The saga of two Powassan town councillors who an integrity commissioner ruled contravened the Municipality of Powassan Code of Conduct appears to be ending on a bizarre note over their respective financial penalties. In his findings, Integrity Commissioner David King did not decide on what penalties Deputy Mayor Randy Hall and Coun. Debbie Piekarski should be assessed. Rather, King left that up to council – but this is something that has never sat well with either the mayor or the councillors. In an effort to end the matter involving himself, at council’s April meeting Hall suggested he redirect two months of his council salary to the Trout Creek Children’s Booster Club for a total of $1,000. At council’s most recent meeting, Hall’s recommendation came up for a final vote and during the debate Coun. Dave Britton said “this is what Randy asked for and we should move forward on it.” All of the council passed the resolution with Hall abstaining from the vote since the issue was a conflict of interest for him, which he declared. With Hall’s decision out of the way, the council next turned to Piekarski’s financial penalty and this is where the debate went off the rails. Just as Deputy Clerk Kim Bester started to read a motion moved by Coun. Markus Wand and seconded by Hall, Hall interrupted her and said he was not a signatory to the resolution. Bester apologized for the error and said the seconder was Coun. Dave Britton. She then read the motion which called on the council to accept King’s report and that Piekarski follow Hall’s lead and donate two months of her council salary to a local community organization. When Bester got through reading the resolution Britton said he never signed the motion nor would he agree to signing it, which would open the matter for debate. Mayor Peter McIsaac turned to Hall to see if he would sign it but the deputy mayor refused. McIsaac then turned to Piekarski who said “I’m not signing it.” With no other council member willing to second the motion, McIsaac said it could not be presented for debate and the matter died with Piekarski not having to face any financial penalty. Both of the integrity commissioner’s reports involving Hall and Piekarski relate to a council meeting last Dec. 7 and were the result of a complaint made by local businessman Evan Hughes that the councillors were in violation of the conduct code. Although Hall accepted the financial penalty, Piekarski opposed King’s findings and during the spring hired a lawyer, who is also an integrity commissioner, to fight the ruling against her. In a four-page letter at the council’s April meeting, H.G. Elston recommended that Powassan town council not endorse King’s findings, claiming they contained several legal errors and that council not impose any sanctions on Piekarski. Elston pointed out that should the council endorse King’s findings, that act could damage Piekarski’s reputation. Elston said in the letter while he had the “utmost respect for Commissioner King,” he stood by his recommendation to council that it not endorse the findings and that Piekarski incur no penalty.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget