Sackville councillor vows to challenge suspension of medical benefits

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Sackville Councillor Bruce Phinney says he’s considering the best way to challenge council’s two-month suspension of his life, health and dental insurance after someone added words to a motion that council passed in July to authorize it.

“I’m just not going to let this go because it’s wrong,” he said today during a telephone interview.

Phinney was in Alberta visiting family on July 12th when council unanimously passed a motion imposing sanctions against him for violating council’s code of conduct by publicly questioning the town’s hiring policies and suggesting university students who are not originally from Sackville shouldn’t be allowed to vote in municipal elections here.

The sanctions included:

Suspension of the remuneration paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months.

Phinney says he understood that his pay was being suspended, but had no idea his benefits were included until he visited a pharmacy on September 4th to have three emergency prescriptions filled and was told his card had been cancelled.

When he asked town officials what was happening, they e-mailed him a motion from the minutes of the July 12th meeting that read:

Suspension of the remuneration and benefits paid to Councillor Phinney for a period of two months. (Emphasis added).

“Someone changed that motion after the fact and that’s unacceptable,” Phinney says. “I’m not going to let them get away with this, at least not if I can help it.”

‘Too extreme’

When council met last week, Councillor Michael Tower said he would not have moved the motion sanctioning Phinney if he had known that his benefits would be suspended along with his pay.

Councillor Michael Tower

“The benefits were mentioned during our [previous closed-door] discussion,” Tower said.

“I didn’t agree with that part of it and when I got the motion to read and it did not include benefits [that] was the reason why I made that motion,” he told council.

“I wouldn’t have made it if I felt benefits were part of it.”

In a later e-mail to Warktimes, Tower explained that while he accepted an outside investigator’s recommendation to suspend Phinney’s remuneration: “No where in the report did it mention suspending benefits.”

He added that he’s especially concerned that Phinney was not notified about the suspension of his benefits.

“I think taking away health benefits is more of a personal action and too extreme,” Tower wrote in his e-mail.

“It concerns me, too, that after the motion was read and passed by council, the suspension of benefits was added to the motion in the minutes.”

‘A little error’

When questioned about the added words at last week’s council meeting, CAO Jamie Burke described it as “a little error in the minutes.”

He said he had talked to a legal representative who advised that “the commonly understood legal definition of remuneration includes benefits,” and added that the additional words had not changed the meaning of the motion.

Councillors Allison Butcher and Bill Evans said they understood that remuneration would include Phinney’s benefits.

To read previous coverage of this issue, click here and here.

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12 Responses to Sackville councillor vows to challenge suspension of medical benefits

  1. Louis says:

    Councillors Allison Butcher and Bill Evans said they understood that remuneration would include Phinney’s benefits.

    Nothing surprises me from these two.


  2. Christian Corbet says:

    I laud Councillor Phinney for challenging Town Council on many issues, he shows he’s a man of integrity.
    As for Burke, good riddens!

  3. Christian Corbet says:

    Removing Phinney’s health benefits jeopardizes the health of Phinney. If the town had a a qualified human resources person then Phinney would have been made aware of this decision and he could have fairly questioned the process.
    Is Town Council corrupt or just seriously incompetent?

  4. Azi says:

    These councillors and the present CAO think they are so perfect that they can get together and punish another councillor while:
    – some of them do not understand the meaning of what they voted for
    – some do not care about the repercussions of what they voted for
    – one (or a few?) of them revised the motion in the official minutes (and none of them knows who!)
    – and none of them read the minutes after all.

    My conclusion from all of these is that this group of councillors are just bunch of irresponsible people who enjoy maltreating their own colleague. For that they care less if all of the taxpayers’ money is wasted on their personal issues in the town hall.

  5. Jon says:

    Keep this situation in mind on November 28, when we elect 8 new councillors and a new mayor for Tantramar.

  6. Susan says:

    “Councillors Allison Butcher and Bill Evans said they understood that remuneration would include Phinney’s benefits.” So at least these two openly amitted to being complete douche bags. However, most of us knew that all ready.

  7. SUE.M says:

    I think the whole situation was shady. The discussions shouldn’t have been made when he was out of province. He should have had the chance to rebuttal if he felt it necessary. Councillors should be permitted to give their opinions publicly without sanctions you know freedom to have an opinion. His benefits shouldn’t have been suspended at all. I’m sure most other situations where there is a suspended position their health benefits are not cancelled. That is disgusting and a very shady thing to do.

  8. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    I take it that council approved the motion without amendments to the original one. If so, you cannot add words and just claim the intent was the same. Certainly not by the CAO. As a former Mayor, with serious matters such as the use of the Code of Conduct, I insisted that the motion be at least in writing preferably beforehand. In point of fact something as serious as punishing an elected official should have a Notice of motion in which the motion is clearly written as to its intent. As Mayor, I would have it read out loud carefully again before instructing that the motion be called, and once again when the results of the vote were known. At this time, I would turn to the clerk or CAO and order it to be done. It would appear that council is pretty slack in following Robert’s Rules, thinking that they hinder, rather than help.

    Yes “a little error in the minutes” cost the Town of Sackville a lot of money and angst. Accurate minutes provide references for the future and can help prevent misunderstandings. At the very least in the next meeting’s minutes the corrections should be made.

    I’m surprised that the CAO can spend money soliciting many experts to weigh in on this issue. Who are these experts? Name them please. Otherwise, the CAO’s opinion is a logical fallacy. (Appeal to an authority) and that authority may not in fact exist.

    • Barb Smith says:

      I think our CAO has turned many things over to so called experts over his years working in Sackville and most of the reports the town has never seen. My question is, how do we know these people are real experts?

  9. Barb Smith says:

    This is just one more disgusting piece of work by our town council and CAO. We should all remember this racket when the new town elections happen in November, AND GET OUT AND VOTE I have come to the conclusion that our council must just be there for the social aspect as Bruce seems to be the only one there trying to keep business in our town on the up and up. Most of this crew are just there to agree with the CAO and the mayor. Shame on you. And yes Bruce, I will vote for you in a heartbeat. What the town did to you is just wrong.

  10. Kata List Productions says:

    Thanks for the indepth coverage of this sh*tshow Bruce Wark.

    I am looking forward to what the new group of elected officials bring to the table in Tantramashire…. a place that is ready to bloom and prosper with good leadership.

    I love this region and I don’t ever take for granted how amazing this part of Canada is — give thanks for your blessings as we head into another season — remember to have those uncomfortable conversations with others around you – democracy happens every single day with every interaction to undertake with others… but I agree with Christian Corbet on Jamie Burke’s removal as CAO.. I’m sure he will land on his feet in a new impressive role for the technocracy – he is so well trained.

  11. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    Looking further into Councilor’s Phinney’s case there are so many violations of Robert’s rules that the council needs a Parliamentarian expert not a group of legal squirts. As far as I can tell not one councilor and that includes the mayor called a point of order on councilor Phinney. That is the time in which his worship the mayor would make a ruling. The Code of conduct has to go. Why for the same reason that you cannot call a fellow member a liar. The provincial Code of Conduct as mandated by the BRAIN DEAD is a direct attack on democracy. The trouble is having a vote does not fix stupid. If centralizing municipal government could actually change anything it would be made illegal. Corporatism, also known as fascism, was first noted in President Rutherford B. Hayes’ diary in 1888. He observed that the USA ceased being a government for the people and had been replaced by government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation”. You may now get at your local bookstore or on Amazon, NEW BRUNSWICK IS BRAIN DEAD: A coma around the corner.

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