Petrolia mayor bans Souch from in camera meetings since Nov. 2021

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Municipal expert says Loosley had no authority to do it

Petrolia Councillor Marty Souch hasn’t been part of an in camera session since Nov. 25 after being booted out by Mayor Brad Loosley.

And he’ seems perfectly fine with it.

As the town’s integrity commissioner investigated a Code of Conduct complaint against the mayor, she found a councillor had been reprimanded by the mayor after admitting to giving confidential information to The Independent.

“The Council member in question had, in or around November 2021, come forward to the mayor to admit a breach of confidentiality on their part, despite earlier denials of same. In response, the mayor took action against the member and requested that they recuse themselves from attending closed meeting sessions and in camera discussions, effective November 25, 2021.”

Souch is the only council member who has not attended in camera meetings about town staff, property and legal issues since November.

Both Souch and Loosley, in separate interviews, confirmed Souch has been absent from the private meetings.

Souch told The Independent he admitted he gave out confidential information but he didn’t push back on the explusion from in camera meetings because “there hasn’t been anything of any magnitude to be concerned about, because there’s nothing there to talk about.”

The Independent asked Mayor Loosley what legislation allowed him to ban an elected councillor from a council meeting. His reply; “I understand the concern and the authority; probably I do not.

“Now what I did is, the councillor agreed and signed an agreement with the town agreeing to that (being excluded from in camera meetings) for that term period. So I understand. Yes, that’s fairly long but no, he signed an agreement. And that’s why that was put in place. If he had not signed an agreement, you’re correct; I don’t think I have the authority to go that long.”

“I don’t believe the mayor has any authority to ban any councillor from any council meeting,” said Andrew Sancton, a retired political science professor from Western University and the author of many books about municipal governance.

“If the mayor’s objective is to impose some form of sanction on the errant councillor – rather than accepting a promise from him that he will not leak again – then the correct course of action would be to lodge a complaint with the integrity commissioner,” Sancton said.

The recent Code of Conduct complaint found the comments Loosley made in The Independent about the fire chief “were not disclosed anywhere in those public materials or elsewhere to the best of our knowledge” but were made “inadvertently.”

When asked if the mayor should be excluded from in camera meetings since he also released in camera information Souch said; “Do I believe he did? No. No, that’s not true. I believe he did not.”

Souch added there were a number of items coming up for the in camera session which he believed would be important and he plans to ask the mayor if he can be part of the discussion.