Nova Scotia

Inverness councillors strip colleague of some duties, privileges

Inverness County councillors have voted to bar a colleague from attending in-camera meetings, remove him from all committees and take away his use of county email for allegedly breaching the code of conduct.

Coun. John MacLennan denies breaching code of conduct after raising allegations about county administration

Inverness County Coun. John MacLennan says he's been vindicated after the province ruled that raw water went to some homes after a power outage caused by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Councillors in Inverness County, N.S., have disciplined an outspoken colleague by voting to strip away some of his duties and privileges.

Coun. John MacLennan is now barred from attending in-camera meetings, removed from all committees and his use of county email is being taken away.

In a motion that passed 4-1 on Thursday, Inverness councillors said MacLennan had breached the code of conduct by revealing confidential material from an in-camera session and by sharing council emails publicly.

MacLennan denies he did anything wrong and said he intends to appeal.

"Oh, God, I want to keep pushing," he said in a telephone interview on Friday. "Oh, definitely. They never heard the end of this yet, so you know there's more to come out and I'm going to word it very carefully."

The District 4 councillor sparked controversy in December when he presented council with a list of allegations that included hiring and contract irregularities in the municipal office, along with concerns about public water quality and availability.

Inverness Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie says the list of allegations is without merit, but at least two have been found to have some basis in fact. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Council dismissed the concerns, with Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie saying they were untrue.

However, at least two of the allegations have been found to have some basis in fact.

In one case, MacLennan alleged the county had put residents at risk by failing to have water available for drinking and firefighting last fall.

Hurricane Dorian knocked out power across Nova Scotia for several days in September, and records show the county had budgeted for, but never bought, generators for the water utilities 15 months earlier.

The county has since awarded a tender for the installation of generators at all of its water treatment plants.

In addition, MacLennan alleged that residents in the town of Inverness had been exposed to untreated water after Dorian hit.

Records show the county issued a boil water advisory for a small number of residences on Banks Road on Sept. 13, which was six days after the hurricane.

Water advisory under investigation

The provincial Environment Department is investigating that incident, but will not comment while the investigation is ongoing.

MacLennan said he stands by the allegations. He said evidence for them was provided by several county residents and people who would have knowledge of county affairs.

MacLennan also said he did not breach the county code of conduct, because the list of allegations was provided to media and sent to council at the same time, but it was council that decided to deal with the matter in camera.

He said he was not revealing anything that had come from an in-camera session.

Code doesn't specify penalties

MacLennan also said the code of conduct says breaches can result in formal warnings or reprimands, but it does not include the penalties Inverness council imposed on him this week.

Losing access to county email will make it more difficult to represent constituents, he said.

Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie was absent from this week's council meeting, where councillors voted 4-1 to discipline MacLennan.

Coun. John Dowling declined to comment on the disciplinary measures, saying anyone who has followed news coverage on MacLennan's allegations would know why council took action.

The other councillors who were at the meeting did not return phone calls.

In an emailed statement, Inverness council said MacLennan knowingly breached the code of conduct, but despite ample opportunity, had provided no explanation as to why.

Council said MacLennan can continue to represent constituents at council and committee of the whole meetings.

His committee duties and email privileges will be restored when council is satisfied MacLennan will follow the provincial Municipal Government Act and the Inverness code of conduct, according to the statement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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