New council trying to "make things right"

by Terry Myers

The new council in the townships of Head, Clara, Maria wants to put some of the bitterness and division of the last term behind it.

“We’re on our way to reconciliation,” Mayor Debbi Grills told the NRT. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

The mayor’s comments come after two recent decisions to overturn actions by the previous council in its last year of operation.

In the first, council came out of a lengthy closed session in late December and agreed to “remove all sanctions” put in place last year on Councillor Ernie Villeneuve.

And second, council voted at its January meeting to reimburse former councillor Dave Foote $859 that he had been charged last spring for legal fees regarding an email exchange with the municipal solicitor.

Speaking from prepared notes, Villeneuve said he was pleased to move the motion to reimburse Foote.

“Acting in good faith, in what he perceived to be in the public interest and pursuing his conviction fearlessly, Councillor Foote copied our municipal counsel on a proposed resolution regarding the disposition of the Curtis report,” Villeneuve said, referring to one of the reports generated last year in response to harassment complaints.

“Councillor Foote did not request any action be taken by the municipal solicitor, however the solicitor did in fact provide a legal opinion on the matter,” Villeneuve continued.

“This legal opinion was used by the municipality in subsequent resolutions.

“To teach him a lesson, for his direct and specific contact with the municipal solicitor, Councillor Foote was billed $859.08.”

“It was inappropriate in the circumstance to bill Councillor Foote for the provided unsolicited legal opinion.

“Be it resolved that the municipality reimburse Councillor Foote for the full amount of the invoice that he has received and paid, by issuing a cheque payable to him in the amount of $859.08.”

“Well said,” added Mayor Debbi Grills.

Other members of council, although they were not directly involved in any of the debate of the last term, agreed with the move.

“In my opinion, the invoice to then-councillor Mr. Foote was inappropriate,” said Councillor Chris Dowser.

“I would like to extend an apology on behalf of myself and others that that was done. I hope Mr. Foote can move past it.”

Councillor Fran Kelly-Chamberlain agreed.

“For that to happen was unheard of,” she said.

Councillor Brent Allen also agreed, saying the move “took me by surprise.”

“He had been a councillor for how many years – he was just doing his duty,” Allen said.

Mayor Grills said she was pleased to work with Foote for five and a half years before her resignation during the last term.

“This municipality was lucky to have your service for 15 and a half years,” she said.

“This is this council’s way of trying to make a few things right.”