Costs to the Town of Hawkesbury resulting from a controversial council meeting on June 16, 2020, have now reached $565,494.32, according to a report presented to council on October 25.
The costs have accumulated from legal and administrative fees associated with complaints to the Integrity Commissioner, and of a defence attorney the town has had to hire for itself in legal action taken against it by Mayor Paula Assaly involving one of the complaints to the Integrity Commissioner.
On June 16, 2020, three municipal employees were dismissed during a closed session council meeting. The mayor had approached three members of council prior to the meeting to secure the votes required to approve the terminations. Other members of council allege they were not given prior notifications of the terminations being added to the meeting agenda. Then-Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Daniel Gatien objected to the way in which council was addressing the terminations. Knowledge of the terminations became public following the closed session, although no official announcement of the terminations was made.
Since the meeting, Assaly has been subject to two complaints to the Integrity Commissioner. The results of the second complaint were received by council on September 27. Three out of five sanctions recommended by Integrity Commissioner Valerie McGarry were rejected by council.
According to the report presented by Chief Administrative Officer Dominique Dussault on October 25, costs associated with the events following the June 16, 2020, decisions increased by $140,534.94 in October 2021. The greatest expense was $78,252.24 for the town’s legal defence against an effort by Assaly seeking a stay of one of the Integrity Commissioner’s reports. Costs associated with the Integrity Commissioner’s investigations total $58,922.70 for October 2021, and another $3,360 in other legal fees associated with labour relations were incurred during the same month.
There was little discussion or debate by council on the report. The motion to receive it was moved by Councillor Robert Lefebvre and seconded by Councillor Raymond Campbell.