By Marianne Curtis
RM of La Broquerie councilor Jean Gagnon is stunned with his council’s decision to publicly chastise him by issuing a statement that accuses him of questioning the integrity and honesty of council.
On July 28, the RM of La Broquerie council passed a resolution to “censure” Gagnon for his “inexcusable comments” regarding the honesty and integrity of his fellow councilors and the Ombudsman. The resolution was brought to the table after Gagnon told local media that he could not comment on the recent release of an ombudsman’s report.
“I replied to questions saying I couldn’t comment because the ombudsman is still investigating,” explained Gagnon. The Ombudsman Act makes it illegal for councilors to discuss investigations until they are complete and a report is issued. The July 5 report in question has some recommendations but also asks for further information.
“It reads like a letter,” added Gagnon. “That is why I voted against the resolution accepting it as a report.”
Gail Perry from the Ombudsman’s Office confirmed that a report was not released by her office and that the matter was still being investigated.
“The investigation is not complete until the municipality responds to our recommendations to our satisfaction,” Perry stated. “When that is done if the municipality wishes to release the report they can but we are still investigating.”
The RM of La Broquerie issued a public statement to support their censure resolution along with implications of Gagnon’s comments about the ombudsman’s report and in Lori Wood’s PAC submission back in May. In Wood’s submission, she alleged that councilors Gagnon and Wilfred Chabot wrote letters to the ombudsman that said council and staff was tampering with documents.
“This in fact means that council accepted tampered documents and sent the tampered documents in Council’s response to the Manitoba Ombudsman,” reads the statement. “[Your] statement further implies that administration and staff are involved with tampering of documents.”
Gagnon, who missed the meeting due to illness, was shocked when he heard about the censure and statement from media.
“The reeve is making these accusations based on hearsay – that was in Lori’s submission. The reeve has no idea what I sent to the ombudsman because it is confidential,” stated Gagnon. “It is not against the law to send a letter to the ombudsman and since she has never seen the letter she has no idea what I said.”
The statement further chastises Gagnon for implying that the Ombudsman and council deliberately mislead the public because he questioned if the July 5 correspondence released by council was a letter or report.
In the statement, the majority RM of La Broquerie council has denied all of the claims Gagnon allegedly made to warrant the censure. Councilor Chabot was the only council that voted against the resolution and statement.
Incidentally, the report was available on the municipal website until the Dawson Trail Dispatch called the ombudsman’s office and questioned if it was a report or letter. The ombudsman refused to comment but the report was removed from the website within a day.