“All I can say, with due respect to our farming community, is I love sheep, but I didn’t get on council to act like one,” preached Councillor Margaret Mercer, in response to a question about whether or not she would consider paying back the Township of Melancthon for a charge that was described by Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno as “an unnecessary expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.”
The complaint from Melancthon Councillor Margaret Mercer was against Mayor Darren White, originally submitted on July 28th, 2020, refiled on August 4th using the proper form. Giorno’s report states that Mercer alleges that White failed to treat her with courtesy and respect, and attempted to belittle and humiliate her.
After investigation, Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno dismissed the complaint saying that there was no evidence to support the allegations. He also noted that a significant portion of the grievance consisted of “general ad hominem attacks on the Mayor that did not specifically relate to the two particular incidents” being addressed. Moreover, Dufferin News found that Mercer repeatedly spelt Mayor Darren White’s name incorrectly in her complaint. The Township of Melancthon was charged $2,221 for this report.
That is not where it ended though.
A supplemental report, dated November 18th, was sent to the Melancthon council. It disclosed that Mercer claimed to have withdrawn the complaint, therefore the Integrity Commissioner had been “procedurally unfair”, and the original report should not have been issued. The document pronounces that Mercer demanded that the November 15th report be rescinded. Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno received notification of this through a lawyer representing the councillor.
The Integrity Commissioner details how the complaint had not been withdrawn, with Mercer writing him as recently as September 22nd that she stands “fully behind” the original complaint. Just a few weeks before that, on September 9th, Mercer supposedly asked the Integrity Commissioner to proceed without a response from Mayor White. When confronted with this and other correspondence, the lawyer designated that Mercer had “experienced confusion”, claiming that she had mistaken this complaint with a previous one that was withdrawn on January 4th, 2020. This is seven months before the most recent inquiry being filed. Giorno also revealed that Councillor Mercer had e-mailed him in October, objecting to the dismissal of her complaint. As a result, the Integrity Commissioner divulged that he does not accept the contention that Councillor Margaret Mercer experienced confusion over which complaint was withdrawn.
According to the Integrity Commissioner, the request to have the November 15th report rescinded has been withdrawn and the lawyer representing Councillor Mercer apologized. The Township of Melancthon was charged $330 for the supplemental report.
During the Question Period, resident and past councillor of Melancthon, Nanci Malek, asked for the cost of all the investigations that have taken place. Mayor Darren White communicated the expense related to the two most recent reports, and that he would follow up with a summation of the costs for this term of council. Another resident, Karren Wallace, had a question for Councillor Margaret Mercer.
Specifically, Wallace asked if the councillor would pay for the cost of the reports, as the Integrity Commissioner asserted that “there was no merit” to the case that spurred the investigation.
Mercer responded by saying that it was an ongoing legal issue. Mayor White fired back that it wasn’t. Councillor Mercer continued to say that she believes her complaint does have merit and was following the Township’s complaint process, not her own. As a result, Mercer maintained that she would not be the one paying for it. The councillor affirmed that she went to the mayor “one-on-one” for a resolution. The councillor also indicated that she would prefer to have a “judicial inquiry” or go through a human resource professional.
“I didn’t charge the bill, you tell me how you resolve this,” exclaimed Councillor Margaret Mercer to the resident.
Darren White, Mayor for the Township of Melancthon, explained that, as far as the Township of Melancthon is concerned, the case has been concluded. He also mentioned how this is essentially the same process that all Ontario municipalities go through. When it comes to resolving the troubles between the two of them, one-on-one, White said the following.
“When I get an eleven or twelve-page document that calls me everything from a narcissist to an animal abuser, and I’m using a loose term, and has no direction and is sent to me through the Integrity Commissioner, no, I don’t have any interest sitting with you one-on-one and trying to work that out.”
Mercer signaled that she had attempted to reach out beforehand.
Later on in the meeting, when the Integrity Commissioner’s report came up on the agenda. Melancthon’s Mayor had more to say.
“I’m really glad to see this report because over the course of, combined, seven months now, you have been going to the Integrity Commissioner attacking my credibility and namecalling without any basis, and it’s just disgraceful. And over the last month or so, this is the behaviour that’s been going on, where it has escalated to the point where another member of council then feels like it is ok to, in public, call out a former member of council for [accusations of] hate speech. This is totally inappropriate. This is a disservice to every resident in this municipality, and I hope that every single resident reads this report, and reads it two or three times to make sure they understand it.”
White went on to highlight the cost of the report. He also criticized the idea of hiring a human resources consultant, which would incur further expense to the taxpayer.
Mayor White made further comments on the matter, along with a request of Councillor Mercer.
“I’d ask you for an apology if I thought it wouldn’t be a waste of my breath to do so. I don’t believe for one second that you’d even consider giving me an apology, but certainly I am going to ask you tonight, here, to put forth your resignation from council. You do not speak for this council. You do not speak for this municipality. You do not speak for the people, who are hardworking dedicated people, that go out there.”
Mercer did not offer a response.
Later on in the meeting, when Melancthon council was discussing how to fill the vacant council seat, Mercer was asked for her thoughts on the best way to go about it. This was her reply.
“I really apologize, I’m not going to be able to contribute very much today, I am still in shock. I am a monster.”
Deputy Mayor Dave Besley, who was chairing this portion of the meeting, returned with an, “Ok”, presumably trying to get the meeting back on track. Simultaneously, Mayor White asked who called the councillor “a monster”.
“Yeah, I’m a monster and I’ve been publicly disparaged and I am in a state of shock right now. I’m sorry I cannot contribute,” announced Councillor Margaret Mercer.
White then called for a point of order, Councillor Mercer interrupted him while shaking her head and running her hands across her face. The Mayor clarified how nobody called Mercer “a monster”.
“Well, I have been publicly disparaged. The I.C. [Integrity Commissioner] ruled in your favour and I feel like the knife went into me,” Mercer expounded while making a related gesture with her hand. “I feel like you’re calling me a monster so I’m a little shut down right now. My usual enthusiasm is gone, so I’m sorry, Deputy Mayor, please forgive me. I am going to sit and listen.”
Melancthon Councillor Margaret Mercer received her seat through acclamation, as did two out of the three other remaining township councilmembers. Furthermore, Councillor Mercer recently introduced a motion to increase the pay of council during the current term. This received the support of the majority of the council, with Mayor Darren White and former councillor David Thwaites voting against it. On November 19th, the council for the Township of Melancthon was asked to reconsider this. That did not occur.
“I certainly don’t expect this is the last. I expect that I’ll see another complaint from the Integrity Commissioner in the weeks to come, so don’t expect that the bills are going to be any less,” asserted Mayor White. He is also of the opinion that Councillor Mercer will not resign.
November 23, 2020 2:40 pm: Second last paragraph originally stated that Mercer and three out of the four other township councilmembers were acclaimed to their seats. This has been clarified to say two out of three other remaining councilmembers were acclaimed, as David Thwaites has resigned from his role as Councillor.
Reference Links – Councillor for Township of Melancthon Asked to Resign
- Melancthon Councilmembers Asked to Rethink Pay Raise
- Melancthon Council gives itself a pay raise in 2021
- Melancthon Councillor Resigns after ‘defamatory assaults’
- Melancthon Council Meeting – November 19, 2020 – Agenda (contains the Integrity Commissioner’s first report, pg. 113)
- Melancthon Council Meeting – November 19, 2020 – Addendum to the Agenda (contains the Integrity Commissioner’s Supplemental Report)
- Township of Melancthon Council Meeting – October 15th, 2020 – Agenda
- Township of Melancthon Council Meeting – October 15th, 2020 – Minutes
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