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Bird’s the word

John Vollmar's picture
Mon, 05/08/2017 - 10:37 -- John Vollmar

She walked to the podium, did Margaret Bird, one of our local taxpayers.  She did so with defined steps, and once at the dais she confidently placed her presentation papers just so, and began to address council.  April 10, 2017 at about 4:43 in the afternoon.

She spoke quietly, and directly, indicating somehow that we in Sarnia have lost our freedoms to speak, be a part of the process of being alerted to, and commenting on issues that may or may not affect our voting rights, as the system will take up electronics to assimilate and calculate the results of our next municipal election next year.

Ms. Bird alluded to the fact that there are those on council who may have a pecuniary interest in some ways, caused by his or her position on Sarnia City Council ( I speculate here as I believe she was referring to those on our local council since she was speaking in front of them.)  However, from what I watched and heard, Ms. Bird offered up no definitive examples of the possible pecuniary interests held by any one of the councilors.

But perhaps the most notable topic of Ms. Bird’s foray into the world of politics this day was her reference to the two investigative reports that were carried out with respect to Mayor Bradley…one report by Mr. Robert Swayze, the Integrity Commissioner, and another report which would have been that by Lauren Bernardi, a Human Resource Lawyer out of Mississauga, Ontario.  As has been often the norm, Ms. Bird seemed to place the blame for the investigations of the reports on the shoulders of the Council, when in actual fact both reports were requested otherwise, and thus those requests had to be acted upon.  The Swayze report came as a result of Mr. Swayze having received complaints from two former senior managers of the city who had resigned as a result of the treatment they had been receiving at the hands of the mayor.  The other report prepared by Ms. Bernardi occurred after she was retained by the legal council for the City to “conduct an independent, objective investigation of four harassment complaints brought against Mayor Bradley.”  The conclusion that Mr. Swayze arrived at regarding mayor Bradley in simple terms, quoted from his report…”I have come to the conclusion that this Mayor must change his ways for the good of the City of Sarnia.   It has lost two very experienced and competent senior managers and there may be more resignations arising from the incredibly bad workplace climate created by the Mayor.”  The report from Ms. Bernardi found that Mayor Bradley harassed the City Manager, Ms. Misek – Evans; Mayor Bradley harassed Jane Cooper; Mayor Bradley harassed Nancy Wright-Laking and finally, Mayor Bradley harassed Beth Gignac.  In all cases, he was found to create an atmosphere of tensions, bullying, character assassination of the Complainants…the list goes on.

Ms. Bird, during her presentation on April 10th to Council, repeated some of the “sanctions” brought about the Mayor, while the Mayor sat in his chair, although there was a defined conflict in his remaining and listening to the words of Ms. Bird, who further on in her discussion paper, possibly mis-characterized Mr. Swayze, suggesting that he had no integrity.  She raised the names of several cities from which Mr. Swayze provides or provided his services.  She even suggests news sources of which there are no names to suggest that Mr. Swayze is a person who uses bias to reach conclusion.

It should be made clear that Ms. Bird indicates that Mr. Swayze has not used due diligence in his investigation, that he has been let go from several positions in several cities.

I spoke personally to Mr. Swayze recently, and while he didn’t have to provide me with any information, he did.  And I believe him.  He has never been fired as an Integrity Commissioner after 25 appointments.  Currently he serves 19 Municipalities.  Collingwood was lost following the expiration of his contract, and that city decided not to engage an Integrity Commissioner again.  Brampton appointed him based on a new RFP being issued in 2017, and when it was issued he was not the low bidder.  Mr. Swayze indicates that he served Brampton for four years.  His Mississauga appointment came with the caveat that his contract was a five-year non-renewable one, and is up for expiry this coming July.  

Ms. Bird also alluded to the possibility that Mr. Swayze’s affiliation with Sarnia might end soon.  Information provided from City Hall affirms that he is contracted until 2018.  There seems to be no notion that he will be terminated prior to that date.

Out of all of this, Ms. Bird talks about the costs of the investigations, and the cost of renovations of City Hall.  I would suggest to Ms. Bird and others that none of the actions or costs would have been experienced had it not been for one factor…the behavior of the Mayor.  He caused the problems.  It wasn’t the Council, it wasn’t the ladies who left the employe of the City, nor was it our City Manager, Ms. Misek-Evans.  It is all on Bradley, who perhaps rules or ruled according to an Observer article in the November 16, 2000 issue where he is quoted “If I have to be the iron fist in the velvet glove, I will be.”  (on election night)

The rumour is that claims made from the ladies having been affected by the actions of Bradley and his bullying tactics have reached a settlement amount north of $200,000.  This may not be the end of the monies being paid out.  But there is so much more to this than is being given the proper attention.
The findings of both investigations determined there was wrong doing on the part of the Mayor in his treatment of the woman identified.  Aside from the awards made, or to be made, they were bullied by the mayor.  This is not a shallow finding.  Being bullied is an act (s) that can have those on the receiving end experience forever life-changing concerns.  You don’t get over the actions by wishing them away.  They can be forever with you, regardless of the efforts made in dismissing them, either by the individual harmed, or through the help of therapy.  Mood alterations, insecurity in oneself, even taking that into the workplace and having a dramatic effect on your ability to concentrate on your tasks, and a horrendous effect on one’s family life…all potential consequences of the actions of the perpetrator.  Serious stuff…sometimes experienced to such a degree that one’s sense of self is lost, and identity crushed.  At times, hospitalizations are required to intensify the study of the person and hopefully find an effective solution to the injured party’s condition…a solution that sadly may never be found.

This situation in our City is being prolonged by the ever-present Mayor, who, from all indications, has not digested the enormity of the damage that he may have inflicted on the ladies who so bravely took action on this issue.  And we in Sarnia are being done a constant dis-service by the media who continue to foster relationship with Mayor Bradley.

It is very possible that more monies will be paid out to close the matter for the ladies involved.  But no amount of money will ever erase the mental anguish that has been felt so strongly be each and every one of them that they took the action they did.  Council did the right things in response to the reports referenced above.  The one and only reason why we are here today, is due to the proven actions of the Mayor used against Ms. Misek-Evans, Ms. Wright-Laikng, Ms. June Cooper and Ms. Beth Gignac.

The purpose of this article is to respond as briefly yet succinctly as possible to the presentation proffered up by Ms. Margaret Bird on April 10, 2017…a resurrection of information that needed re-visiting.

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