‘We’ve lost our way’: Jackson makes no apology for his actions

Coun. John Paul Jackson (left) picks up his briefcase at the conclusion of a Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands council meeting on Monday, July 10, 2017. Jackson has made no apologies for his breach of the council code of conduct, other than to say sorry for exposing the 'darker side' of the municipality. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANSDOWNE – Leeds and the Thousand Islands councillor John Paul Jackson is making no apologies for his actions as he faces an investigation by the integrity commissioner.

But he did say sorry for his part in exposing the “darker side” of the municipality.

In a short statement before council voted Monday night to hire the investigator, Jackson said the governing body has lost its way in serving the citizens of TLTI.

A group of ratepayers – very vocal at times – were in the gallery to hear Jackson’s fate.

“Before I went public and broke the rules governing us through our code of conduct and, yes, I very clearly did break those rules, I sent at least a dozen email to all of council seeking out information and even offering my resignation twice if we could find a resolution to where we are tonight. None of you responded or accepted by offer,” Jackson said.

“We have lost our way. In fact, we have lost sight of who we serve – our residents. No matter how much we believe we are doing the right thing, when they speak, we should be listening. And we are not – clearly.”

Jackson suggested the social media response and numerous replies to an online survey, suggested the public wanted council to be provided with the full investigator’s report before making a decision on the fate of four municipal employees.

Jackson decided to go public with documents and discussion from a private council meeting where the majority of the council was going to fire two managers and suspend two more – something Jackson felt was heavy-handed. The investigator had determined there had been false claims of sexual and workplace harassment against another worker.

“Through this motion, I will be investigated and obviously I’ll be found in breach of our code. I admit to it and accept, obviously, that the majority of you (council) will vote in favour of the harshest of penalties the integrity commissioner can recommend and, that too, I will accept without question,” Jackson said.

“Do I apologize for what I have done? Absolutely not. While that will be part of any recommendation made by the commissioner, it will not be forthcoming. I would do the same thing again for anyone in this room. For you, your husband, your wife, your partner, your son or your daughter. No law is perfect and clearly we have found a flaw in one of ours,” he said.

“At the peak of our tourist season, when we should be publicized as the beautiful place we are with so much community spirit…I, like all of you, am responsible for the negative publicity we are getting and so, yes again, I apologize for my role in showing the darker side of our municipality.”

Jackson maintains that he respects the rules even though he didn’t abide by them in this case.

After his statement, the councillor also put in an amendment to keep the same integrity commissioner on until the Request for Proposals (RFP) are complete in hiring a new commissioner. The municipality is currently operating without one appointed.

Facing pushback from administration, Jackson then amended his motion to include the commissioner investigate “three identifiable individuals of council for abuse of council, abuse of code of conduct and our harassment policy.”

The motion drew and cheer from the audience. Mayor Joe Baptista then asked the audience to refrain from any outbursts.

Coun. Vicki Leakey said she had no problem keeping the integrity commissioner on, even if it meant she would be investigated. “He (Jackson) can be guaranteed that anything I’ve done has been done with integrity and sound decision making. I definitely have no problem…bring it on.”

Coun. Liz Huff found the whole situation “bizarre” about voting on identifiable individuals, something that would typically be held in a private meeting.

That prompted Jackson to challenge the mayor on why he didn’t do that in his case.

“Instead you chose to publicly disclose my name to all of our residents. I’m asking the mayor to explain why,” Jackson said.

“So what you are saying is that wasn’t you on the news telling everybody that you had violated the Municipal Act or the code of conduct. You self-identified when you went to the news,” Mayor Joe Baptista responded.

Jackson then accused the mayor of “grandstanding” as the situation has never happened before in the municipality’s 17-year history.

“Well, certainly nobody has ever done what you’ve done, sir,” the mayor said.

Jackson: “So you’re suggesting..because I broke a rule you can publicly disgrace me?”

Baptista: “I’m not disgracing you. Certainly, the choice is yours.”

The motion to investigate the three members of council was defeated.

The original motion to investigate Jackson was passed soon after.

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