At a special meeting of Carleton Place Council, held in the upper town hall auditorium on Oct 16, members present received an integrity commissioner’s report from newly appointed commissioner Tony Fleming. The report was initiated based on a complaint received on July 11 of this year that indicated Mayor Louis Antonakos contravened the council code of conduct in regards to his interactions with municipal staff.
Fleming, of the Kingston law firm, Cunningham Swan, outlined the steps taken to verify the validity of the complaint, compile and review evidence, and interview key personnel. He concluded that Antonakos acted improperly when he gave directions to staff without council approval, and that he spend a disproportionate amount of time on one local developer with regards to by-law enforcement. Fleming noted his surprise and concern that a number of town staff refused to answer certain investigation questions in confidence, expressing fear of reprisal. Although the July complaint alleged Antonakos was guilty of harassment, Fleming did not come to that conclusion but did find that some behaviour was inappropriate and suggested the mayor take some sensitivity training. Fleming did not recommend any financial penalty, but instead suggested that council and the CAO develop a clearly defined working relationship between the mayor and the CAO and that the mayor cease giving direction to the CAO.
Before the larger than average audience of approximately 80 in attendance, the mayor proposed the report be received and filed, but Councilor Theresa Fritz rose to move that council be permitted to make statements regarding the report and its findings. She remarked that a public notice in the town hall’s reception area pointed out the rights of employees to work in an harassment-free environment and that the mayor’s actions were a major threat to that pledge. She also took exception to the mayor’s documented email content indicating he thought the CAO was “a little flakey”. Fritz condemned the mayor for his demeaning comment about a town admin leader she felt had an educational and career background that put her at the top of her field. Fritz was followed by Councilor Brian Doucet, Deputy Mayor Jerry Flynn, and Councilor Sean Redmond in delivering statements critical of the mayor’s actions. Councilors Doug Black and Ross Trimble did not rise to make any comments.
Antonakos closed off the discussion by stating that the complaint was based solely on 2 letters (emails) from and to him, the CAO, town planner, and an anonymous complainant using the email handle ‘carletonpcrap’. He provided copies to members of the gallery and attending media reps. The printed pages covered strongly worded complaints from carletonpcrap about someone dumping materials illegally in town. The mayor’s provided communications with staff were highly critical of senior town management’s actions on this and other files.
In the end, council did adopt 1 of several recommendations from Integrity Commissioner Fleming; to prohibit the mayor from interacting with any member of town staff, save the CAO Diane Smithson. That motion was passed with only Antonakos abstaining and all others voting in favour.