Purdy told to leave closed door meeting on his actions

Heather Wright Photo

Petrolia Councillor Grant Purdy was forced to leave the closed door meeting that ended with council agreeing to call for an investigation of his actions.
Both Purdy and Councillor Ross O’Hara say Mayor John McCharles repeatedly asked Purdy to leave so he could not defend himself against the accusations which led to an investigator being called in.
While councillors are not supposed to reveal what happens in a closed door session, both are so outraged by what happened they don’t care if there will be repercussions.
Purdy says after council had heard the report into CAO Manny Baron and taken action, a new discussion began – one he was not to be part of. “The mayor was the one originally suggested that I leave,” says Purdy.
“I said ‘I think I’d like to stay.’ I remained in my seat, a minute or so passed, the mayor stated to me some advice he had gotten said it would be in my best interest to leave because me having knowledge of what was being said would be bad for me if I talked to the integrity commissioner.
“I left that room not knowing anything other than I’m the one some people see to have a problem with,” says Purdy.
O’Hara, who was in the room at the time, confirmed Purdy was pressured to leave the closed door meeting so he could not present his side of the story.
“They asked him to leave, they pressured him to leave,” O’Hara tells The Independent.
The veteran councillor was offended by the move.
“They can’t push him out, they can’t make him leave but they kept insisting that it would have been better for him to leave.”
O’Hara says if council was trying to remove him from a meeting, they would have had to carry him out, but notes this is Purdy’s first term and perhaps he wasn’t aware he didn’t have to leave.
Purdy only became aware council wanted an investigation into his actions when the motion was read in open council minutes after the closed door meeting was complete.
And while he hasn’t been informed by council what his alleged offence is, Purdy suspects his comments in local media leading up to the CAO’s resignation form the basis of it.
“To me, the timing of this given the recent report about the CAO and my being outspoken about it being made public, and now I’m being investigated I find that incredibly ironic.”
O’Hara was still incensed by the majority of council’s action nearly a week after it happened saying Purdy is being treated unfairly.
“How do you defend yourself if you don’t what you are accused of?” O’Hara asked The Independent.
“I’m not saying Grant hasn’t done anything wrong, but I question the fact when all of the sudden we’re dealing with a municipal employee, then an issue comes out against a municipal councillor.”
O’Hara added; “We could have dealt with this internally…they’ve bullied Grant since the day he was on council.”
Purdy is equally frustrated. “This whole thing is complete nonsense the way everything is handled. This garbage has to stop. We need to be running things with accountability and transparency. Enough is enough.”
The councillors are not the only ones who find Purdy’s departure from the meeting unusual.
Andrew Sancton is a retired political science professor and a noted expert on municipal affairs. Sancton isn’t sure why Purdy should have been excluded.
“He doesn’t have a pecuniary (monetary) interest in this, so I don’t understand where there would be a conflict of interest,” he tells The Independent adding the issue of Purdy’s behaviour shouldn’t have been dealt with behind closed doors anyway.
“I don’t know why they would be justified having the second item (after Baron’s resignation)in camera,” says Sancton. “I certainly don’t know why he should be excluded.”
Sancton adds if the reason behind the investigation is Purdy’s outspokenness, it may not hold water.
“Most codes of conduct do have provisions to respect staff and not disparage them,” he says.
“But if a councillor thinks there is some serious problems about how the municipality is administered and is stating that publicly is not a violation of  most codes of conduct… Individual councillors shouldn’t mess around with how staff members do their job, but they do have a collective responsibility to make sure the administration functions properly.
“If a councillor doesn’t think it functions properly it is their job to point that out.”
The Independent contacted the mayor and members of council who voted to investigate Purdy’s actions by email mid-day Tuesday.
McCharles, in an email suggested the motion from council would answer any questions.  He did not explain why he felt Purdy should be excluded from the meeting.
It’s not clear if an investigator has been hired, who it is or if the work has begun.