Sackville councillor shocked over suspension of medical benefits

Coun. Bruce Phinney

Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney got a nasty surprise on Sunday when he visited a local pharmacy to get three emergency prescriptions filled and the clerk told him it looked like his medical insurance card had been cancelled.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he says. “This was a complete and utter surprise.”

Phinney paid $72.85 out of his own pocket for prescription pain killers, antibiotics and medication to help him pass the kidney stone that had kept him up the previous night before he drove to the Amherst hospital where he received an X-ray and CT scan along with the prescriptions.

When he phoned Sackville Treasurer Michael Beal to ask about his town-issued medical card, Beal told him council had suspended it for two months along with his pay for breaching the municipal code of conduct.

“I thought it was only my pay that I was going to be deducted,” Phinney says.

“All of a sudden finding out that I’m no longer covered under the medical plan that was given to me as part of the benefits of being an elected councillor…It shocked me when I found that out.”

Council sanctions

Coun. Michael Tower reading July 12 motion to sanction Phinney. He did not refer to any suspension of medical benefits

During its meeting on July 12, while Phinney was visiting family in Alberta, councillors voted to suspend Phinney’s pay for two months, but there was no mention then of any suspension of benefits.

The motion read by Councillor Michael Tower said the sanctions against Phinney included “Suspension of the remuneration paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.”

However, the official minutes of the meeting now read: “Suspension of the remuneration and benefits paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.” [Emphasis added]

Phinney says he has received nothing in writing from the town about the sanctions that were imposed after he publicly questioned town hiring practices and said Mt. A. students who are not from the town shouldn’t be allowed to vote here during municipal elections.

For previous coverage of the sanctions and more details about what Phinney said, click here.

Support for Phinney

Phinney supporter Wendy Alder organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised $1,461 to replace his lost pay when she learned about the sanctions against him.

In an e-mail to Warktimes today, she expressed surprise.

“Wow! There’s nothing in what I recall from the meetings that referenced benefits being cancelled,” she wrote.

Alder added she can’t believe that Phinney was sanctioned for what he said.

“The whole thing is unfair IMO, it’s bullying at its best.”

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25 Responses to Sackville councillor shocked over suspension of medical benefits

  1. Christian Corbet says:

    Perhaps the new CAO will uncover other breaches by councilors? Perhaps town council has a few skeletons stashed away that might soon be exposed. Seems like a witch hunt? Grab your popcorn folks there might be a proverbial ***** show in the coming months!

  2. Louis says:

    That’s really quite “charming”. I’ve seen the same kind of attitude elsewhere: attacking medical benefits as a way of bullying people.

    Someone should comment about Bill Evans, WHO IS ON THE BOARD OF THE HOSPITAL FOUNDATION, and his vote record with respect to this – and how he feels about denying someone medical coverage…

    I’m sure that there was a disconnect between the (inappropriate) suspension and this outcome, OF COURSE.

    But let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth…

    And let’s see it getting fixed.

    Because anyone who has any authority over this and isn’t working to fix it is de facto agreeing with it.

    This is a sick and ugly little town.

    • Thomas Brown says:

      You are more than welcome to leave this sick and ugly little town.

      Bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out 🙂

      • Azi says:

        and ofcourse Thomas, you can stay and enjoy watching how some people make other people feel misreable and suffer. What is your message Thomas? That you love this town so much that you donot want to see its problems and leave all issues as is? Remove your rose glasses…Who in their right mind approves cutting a senior citizens medical insurance? All Sackville citizens should be ashamed of themselves for allowing these things to happen to this responsible councilor, to volunteers of this town, to fire fighters fighters,…

    • Susan says:

      I agree. I also think Andrew Black should have been sanctioned for walking out in the middle of the CEO hiring process. One of the most important responsibilities for this new town and he walked out like a big baby. The double standard is glaring. This council is slimy, so hopefully some of this slime gets skimmed off in the next election.

  3. Tim Reiffenstein says:

    Councillor Phinney was suspended not, as indicated above, for publicly questioning town hiring practices. Rather his colleagues unanimously voted to suspend him because he blabbed confidential information in doing so. I am sure other colleagues would like to gain popular support for similar stunts, but to do so is uncolleagial, unprofessional, and goes against the rules. They probably grew tired of his antics and applied the rules, which nobody should be above.

    Comment from Bruce Wark: Here’s a transcript of what Phinney actually said during a town council meeting on Feb. 14, 2022:

    “I’ll be voting against this Hiring Policy because I feel that we’re still using the same method we’ve been using for some time, and in the meantime during those, that time we’ve had a number of — it’s to me what I would call unfair hiring practice — that’s because of the fact that, some of the people actually even in the town feel the same way, where family members are being hired and then, also to me, there was one that I felt was a conflict of interest, so because of that, I think actually we should engage with a human resource management expert to turn around and help with the hiring, so that’s how I feel.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow really Tim? Are you running next election ?

      • Thomas Brown says:

        Why are you afraid of putting your real name to this comment?

        What do you have to hide?

        Why are you offended by Tim’s knowledge on town affairs?

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Tim. You support town council’s decision to reprimand Councillor Phinney because he ‘blabbed confidential information’. I presume therefore that you would also support several other councillors being reprimanded for discussing confidential information in their comments during town council meetings about the work experience and qualifications of the successful candidate for the CAO position for the new entity called Tantramar, Jennifer Borne, because they were upset that THEIR preferred candidate, Mr. Burke, wasn’t successful in the competition. Bruce Wark, Erica Butler, and members of the public are constantly being stymied from obtaining information of public interest from Town Council and staff because of supposed confidentiality concerns in matters related to personnel. Check out Bruce’s previous reporting on this issue and the videos of the town council meetings and you will see the hypocrisy and inconsistency displayed by our Town Council. From your comment I would hazard a guess that you have not followed this story very closely.

      • Tim Reiffenstein says:

        Hi Les. I have actually followed the contours of this story for some time, and think occasionally folks miss the forest for the trees. So, yes, I disagree with Bruce Wark’s framing of the story (which takes nothing away from his otherwise excellent local journalism). This is hardly the first time Councilor Phinney has painted outside the lines. He objected to the code of conduct being introduced and was unanimously outvoted. He then immediately proceeded to break the code of conduct.- imagine having the luxury to break any rule/law you don’t agree with? And then this most recent transgression for which he was financially sanctioned. For any institution/organization to function, certain norms and conventions need to observed, what Robert North calls the ‘rules of the game’. I find it so strange that the other councilors are being vilified for establishing guardrails by agreeing to how the game should be played and then following those rules. Councilor Phinney has been on council so long he fancies himself a Duke, and behaves as such. It’s almost like he could shoot somebody in broad daylight on Bridge Street and his local apologists would immediately rally to his defense.

      • Tim Reiffenstein says:

        I say all of the above recognizing that in no way does this sanction define Councillor Phinny. He is wildly popular. His odds of making it on Sackville Town Council have been probably the safest bet in the political universe – not sure what will happen when Entity 40 comes on line. On the issues he does his own form of homework diligently. I think folks appreciate this. Sometimes I agree with his stance, sometimes not. However, on this whole matter of the code of conduct I am completely on side with the rest of his colleages.

  4. Susan says:

    This has to be the lowest of the lows for this Town. I agree with Louis, this is a sick and ugly little town. It can’t change hands soon enough. What Bruce said was nothing. I heard worst from other councillors. It certainly wasn’t a reason to deny his abilities to obtain medical coverage.

  5. Andrew Nurse says:

    I will say that I am shocked. Suspending health benefits without notification is a truly rotten thing to do. I don’t think it really matters what one thinks of this councillor one way or the other, I am horrified that the other members of council decided to attack someone else’s health. I had thought they were above this. I was wrong.

  6. Barb Smith says:

    I had hoped for better decisions with the new members of council, however I guess not. Some of the councilors do not like Bruce because he tells it like it is, we have too many there who just go along with whatever the mayor and CAO suggest. Cutting Bruce’s medical off without telling him is just wrong. Sure hope things are done differently with the new entity 40. I am ashamed to admit I live in a town that would do something so small.

    • Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

      Councilor Phinney is still a councilor of the Town of Sackville and entitled to all other benefits that are part and parcel of being a councilor. I don’t think he has the money to defend himself and that is why the Code of Conduct legislation is so dangerous. Whisper campaigns of possible use of the Code of Conduct have been used to remove people whose employment is based on their stellar reputations. These members often leave quietly. As a very public person, I asked for the education council to take me on at a regular constituted meeting. No. Privacy concerns of those who made the allegations. Instead I was to be taken down by the province’s own private police. Stayed on anyway. Dorchester School survived, but image tarnished. I was not reelected.

  7. Jon says:

    So the council is not merely petty and vindictive, it falsified the minutes to include an additional sanction that wasn’t mentioned in the motion they voted on?

    • Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People. says:

      Unless Councilor Phinney is actually removed from office he is protected by the same insurances as other councilors. It is a good thing that this councilor is not ligatious. Big money for the Moncton lawyers who have affiliations with some councilors if there is a legal challenge.

  8. Thomas Brown says:

    Hey, maybe call me crazy. I’m going to wait for both sides of the story before I pass judgment. I won’t be surprised if we hear next week that Bruce was indeed told that his medical benefits would be suspended as well as his pay during this period, and that he was simply in Alberta when they called.

    • Louis says:

      … and that would make it okay?

      • Thomas Brown says:

        Bruce flagrantly breaks the code of conduct.

        Yeah, if you are told you are on suspension without pay and benefits for deliberately breaking rules, that’s on you.

        Bruce is a populist though and his cronies will die on the hill that the man should be able to say and do whatever he wants without repercussion.

  9. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    People. people what are you thinking. After all is said and done every bit of these machinations could have been done in open council. The so called CODE OF CONDUCT legislation is a quasi Facist tool ( As in big business and governments running the show-John Ralston Saul) A clever instrument to shut people down who actually think and seek the truth hoping they will resign as many do before their stellar reputations are ruined .without even a public trial. Why didn’t council just give Bruce a cup of hemlock and be done with it.. Brian dead????? God forbid I beginning to think that forced amalgamation is a good idea. Please read THE FIVE LAWS OF STUPIDITY. Although hung at the end of war Dietrich Bohoeffer laid out what real evil is when leaders go a stray. The town also adopted Robert’s Rules of order. It allows for a public trial of public persons behind closed door. Municipal councilors are going to have to have the same privileges as MLA”s if they are going to continue to be accidently stupid.
    Soon as you hear government mention the word Code of Conduct get a lawyer. The municipal government should pay the court costs of providing a representative. What if councilor Bruce is actually telling the truth, then privacy law cannot and should not be used to support bad policies.. If it were ever thus.

  10. I.P. Freely says:

    Anyone know the weather forecast?

  11. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    Good call Citizen Thomas.
    Can’t go wrong with two sides to every story.
    The present council seem to have little instinct for procedure. Their conception of what is right is a waste of time and money. Employing a separate Code of Conduct to to negate debate of interpretation of the wording that has not been tested in court is passing the buck.. It is so nebulous as to what the greater indefinite community good actually is that all of council could be suspended. Outside of the the many powers and tools that council may employ is in point of fact to exercise the responsibilities of a deliberative council. Debate,debate decide……… Pawning off responsibility to a Code of Conduct laced with nebulous over generalization as to what the indefinite common good means does not cut it. Just plain sloppy. The failure of a member, or members to participate in decision-making has led this council to break down. Our whole system of justice, freedom, and democracy is threatened. Councilor Bruce was elected under universal suffrage and has the same rights as other Canadian Citizens. Removing medical benefits for saying something non-criminal is not acceptable by any standard. (Which by the way Dorchester inmates are guaranteed) Well Poo on a stick! Do I have to run for the new Tantramar Mayor. I’m in the 80 club. Is this politically correct!
    “Jumpin’Jehaphat !”

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