Integrity watchdog urges reprimand for Norfolk mayor

Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp

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Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp was “uncivil” and “inappropriate” when she publicly chastised staff at a council meeting, according to a report by the municipality’s integrity commissioner.

Toronto lawyer John Mascarin’s report, dated April 9, will be presented at the May 7 council-in-committee meeting but is posted on the municipality’s website.

“We recommend council reprimand the mayor,” Mascarin says in the report.

Additionally, Mascarin recommends that Chopp offer a public apology at a council meeting this month for contravening council’s code of conduct and ethical policies.

The commissioner determined that two complaints registered against Chopp for comments she made at a Jan. 8 meeting have merit.

At that meeting, the mayor took the planning staff to task over a report on allowing urban residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

She chided principal planner Mat Vaughan, saying council had asked staff for a plan on regulations to allow urban chickens and, instead, got a report insisting chickens in urban areas are a health hazard.

“To say I’m upset would be an understatement,” said Chopp, who ripped the report in half.

“This is going to be a long four years is the wishes of council are not respected.”

The commissioner met with the mayor, reviewed minutes of the meeting and interviewed staff.

“The mayor’s words and actions were deliberate and intentional,” concludes the report.

“The actions were uncivil and were inappropriate for any member of council, including and perhaps, most particularly, for the head of council, to adopt.”

The commissioner took into account some extenuating circumstances.

He noted Chopp, elected in last October’s municipal election, is a first-time councillor and the incident came early in the new council term.

The commissioner said the mayor also followed unwise advice.

The mayor said in an interview with the commissioner that she asked someone for advice when she was “facing a complete blockade from staff … wilfully ignoring direction from council” and was told to make a “bold move” by ripping the report.

Chopp told the commissioner she wanted to “make a splash” that would result in news headlines.

But the commissioner said the mayor’s actions violated provisions of council’s code of conduct, procedural bylaws and a council-staff relations policy.

Former Simcoe councillor Peter Black said earlier this year that he was one of the two people who paid a $150 fee to file a complaint about Chopp’s behaviour in challenging the integrity of a staff member in a public forum.

 

 

 

 

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