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  Sarnia Ontario Canada

Mayor Bradley storms out of council meeting

A nasty dispute between Mayor Mike Bradley and Coun. Joe Murray at Monday's council meeting has "tarnished" the Cox family's $1 million donation to refurbish Tecumseh Park, say both politicians.

I’m truly shocked and surprised," said Murray, minutes after Bradley abruptly ordered Coun. Andy Bruziewicz to take over the chair and left the council chambers.

Bradley accused Murray of turning a discussion about the donation into a political attack.

I’m really disappointed because (the city manager and I) tried to do this without controversy," the mayor angrily told reporters in the lobby at city hall.

“I wanted one contribution to the city that would be treated with the respect and dignity it deserves," Bradley fumed. "I feel (council) owes Mrs. Cox an apology." Bradley admitted he was stressed by the skin cancer he is battling, as well as the recent death of his close friend Bud Cullen. He walked out of city hall while the rest of council finished the agenda, saying it's been "a rough couple of weeks."

On Sept. 9, 2002, Bradley also stormed out of City Hall when council threatened to censure him for revealing details of a land deal agreement. "

At issue Monday was the $1 million donation from Norma and the late Edward Cox, which was announced July 7.

In order to accept the contribution, council needed to approve the borrowing of up to $1 million from internal city accounts, with the understating that the Cox family will repay the city $200,000 annually for five consecutive years.

During discussion of the financing agreement Monday, several councillors said they were unhappy that the matter didn’t go before council prior to the press conference.

While every member of council said they welcomed the donation, tension mounted when councillors Bev MacDougall and John Vollmar questioned how Bradley and city Manager Ann Tuplin did not inform the rest of council earlier.

A report about the donation was sent to all councillors, July 2, five days before the press conference. Feedback was requested by Tuesday, July 5, just after the long holiday weekend.

Vollmar and MacDougall said the timing was problematic even though community services director Terry McCallum made himself available to answer questions during the long weekend. A memo from McCallum to council indicated that Norma Cox wanted the announcement made July 7, four days before it could be debated at a regular council meeting.

In order to get a sense of whether individual councillors supported the financing plan for the project, McCallum asked for a faxed or e-mailed reply to Bradley.

That upset councillors Murray and Anne Marie Gillis.

Both said they regarded the fax or e-mail as a vote, something they said was illegal under the Municipal Act.

"There's no accountability to the public when you make decisions by fax," Gillis said.

Murray said he preferred to hold a special meeting of council prior to Monday's meeting, in order to have all questions answered.

But Bradley said the "'issue must be handled by council in public.

Murray persisted Monday, requesting a special meeting to talk about what he called "a serious lack of communication between the mayor's office and the rest of council."

Bradley became incensed.

"We worked very hard to communicate with you," he told Murray, then left the meeting.

Later, Bradley said he and Tuplin worked throughout the holiday weekend to prepare for the announcement and ask council for feedback.

Bradley said he gave council more lead time than required. Other major donations to the Strangway Centre, the McPherson Fountain and the Saddy House, have been mired in controversy, Bradley added.

"I just wanted one damned contribution to the city that would be treated with respect. It's a loving contribution that's going to last for generations," he said, adding he found diminishing the contribution "unacceptable."

Murray said he was "thrilled" by the donation but had questions and was unhappy with the way the news was delivered to him and his fellow councillors.

Murray said the recent series of events points to a lack of team effort at city hall.

After 22 months on council, I have not seen an effective communication process," Murray said.

"There was a lot of confusion over this," said Gillis. "Everyone was having great difficulty with the idea of taking $1 million out of reserves. That's what we wanted to have a special meeting about.

Gillis said all council's questions were answered at Monday's meeting, which led to unanimous approval to accept the Cox donation and upgrade Tecumseh Park.

Council also approved three related motions from Coun. Mike Kelch that called for a special reserve fund to pay for unforeseen expenses related to the new park facilities.

Kelch's motions ensure additional employees won't be needed to operate the new park features.

Starting in 2006, the Cox family donation will pay for the many upgrades, to Tecumseh Park.

(By CATHY DOBSON The Observer 2005 07 12)


Date This Page Was Last Up-Dated:  October 08, 2006