Fall out from Petrolia staff/council relations investigation likely this week

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There will be fall out after an investigation into a conflict between staff and council in Petrolia; but what that is remains to be seen.

Petrolia council is expected to release “summary” of a report on the issue by Investigator John Fleming this week after meeting to discuss his report Monday in a special in camera (private) meeting.

Fleming – who in 2017 reviewed the activities of the then CAO Manny Baron – was tasked with investigating a “staff/council relations” issue. What that issue was has not been released publicly.

However, council deemed it serious enough in September have the CAO “gather further information and report back to council when able.” Fleming arrived in Petrolia to investigate in early November.

Town council met Monday afternoon to review the report in private. After the meeting, Clerk Mandi Pearson read a report from the in camera session but few details are being released.

The report from the meeting stated council spoke with Fleming during the meeting. He had interviewed 16 people including all of council and a number of employees and reviewed everything from council minutes, notes and communications and town policies.

Pearson also reported Fleming had consulted with the law firm which acts as the town’s Integrity Commissioner. Aird and Berlis also received a copy of Fleming’s report.

“Through the findings of Mr. Flemings report, Mayor Loosley noted actions he would be implementing with council, (CAO Rick) Charlebois was also provided direction in relation to staff,” the news release issued by the town stated. It was not clear what those actions might be.

The release also said a summary of the report would be released “later this week” following the rules of the Municipal Freedom of Information Privacy and Protection Act. Generally, the act does not allow information about specific employees to be released if it becomes part of their work record.

The Independent contacted Mayor Loosley Monday evening about the in camera meeting. Initially, he refused release even the public motion read at the council meeting or to comment other than to say a news release would be issued in the morning. He added he didn’t want to relay the information verbally because it was “too complex” and he was concerned The Independent “would get the details wrong.” Later, the information was released via email although the mayor said it was not “the normal practice” to do so on the same day.

The Independent was unable to attend the meeting where the information was read into the record due to staffing issues. It was also unable to review the council meeting – which was held virtually – afterward because Petrolia, unlike other municipal councils – has a policy not to record or post its public council meetings.