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Richmond Hill councillor loses 90 days' pay over bullying complaint

Richmond Hill councillor Karen Cilevitz has been docked 90 days' pay after an investigation by the town’s integrity commissioner found she had violated the part of the council’s code of conduct that forbids bullying and intimidation.

Integrity commissioner found Coun. Karen Cilevitz violated Richmond Hill council's code of conduct

Coun. Karen Cilevitz, who represents Richmond Hill's Ward 5, has been docked 90 days pay after an integrity commissioner's investigation found she violated council's code of conduct. (Grant Linton/CBC )

Richmond Hill councillor Karen Cilevitz has been docked 90 days pay after an investigation by the town's integrity commissioner found she had violated the part of the council's code of conduct that forbids bullying and intimidation.

In her report, Richmond Hill integrity commissioner Deborah Anschell detailed lengthy back-and-forth between Cilevitz and the complainant, Steffi Goodfield, in part over the use of the term "Ward 5" in an open mic event co-run by Goodfield called the Ward 5 jam.

The CBC first reported on the issue in May, when it came to light that Cilevitz had left Goodfield an angry voicemail and several messages warning that only she was entitled to use the term "Ward 5."

Ultimately, Anschell found Cilevitz's communications were "bullying in tone and intended to intimidate."

"Not only was Councillor Cilevitz incorrect on the facts when she claimed exclusive domain over the use of the term "Ward 5", she also communicated her inaccurate stance inappropriately with a member of the public," wrote Anschell.

90 days without pay

On Monday, Richmond Hill council voted to suspend Cilevitz's pay for 90 days, the maximum amount of time permitted under the Municipal Act.  

"It's clear in the report that Goodfield said, 'it's not my fight, I don't want anything to do with it'... and yet [Coun. Cilevitz] was relentless," Richmond Hill Coun. Carmine Perrelli told CBC Toronto.

Perelli, who introduced the motion to dock Cilevitz's pay for the maximum length of time, said he "couldn't imagine a scenario that could be worse" than a councillor intimidating a member of the public.

Anschell's report lays out a complex series of exchanges over the last year between Cilevitz, Goodfield, Goodfield's friend and open mic co-organizer Matt Bergman, and other unnamed third parties.

Richmond Hill Coun. Karen Cilevitz left this message on a constituent's voicemail. 1:51

Both Cilevitz and Goodfield say they began as friends, though the length of time they remained friends is disputed.

Beginning in Dec. 2017, Cilevitz messaged Goodfield repeatedly over an interpersonal conflict playing out between her romantic partner, various other friends, and Matt Bergman.  

By January, she began raising the issue of the name of an open mic night co-organized by Goodfield, the Ward 5 jam, and threatening legal action.

The complaint was filed in May. 

Cilevitz 'respects' integrity commissioner's findings

Cilevitz responded to the council's decision in a statement on her Facebook page attributed to her lawyer.

It says she "respects the decision of the Integrity Commissioner" but finds council's Dec. 17 decision to dock her pay to be "driven by political forces."

Cilevitz had also argued the Goodfield's complaint was also part of a political plot against her during the course of the integrity investigation, according to Anschell.

"Councillor Cilevitz looks forward to 4 more years of successful work on behalf of her residents as the duly elected Ward 5 Councillor for Richmond Hill," reads the statement.  

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