Call for mayor's resignation caps long, bitter dispute in Carleton Place
Council to decide on sanctions against Mayor Louis Antonakos over latest breaches
Tuesday evening's council meeting in Carleton Place, Ont., is shaping up to be an especially raucous one, with the town's embattled mayor in the hot seat once again.
It's the culmination of a long and twisting political saga in the town on the Mississippi River, just southwest of Ottawa.
An investigation last spring found Mayor Louis Antonakos breached the town's code of conduct by secretly taping private council debates and sharing the results with developers.
For that, the town's six-member council voted to suspend the mayor's pay for 90 days.
Now Antonakos is facing a possible nine-month suspension for again violating the code of conduct. This time, the animosity has led to accusations of physical violence.
Last week OPP charged 65-year-old Carleton Place Coun. Doug Black with assaulting the mayor in a confrontation that spilled into the foyer of the historic town hall.
I think public outrage is at a boiling point.- Jerry Flynn, deputy mayor
Black, who maintains his innocence, will be allowed to attend tonight's meeting, though he is under a "no contact order" regarding the mayor.
When Antonakos was elected mayor in 2014 he promised to lead the town through a period of unprecedented growth.
Instead, it's looking more like he's presiding over what may be one of Ontario's most dysfunctional councils, and many in the town of just over 10,000 have had enough.
"I think public outrage is at a boiling point," said deputy mayor Jerry Flynn, summing up the current mood.
Secret tapes, bad blood
The first strike against Antonakos came when local developer Wally Thorbjornsson confessed the mayor had allowed building developers to listen to secret recordings of in-camera council meetings in 2012.
Former mayor Paul Dulmage, who had business interests involving Thorbjornsson's projects, was also privy to the secret meeting tapes.
Dulmage and Thorbjornsson both backed Antonakos's 2014 bid for mayor, when he beat incumbent Wendy Leblanc by fewer than 300 votes.
"I supported him and I guess this would be a good time to apologize for that," Thorbjornsson told CBC last week during an interview at his Carleton Place office.
The most recent complaints against Antonakos involve:
- An accusation by Coun. Brian Doucett that the mayor had shared confidential reports to a previous council with the current council and senior staff, an act Swayze declared "a serious contravention of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act."
- A Facebook post last spring in which Antonakos called Dulmage a "dishonoured mayor." Swayze found the post failed to fulfil "the mayor's obligation to treat members of the public with dignity, understanding and respect."
- Accusations of bullying by Kory Earle, a longtime advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. Among the examples Earle raised was a confrontation at a public meeting during which Antonakos is alleged to have berated Earle for inviting the deputy mayor to a fundraising event instead of the mayor. Swayze found the mayor had indeed breached the code of conduct, and "did attempt to intimidate [Earle]."
Call for mayor's resignation
"I'm not asking for an apology anymore, I'm past that," Earle said. "The only way forward is for the mayor to resign."
Earle was recently re-elected president of People First of Canada, a national advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities.
"I grew up being bullied," Earle said. "Every single day of my life called retard, so the whole mayor thing, it just brought up memories of how I used to feel."
In solidarity with Earle, and in response to the integrity commissioner's finding's against Antonakos, several councillors wore pink anti-bullying ribbons to the last council meeting.
Mayor lashes back
CBC News put in several requests for an interview with Antonakos, who responded with a statement he posted on social media Friday.
He also accused councillors of giving false information to the integrity commissioner, and "turning a blind eye towards inappropriate activity in and around the town hall."
When Antonakos began refusing to speak to the media last spring, council voted to appoint deputy mayor Jerry Flynn their spokesperson.
"Nothing is getting done, and we got challenges. This town is growing," Flynn told CBC.
"We have to spend time working for the good of the town, not always defending ourselves. We're under attack basically all the time."
On Tuesday Flynn will have to lead council toward a decision on possible sanctions against Antonakos. The maximum penalty is a 90-day suspension for each of the three latest breaches of the code of conduct.