A storm in a teacup at the North Grenville Council table became a little more serious last week, when Councillor Barb Tobin took issue with the Mayor and a fellow Councillor, Donovan Arnaud, accusing them, effectively, of lying to Council and to her. She also accused Councillor Arnaud of going against rules and resolutions of Council. It was quite a serious charge to level against Council members.
It began when Donovan Arnaud, in his capacity as Chair of the Economic Development Committee, tried to bring together the Chamber of Commerce and the Kemptville BIA, and seemed to have got their agreement to share office space and staff in an effort to be more efficient and productive. With that in mind, he attended a meeting of the Library Board to see about getting a room at the Library on Prescott Street for the use of the Chamber and BIA. It seems his approach was rather heavy-handed, in the view of the Board, and they felt he was forcing them into giving up the room, in spite of the fact that Council had passed a Resolution some time ago, and before Councillor Arnaud was appointed, giving the Board jurisdiction over the room and its use.
The Councillor, once the Resolution was brought to his attention, admitted at the Committee of the Whole last week that he had acted in ignorance. The issue seemed to be resolved at that point. To make the entire matter somewhat moot, the NG Chamber of Commerce announced that they were not interested in the Library room, having their eye, instead, on a space in the Municipal Centre now occupied by Big Brothers – Big Sisters.
This was not enough for Councillor Tobin, however, who has always claimed what might be called a special relationship with the Library. The impression is that she was almost solely responsible for the Library’s existence. Following the meeting of Council, she informed the media that: “This is all political; downright out political. Councillor Bertram told me there had been a Board meeting. I came to members of Council and asked for an explanation, to explain to me what was going on. Unfortunately, they didn’t give me the same story. I play by the rules, I play by the policy.”
She rejected the claim by Councillor Arnaud that he had not known about the Resolution giving the room to the Board, and stated that both he and the Mayor had, in fact, known of it. “It’s the rules for me. I know information was gathered, and from my research I also know that the two people involved were very aware there was a Resolution in play. That’s why I said to them [at the Committee of the Whole], I always do my homework. The first conversation I had with one of those people [they] forgot I always do my homework, so I got a different story about how all that played out. I don’t like throwing anyone under the bus, we all make mistakes, but there’s a rule in play and I can’t break them”.
It seems that Councillor Tobin was not happy with the way the entire issue had been dealt with, both in public and in private, by Council. Contradictory accounts of events seem to have reached her, and she felt it important to bring it before the public:
“It’s the process. It’s all process for me, it’s the rules, and it’s all the transparency of that. We all have one vote and that’s the important part. This is not to throw anyone under the bus, it’s to say that this doesn’t seem right to me, I’m going to have to discuss this in public. My conscience is clear, and I never throw anyone under the bus without letting them pull their foot out first. It didn’t happen, for me.”
This is not an official Council situation, as Councillor Arnaud was acting unilaterally in approaching the Library Board. CAO of the Municipality, Brian Carré, pointed out that “Staff were not involved in any way, shape or form with that initiative”.
Councillor Arnaud commented simply that “I have no comment. This issue, as far as I am concerned, is over and forgotten. I have moved on”. It seemed a sensible decision.