Nova Scotia

Former Yarmouth warden told committee members to 'go to hell,' beat on walls

A complaint filed by the deputy warden of the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth said former warden Leland Anthony went on a tirade because a committee meeting was happening via Zoom instead of in person.

Leland Anthony downplayed incident that resulted in his being sanctioned

Documents released by the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, as well as obtained through freedom of information, outline what led to former warden Leland Anthony to be sanctioned. (Robert Short/CBC)

New documents show the former warden for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth went on a verbal tirade and beat on walls because he disagreed with a decision to have a committee meet virtually rather than in person.

In June, Leland Anthony was placed on a paid leave of absence until the end of the council term in October. That followed an internal review based on the municipality's code of conduct and violence in the workplace policy.

At the time, no details were released.

In an interview last week, Anthony, who is reoffering in the October municipal election, told CBC he was sanctioned after a comment he made during a virtual meeting with staff and councillors from the three councils in Yarmouth County.

"My verbal abuse was basically, 'You're stupid,'" he said. "I didn't think anything at the time would come of it, but the other two councils wrote letters, so the municipality had to act."

But information released by the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth on Monday, as well as documents CBC received from the Town of Yarmouth in response to a freedom of information request, paint a different picture of the incident.

Leland Anthony, the former warden for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, has decided to reoffer in the upcoming municipal election despite facing discipline at the end of June. (Municipality of Yarmouth)

In a complaint filed by Deputy Warden John Cunningham to the municipality's CAO and solicitor in March following a meeting of the regional emergency management organization committee, Cunningham notes that he was acting based on what he witnessed at the meeting, as well as complaints filed by officials for the town and the Municipality of the District of Argyle. Those complaints called for Anthony to be removed from the committee.

He writes that he and Anthony were in an office together attempting to join the meeting, which was being held via Zoom, in keeping with public health guidelines.

They had difficulty joining the call, and when they finally did Cunningham writes that Anthony had an outburst.

"Immediately after connecting, the warden went on a 30 second rant about how displeased he was about meeting via zoom/phone. He specifically referred to the attending members as 'stupid' and punctuated with 'you can all go to hell' before he left the room."

Cunningham said Anthony then left the room and "beat on the walls and yelled profanities for another couple of minutes."

In an interview on Monday, Cunningham said staff in the building came running upstairs because they were concerned the warden was meeting with the CAO at the time.

"They came up to see if she was alright," he said.

Anthony was 'enraged' about meeting virtually

Anthony subsequently resigned from the committee, information confirmed in a March email to the town from the municipality that CBC received Monday following a freedom of information request.

That request also yielded a memo from the town's CAO, Jeff Gushue, to Mayor Pam Mood outlining concerns about Anthony's behaviour.

Gushue writes that Anthony could not understand the need for the meeting to happen via Zoom, rather than in person, and, as a result, became "enraged."

"I know people, including myself, were upset by this display and the disrespect shown to the collective group. There are concerns about it happening again. I am concerned that our talented REMO staff were disrespected and will have the added stress of a municipal leader who is unable to manage his emotions and lashes out when stress levels are high."

Mood subsequently wrote to the municipality calling for Anthony's removal from the committee in a letter obtained by CBC through freedom of information.

"I want to send a clear message that this behaviour is unacceptable, and we must absolutely deal with it before further meetings are held," she writes.

'A pattern of behaviour'

"If this were a one-time occurrence borne out of the circumstances we find ourselves in at this time, it may be different. People behave differently when under pressure, and that is to be expected and an extra measure of grace is given.

"However, it is not the first time. It is, unfortunately, a pattern of behaviour that has occurred on other occasions that has gone unchecked, perhaps somehow sending the message that this behaviour is okay. It is not."

Cunningham said he's not aware of any other complaints about Anthony's behaviour or similar incidents.

He said the situation shows that the council's new policies, drafted in 2019, work. This was the first time they were put into practice.

Anthony is continuing anger-management training, at his own expense, as required by the municipality. He told CBC News last week that it's helping him work on his stress.

"She's teaching me to know when I've had enough stress," he said.

In June, CBC filed a freedom of information request to the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth for any records related to Anthony's conduct. Last month, the municipality said the only relevant information it had was a report prepared by its solicitor, which it determined could not be released.

Cunningham said the failure to release the other documents amounted to a lack of understanding by him regarding what information is and is not private per the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

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With files from Pam Berman

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