New Brunswick

Quispamsis mayor suspended for 2 code of conduct breaches, says he's 'truly sorry'

The mayor of Quispamsis has been suspended following two code of conduct breaches discovered after he misidentified himself to gain free access to the town's pool.

Mayor Gary Clark is suspended without pay for 5 weeks

Town council voted to suspend Mayor Gary Clark at Tuesday's meeting. (Town of Quispamsis)

The mayor of Quispamsis has been suspended without pay for five weeks for two code of conduct breaches.

Mayor Gary Clark was suspended by council Tuesday after an internal investigation found he skipped an Emergency Measures Organization meeting in July.

Clark had claimed to be checking in on a sick relative in hospital, but he was actually at the qplex swimming pool and had gained access using a false name.

In addition, Clark purchased a family membership for the pool for a family that does not live in Quispamsis. Membership is only available to residents of the town of about 18,245, located northeast of Saint John.

"Action [was] pursued, subsequent to that discovery," Deputy Mayor Libby O'Hara told CBC News on Wednesday.

O'Hara and Coun. Emil Olsen investigated to confirm the mayor breached the town's code of conduct bylaw.

At Tuesday night's council meeting, council voted 6-1 to suspend him. Clark was not present.

The first-term mayor is suspended without pay until Nov. 5 — a loss of about $3,879 from his annual gross salary of $40,341.

O'Hara said Clark is expected to return to work after his suspension.

She said she's disappointed with the mayor's actions.

"It's not a reflection on the town of Quispamsis," she said. "It's a reflection on the behaviour of one person."

Clark, who was elected in May 2016 and previously served eight years as a councillor, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

I have compromised the integrity of my position and those I serve with.- Mayor Gary Clark 

But in a letter to council dated Sept. 14, he said he wanted to "take ownership" for what his actions.

"Please accept my sincere apology for the unprofessional misconduct that I displayed. I acknowledge that I have compromised the integrity of my position and those I serve with," he wrote.

"I am truly sorry for my [behaviour]."

Residents react

Reaction among the residents CBC News spoke to on Wednesday was mixed.

"The public opinion, of course, is that if you lie about small things do you lie about big things? I think that's what people might wonder. So I guess we'll just wait and see," said Pat Bielli.

"Personally I think he's a down-to-earth guy and if he apologized, he made a mistake. Let's move on," said Pat Witzell.

This is the first time a complaint has been filed under the town's code of conduct bylaw.

It stems from Clark's visit to the pool on July 18, when he misidentified himself using one of the four names associated with the membership he had previously purchased for a Rothesay family.

Once pool staff realized who Clark was, they notified their bosses and it was discovered Clark had violated the rules.

Clark was supposed to be at an EMO planning meeting the afternoon he was at the pool, but he had texted the town's chief administrative officer saying he could not attend because he had to go to the hospital to be with a sick family member.

It's unclear who Clark bought the pool membership for, or what false name he used to enter the facility.

With files from Jennifer Sweet and Connell Smith

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