefore Tax payers basic request from councillors is to speak up and to be transparent with their decision makings.

  5. Harold says:

    If our elected officials cannot speak up, who can? They don’t need a code of conduct — Canada already has defamation and libel laws in place.

    In addition, training will achieve nothing other than waste public money. Training does not change attitudes. For example an education program in Ontario for parents who did not want to vaccinate their children, “had a zero percent conversion rate.”

  6. Les Hicks says:

    This censuring (yet again) of Councilor Phinney by the rest of the Sackville Town Councillors is very troubling. It appears to many Sackville residents that he is the only Councillor who is trying to obtain some form of accountability from senior Town Managers. Why should there be an issue with Councillor Phinney expressing his reason for voting against the appointment of Mr. Burke to the CAO position by stating that in his opinion there were higher qualified candidates? Should Town Council not be appointing the most qualified candidates to senior Town Management positions?

    Regarding Councillor Phinney’s criticism of Mr. Burke for his handling of the contaminated soil issue, he again was reflecting the concerns of many of his constituents about how the affair was handled. To expand on this, on December 19, 2019, I wrote to Jeff Carr, the NB Minister of Environment and Local Government (with a cc to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change) to enquire why the Department held the Town of Sackville responsible for the clean-up costs of soil that was contaminated by the multi-national corporation CN, when the Department’s own Compliance and Enforcement Policy states that “…the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ will be applied so that public funds are not a principal source of funding for environmental clean-ups.”

    In a reply from Mr. Carr dated Jan 18, 2020, he stated that “DELG was informed of the discovery of contamination by the Town’s Site Professional. Communication between DELG and the Site Professional at the time indicated that the Town was pursuing the cleanup in accordance with DELG’s guideline process. Given the Town is taking voluntary action to address the contamination…there is no need for DELG to apply the Compliance and Enforcement Policy with the issuance of a Ministerial Order.” Mr. Carr goes on to state that “the DELG does enforce a polluter pay principle for any necessary clean-up of contaminants. With that said, DELG does have legislated authority to identify various persons as the responsible party outside of the polluter. In this situation, the identified responsible party is not the polluter and is the current property owner.” He further states that “In circumstances where cleanup of a contaminated site is not initiated on a voluntary basis, the Minister of DELG has legislated authority to Order(sic) the responsible party to carry out the clean-up”.

    In a follow-up letter to Mr. Carr dated Feb 27, 2020, I enquired what the Department’s reasoning was in its determining that in this case, as he stated, the identified responsible party is not the polluter and is the current property owner. In a reply letter from Mr. Carr dated May 4, 2020, in answer to my question, he stated that “The Town of Sackville, as the property owner, is voluntarily following the Department’s Contaminated Sites Management Process and the environmental contamination is being addressed to the Department’s satisfaction. Therefore, there is currently no need for the Department to take any further actions.”

    Thus, according to the NB Minister of Environment and Local Government, the Town of Sackville volunteered to pay (along with the Provincial and Federal governments) the cost for cleaning up the soil that had been contaminated by CN. In any of the reporting of this issue I have not seen any instance of the Town Managers stating that they had challenged the DELG to adhere to its ‘polluter pays principle’ and order the responsible party (CN) to carry out the clean-up. In May of 2019 Deputy Mayor Aiken stated that “The real villain here is CN Rail who indiscriminately buried large tonnes of toxic junk and now we’re expected to clean it up…I realize going after CN is a completely fruitless exercise because they have more lawyers than we do.” The point that Deputy Mayor Aiken missed was that because of the DELG’s ‘polluter pays principle’, if the Town Management had not volunteered to pay for the clean-up, there would have been no need for the Town to go to court with CN since it was the DELG’s responsibility to order CN to carry out the clean-up. Is it any wonder that Councillor Phinney was so frustrated and disappointed in the manner in which the whole issue had been handled by the senior Town Management?

    It should be stated as well that this reflects very badly on our provincial and federal governments for not fulfilling their commitments to force the parties responsible for polluting to pay for the clean-up costs. As I have mentioned before, the actions (or inactions) of senior Sackville Town Managers and the provincial and federal environment departments have resulted in municipal, provincial, and federal taxpayers being forced to pay for clean-up bills that should have been the responsibility of a large multi-national corporation. Any Sackville Town Councillors who did not demand more detailed answers from the senior Town Managers and look into this matter in a more thorough manner must also share some of the responsibility for this.

  7. Barb Smith says:

    Very well said Les, I also agree that Bruce is the only one looking out for the interests of the taxpayer.

  8. Kata List Productions says:

    That new pond they built for $2million I call the Higham Pond…it’s a lovely legacy…it cannot be easy to be a CAO or a Town Councillor…Burke will have to develop thicker skin if he wants to be successful. I actually think both guys have their strengths…maybe they could just have a beer together and talk shop like real men do…we need a new concrete skatepark and I think I’ve let them both know that… also, this town is really affluent so all the worries people have are needless…we have a really great town.. it’s beautiful.. the envy of a lot of Canadians.. amiright? Living here is like winning a lottery.. I know some want me to move…but I’m loving it here.

  9. Kelly Alder says:

    Ha, hope anyone that was commenting was following tonight’s council meeting. Listening to Burke and Evans get their nickers in a knot over Bruce’s reporting. Looks like the heat is too much for those two to handle. Keep up the great work Bruce Wark.

    • Kata List Productions says:

      Isn’t it great to have some differences of opinions? I love it… I don’t agree with much around this university town but I do love to see people have rigorous debate and hash things out. its what is great about living in the free nation we call Canada. Censorship is a cancer and its going to do a lot of damage if people don’t learn to embrace healthy debate.

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