Integrity commissioner clears Rombouts

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Mayor Jackie Rombouts visited friends John and Teresa Lammers at the Ottawa protest voicing her support for the demonstration which started Jan. 28.

Robert Swayze says the mayor’s support of the Freedom Convoy’s goals ‘inappropriate’ as a mayor but was clearly her personal opinion

Warwick’s Integrity Commissioner says it may have been “inappropriate behaviour” for the mayor to publicly voice her support of the convoy, but she did nothing wrong.

The township council sought the opinion of Robert Swayze after Mayor Jackie Rombouts visited a friend in Ottawa who was part of a three-week demonstration and publicly supported the protests which called for the end to all COVID-19 mandates. The protests are organized by Canada Unity, a group calling for the removal of the present government without an election.

A smaller protest also blocked Highway 402 at the same time, sending thousands of transports down Warwick roads. That led to frustrated residents calling the township.

Councillors publicly denounced the protest and voiced concern the mayor had “gone rogue” making it appear the municipality approved of the actions. “There’s been a total disregard of our council, of the staff of Warwick Township, of the community through this; a person’s actions who are in a place of leadership within a community do matter. I am appalled,” said White at the time.

Council unanimously voted to ask Swayze for an opinion on whether Rombouts broke any rules in the Code of Conduct.

In a letter to council, Swayze says “the vast majority” of the feedback the municipality received were against Rombouts comments. “These are complaints to council and not to me as Integrity Commissioner. If council wishes to pursue this, I recommend that it obtain legal advice as to possible actions council can take,” he wrote.

But Swayze says it is clear the mayor was not speaking for council. “The correspondence refers to statements made by the mayor all in the first person and I am unable to find any direct statement by her that her policy was the policy of the township. In addition, the township has issued a statement denying that the Mayor’s opinions are the opinions of the township,” he wrote.

“While I readily agree that making these statements is inappropriate behaviour as a mayor and likely to lead to the wrong conclusion by the public, I must preserve freedom of expression for any member of council. I cannot find that they are contrary to the Code or the Social Media Policy.”

Councillors Monday accepted the opinion and asked the staff to draft a media release about Swayze’s conclusion.

“This needs to get across to the public there’s been no wrongdoings and that council is moving forward past this,” said Councillor Wayne Morris as he asked for the news release to be drafted. All of council agreed.

“I appreciate the response and I hope that we, as a council, can move forward together and move on from this,” said Rombouts.