We are three months away from municipal elections and stories abound about Tay Valley Township, many of which can be found in Kelly Egan’s article in the July 13 Ottawa Citizen. To wit, Councilor Judy Farrell is “the one who’s been harassed and bullied” and “no one wants to build in our township.”
First, the harassment case: An independent third-party investigator, trained in investigating allegations of harassment, found Councillor Farrell guilty of harassing two employees over a period of 18 months. The investigator interviewed the two employees, Councillor Farrell, and witnesses, both councillors and Township staff. He also reviewed written documents as well as audio and video recordings. His conclusion was clear and unequivocal. The process followed was consistent with that required under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.
It is worth noting that the investigator provided Councillor Farrell with a written summary of the specific allegations before meeting Councillor Farrell to hear her response.
The issue is not about Councillor Farrell’s intentions to speak up for or to protect taxpayers, nor is it an issue of differences of opinion. There is a clear line between engaging in vexatious comments or conduct and asking why a particular taxpayer was not permitted to build or expand his or her home or cottage or why the taxpayer had to make particular changes.
All employers in Ontario have legal responsibilities under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. Councillor Farrell was asked to apologize to the two staff members she harassed and to take sensitivity training. She refused. To ensure a safe working environment, Council had no choice but to place restrictions on Councillor Farrell including her contact and communications with staff. These restrictions did not remove Councillor Farrell’s responsibilities to represent citizens, attend Council meetings, or vote on Township matters.
Councillor Farrell has repeatedly refused to recuse herself from in-camera discussions that pertain to the harassment case. It is standard practice for councillors to leave the room for any agenda item that involves them or their immediate family. The intention is to prevent and avoid conflicts between the public duties and private interests of individual councillors.
Some have wondered why the report is not available for citizens to read and make up their own mind about what happened. Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, the employer is required to keep the investigator’s report confidential to protect both the two employees and the witnesses. However, Councillor Farrell was provided a written summary of the findings of the investigation that pertain to her.
As of the end of May, the Township had spent $186,000 on this case. If Councillor Farrell had respected the investigator’s report, the matter would have ended last November and the cost to taxpayers would have been substantially less. The impact of her actions on the lives of the two employees, and staff in general, would also have been substantially less.
The facts belie the statement that no one wants to build here. There were 144 building permits issued in 2017, up from the 2014-2016 average of 121. This includes 24 approved new construction permits issued in 2017, an increase from the 2014-2016 average of 19 new builds.
Larger-scale development underway this year includes a draft condominium agreement for the redevelopment of Nordlaw Lodge into 18 cottages, the opening of the new office of Skyline Group, an international manufacturing company, and new house permits in Tayside Subdivision. In addition, there is the proposed Coptic Monastery development, discussions with the new owner of the Silver Lake Motel about renovating that property, and a proposed gas station on Highway 7 at Harper Rd.
Statistics Canada data reveals that Tay Valley Township’s population increased by 1.7% between 2011 and 2016. Over this same period, Perth, Rideau Lakes and Central Frontenac had slower or negative growth. Drummond/North Elmsley, Lanark Highlands and South Frontenac grew faster, reflecting the construction outreach of two major population centres (Ottawa and Kingston), according to Statistics Canada.
We live in a beautiful township with a long tradition of respect for individual rights and fairness. Our intention is to set the record straight with the goal of restoring the reputation and well-being of our Township as a great place to live, to work, and to build.
Kay Rogers and David Taylor, two concerned citizens of Tay Valley Township