Mount Pearl dismisses 2 councillors for conflict of interest in Steve Kent probe
Andrew Ledwell, Andrea Power deny wrongdoing, vow to fight decision
Mount Pearl city council voted to dismiss two councillors Tuesday afternoon, over allegations they had a conflict of interest they failed to declare in the Steve Kent harassment investigation.
"We deeply regret being forced to take such action," Deputy Mayor Jim Locke said.
But the two councillors who had their seats vacated — Andrew Ledwell and Andrea Power — did not go quietly.
They proclaimed their innocence, vowed to fight the decision, and made allegations of their own.
"Simply put, I maintain my innocence. I am not in a position of conflict of interest," Ledwell said.
"And through an appeal, I will be taking this kangaroo court to the Supreme Court trial division."
Ledwell said he felt he must blow the whistle on what he called "a variety of transgressions" by council.
In his letter to the minister of municipal affairs, Ledwell said he outlined "financial concerns" from over the past few years, including an investigation into fraudulent activity involving around $100,000, plus millions in unpaid business taxes.
Ledwell also said he was calling in the police over having his Facebook messages to Kent read by officials at city hall.
Power, meanwhile, also maintained her innocence, and also vowed to file a Supreme Court appeal.
In a 45-minute statement delivered to the virtual council meeting, she also took issue with having her Facebook correspondence with Kent read, and made an array of allegations of her own.
"I have cried an ocean of tears due to the constant stress, bullying and harassment I have experienced from the mayor and deputy mayor," Power said.
"My family life and my professional life has been affected."
She also noted that she has filed respectful workplace and harassment complaints against Mayor Dave Aker, charging that he made misogynist comments.
Because of that, Aker recused himself from the vote involving Power.
All other councillors except Ledwell voted to declare her seat vacant.
Power was immediately kicked out of the virtual council meeting.
Ledwell was unanimously voted out of office, and departed as well.
'We have much work to do'
Deputy Mayor Jim Locke said council was bound by the legislation governing the city in taking the actions Tuesday.
Locke said the remaining members of council will work hard to rebuild trust with employees and residents of Mount Pearl.
"We will immediately begin to work towards restoring a healthy and safe work environment, and a welcoming and trustworthy community," Locke said. "We have much work to do."
He also again defended the city's viewing of messages from Kent's Facebook messenger account, saying they were on a city-owned iPad whose content is governed by transparency laws.
"It was very obvious that the nature of the messages was not only inappropriate for the [chief administrative officer], but two sitting councillors were also involved in the communications," Locke said.
Locke said they "released confidential council information" to Kent about the harassment investigation he had been facing since last fall.
Kent is former mayor of Mount Pearl, provincial cabinet minister and deputy premier. He left his post as MHA and elected politics in the fall of 2017 to take on the top civil service job with the city.
Last October, he was placed on paid leave. The city called in an outside investigator to probe Kent's workplace interactions with city staff.
Both Ledwell and Power were alleged to have spoken to and/or voted on the harassment investigation involving Kent over a seven-month period between October 2019 and April 2020, and failed to disclose a conflict.
Kent resigned last week and sued the city for constructive dismissal and breach of privacy, citing those Facebook messages.
He took that action after the city told him it planned to table a motion to fire him for just cause.