Tantramar council dismisses formal complaint against Mayor Black over election of deputy mayor

Les Hicks

Sackville resident Les Hicks says he’s having a hard time understanding why Tantramar council dismissed his code of conduct complaint against Mayor Andrew Black.

“After waiting over eight weeks for a response to my complaint, I found it disappointing and troubling that in his letter to me, the deputy mayor simply stated that there had been no violation of the Code of Conduct bylaw, with no explanation as to why council reached that conclusion,” Hicks wrote in an e-mail yesterday to Warktimes.

He was referring to his formal complaint about Black’s actions in blocking the election of a deputy mayor at Tantramar council’s first meeting in January.

Both the old Sackville town bylaw and the new one for Tantramar require council to choose a deputy mayor at its first meeting, but it was not included on the agenda.

When Councillor Debbie Wiggins-Colwell made a motion to add it, her fellow councillors voted in favour, but Black voted no, thereby withholding the unanimous consent required to amend the agenda and putting off any decision until council’s next regular meeting in February.

When the vote was held then, Greg Martin defeated Wiggins-Colwell in a narrow 5-4 vote.

No explanation

Greg Martin speaks of his surprise at his “sudden” election as Tantramar deputy mayor last February

A brief letter dated October 6th from Deputy-Mayor Martin tells Hicks that council met to review and discuss his complaint.

“Council has determined that no violation of the Code of Conduct has been breached,” it adds without further explanation.

An accompanying letter from Mayor Black acknowledges that the election of the deputy mayor should have happened at council’s first meeting.

“I understand the error in this,” Black’s letter adds and promises to follow proper procedure from now on.

The mayor’s letter continues: “Our By-law does state that any modifications to the agenda must be approved by unanimous consent at the meeting, and the mayor does vote on every motion.”

It then suggests that nine months later, members of council and town administrators “now have a better understanding” of the bylaw “and will work together to ensure process is followed.”

To read Deputy-Mayor Martin’s letter, click here.

To read Mayor Black’s letter, click here.

‘Troubling issue’

In his e-mail to Warktimes, Hicks says he was disappointed in Black’s response because the mayor took no responsibility for violating the bylaw.

“The most troubling issue for me was that neither council nor Mayor Black addressed the important question of exactly why the election was excluded from the official agenda and who made that decision,” Hicks writes.

“Was it an error that occurred when preparing the agenda or was it excluded intentionally for some reason?”

In his formal response addressed to both Black and Martin, Hicks reiterates his complaint that the mayor voted against amending the agenda even after Wiggins-Colwell had pointed out that the bylaw requires the election of a deputy mayor at council’s first meeting.

Hicks argues that Black is required under Section 3.d of council’s Code of Conduct to “respect, and adhere to, the established policies, procedures and By-Laws of Tantramar.”

“The facts are very clear and I do not see how Mayor Black’s violation of these By-Laws can be denied by Council,” Hicks writes.

“This might seem like a trivial matter and it might appear that I am personally persecuting Mayor Black but I assure you this is not the case.

“I voted for Mayor Black because of the commitment he made to transparent and accountable governance and I expect him to adhere to this promise.”

To read Hicks’s response, click here.

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4 Responses to Tantramar council dismisses formal complaint against Mayor Black over election of deputy mayor

  1. Percy Best says:

    Even when things are done intentionally by an elected official, it does seem that all they have to do these days is say — “I’m sorry and it won’t happen again now that I have been ‘educated’.” Sadly, I guess real accountability even by a Mayor, is perhaps a thing of the past.

  2. Wayne Feindel keeping council connected with the commuity. says:

    In defence of council in the early sessions of their first duly constuted regular council meetings in which no councilor formerly called a point of order . However their were two members who knew the local codified by- law that the Deputy Mayor be selected at that meeting. Mayor Andrew Black and former Mayor Wiggins- Colwell.
    First of all by appearance, the correct choice was a person from the newly franchised communities. Mayor Black, who is prone to editorializing and voting, could have shown leadership . Now you have a legal problem . Common law has been broken. In the Westminster system (Anglo- America) is pretty air tight for it is based on precedent law honed over time. It is not codified but actually religiously followed because checking out the history of the precedents is expensive for councils.. This is serious stuff and should not be summarily dismissed.. The Mayor aside from the regular meeting, claimed he had not read the federal statutes from which provincial statutes fall. This is an onerous task but it is the duty of care that the Mayor took his oath, never mind the broken promises.. In parliament these codes are piled up where pages can pull statutes that are needed. Council as well should get a broad understanding.. Now this error of judicial judgment ( The Mayor is chief justice of Tantramar and although he can vote he does not vote unless there us a tie And when he votes he votes no, because council is suppose to have the raw facts not filtered by staff. This also is custom which this area has followed when all is said and done citizens are entitled to see every scrap of paper, every receipt, every staff and third-party recommendation⁸ There are a few individual cases that may be kept secret for seven years . If that is not defined than you are open to being charged what’s the act say, “your natural and can sue and be sued. Mr Hicks,the mayor himself as pleased Mia cupable. Once a ctizen points out a lose screw on children’s playground equipment you’ll be pretty damn fast to fix it or post out of order. This is thirty years of experience talking to you. Two things: When I found out that sub- district 2 was only for election purposes and I was not an advocate for Tantramar I didn’t stop ever until I was Suspended for a breach of their ubiquitous silence any one who asks a question.
    2 .Mr Hicks if we were serving him breakfast in Dorchester would have his answer in fifteen days.

  3. Geoff Martin says:

    This was a telling excerpt: “It then suggests that nine months later, members of council and town administrators ‘now have a better understanding” of the bylaw “and will work together to ensure process is followed’.”

    It shows that the staff is disempowered or not effective — The Clerk should know the by-laws better than anyone. The Clerk should have put the election of Deputy Mayor on the agenda. If not, the Clerk is not doing their job. Did someone act to take it off the agenda and if so, why? (Presumably only the Mayor or CAO could direct that the agenda be altered before distribution.) There are more questions to be answered. Woe be us citizens if we are governed by elected people with disempowered or ineffective municipal civil servants.

  4. Percy Best says:

    One thing that I find very troubling is that we all know that our Town of Tantramar Mayor is there to carry out the will of the MAJORITY of the councillors, BUT, eight councillors voted yes and Mayor Black voted NO, and the solitary NO vote got the right to totally overrule the UNANIMOUS councillors vote.

    Something is definitely in need of change when this overbearing mayoral power goes against the councillors’ approved rules and guidelines.

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