A report by municipal Integrity Commissioner in Alfred and Plantagenet has found Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin became too involved in municipal administration, which affected relations among council members. The situation is improving however, and council needs to keep it that way.
According to the report by Integrity Commissioner John Saywell, he received complaints on February 12 and February 17 that Sarrazin had violated the municipal Code of Conduct. Due to the similarity of the complaints and the proximity of the dates when they were filed, Saywell decided to conduct a single investigation. Saywell was not present at the July 13 council meeting when the report was received.
Using video of past council meetings, Saywell identified that interpersonal conflicts were evident among members of council and that Councillors René Beaulne and Suzanne Lafrance had “lost their esteem” for Sarrazin and that personalities and emotions “got the better of legitimate debates of council.”
The report specifically mentions debates involving library funding, environmental policy, and an evaluation mechanism for senior personnel. Complaints involved Sarrazin becoming involved in administrative activities of the municipality that exceeded his political role.
“In the whole, testimony indicates that Mayor Sarrazin did not always respect the limitations placed on the powers of elected officials,” wrote Saywell.
Saywell stated however, that the mayor’s intrusion did facilitate the management of the municipality and the desire for the mayor to be involved in micro-management of activities as the municipal office is shared among other members of council. Saywell also identified that the present councillors have little experience as elected officials and the former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) had no previous experience in municipal government.
Saywell wrote that relations and trust among council and administrative staff have improved since the appointment of present CAO Michel Potvin in January 2021.
The reported concluded that Sarrazin adopted a habit of involving himself directly in municipal administration during the first two years of his mandate.
Saywell also cited a recently revised Code of Conduct and council training exercise have resulted in positive change with respect to interpersonal relationships among council members.
“In the opinion of all, if there was a problem, the problem had been resolved,” wrote Saywell.
To conclude, Saywell determined it was better to focus on the progress recently achieved than to revisit past issues. The only recommendations he made were for council to recognize the efforts to overcome conflictual relationships and to resolve to put historical conflicts behind them without any grudges.
Council adopted Saywell’s report and recommendations without any discussion.
Sarrazin stands by actions
In an interview with The Review, Sarrazin said his involvement with the administration resulted from him being elected with a mandate to make changes in the municipality. He noted the township did not have a CAO or Chief Building Official when he was elected in 2018.
“The evolution of the municipality was strongest in the past three years than in the past 10 to 15 years. We needed to catch up because we are in 2021.”
Sarrazin has made efforts to improve how the township communicates with residents, responds to complaints, and manages its assets.
“I was elected by the people to do some changes,” the mayor noted.
Sarrazin said the mood among councillors is much better now and the issues of concern were not always the fault of other councillors.