Report results in sanctions against Mayor Assaly

Gregg Chamberlain
EAP
Mayor Paula Assaly is under sanction now from Hawkesbury council as a result of a report from Integrity Commissioner John Saywell.

“If there is one person more disappointed, it's me,” said Mayor Assaly during the March 8 council session, “because I really wanted the chance to sit down with you (Sayer) and review the complaint so that you and I could have a learning exercise. Because I thought from the presentation that you've already made to the council, and other presentations that I've already heard from you, that you're looking to see if there's a middle ground. And for me, the disappointment is that I didn't have the opportunity to sit down with you and do a learning exercise. I think the two of us could have learned a lot from each other.”

Assaly’s comment followed Integrity Commissioner John Saywell’s summary of an investigation that began November 19 2020 and finished with a report filed to council at the end of December 2020. The investigation dealt with complaints that the mayor exceeded her authority and interfered in administration operations. That included declaring a closed session of council without giving either the chief administrator or the town clerk prior notice during which meeting council approved dismissals of senior staff.

Other complaints concerned Assaly’s behavior towards some senior staff members as abusive to the point of harassment so that several people quit their positions as a result. Also Sayer investigated allegations that the mayor breached confidentiality through communications with third parties without council’s consent, and that she put herself in a conflict of interest by trying to interfere with the investigation of complaints of harassment by herself towards certain municipal employees.

In his report Saywell noted that there are grounds for support of the administrative interference complaints, the harassment complaints, and the conflict of interest charge. He said there was not sufficient evidence to support the breach of confidence allegation.

The mayor argued that Saywell “failed to fulfill his legal obligations as integrity commissioner” by not allowing either her or her administrative assistant to answer questions as part of the investigation. She also claimed the report contains several “fall allegations” against her, and she has asked for a judicial review of Saywell’s report.

Meanwhile council voted 4 to 1 to accept the report and its three recommendations.

Those recommendations include public apologies to Daniel Gatien, former chief administrative officer, Nicole Trudeau, former director of recreation and tourism, and to Dominique Dussault, current acting chief administrative officer and the town’s human resources director.

Assaly must take 24 hours worth of training from a professional management coach. She is also not allowed to participate in council’s committee of the whole session until a new chief administrator for the town is hired and she has met the obligations of the other two sanctions.