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Kawartha Lakes suspends Councillor Ashmore’s remuneration for two weeks after Integrity Commis

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes has decided to sanction Ward 6 Councillor Ron Ashmore, after an Integrity Commissioner determined he had violated multiple sections of the council’s code of conduct.

At a meeting on Tuesday, March 22nd, it was announced Councillor Ashmore’s remuneration would be suspended for 14 days.

The Integrity Commissioner’s report reads, the matter began when “the complainant, a bylaw officer for the City of Kawartha Lakes, allege[d], Councillor Ron Ashmore interfered with an investigation underway on June 12th, 2021 and, by so doing, contravened various sections of the City’s Code of Conduct and Ethics for Members of Council and Local Boards.”

“On June 12th, 2021, the complainant, a bylaw enforcement officer, attended at a business known as Emerald Green Landscaping, located at 103 Queen Street, in the Town of Lindsay, which lies within the City of Kawartha Lakes. A citizen had complained to the City, a sign at the business was obstructing the view of oncoming traffic. The complainant attended at the premises to investigate,” the report stated.

The report also explains, the bylaw officer was questioning an employee named Zach Bradbury at the time, as the business owner was away.

“The complainant stated, at no time was the discussion with Mr. Bradbury anything but polite and amicable. Mr. Bradbury stated otherwise. He felt the officer was pressing him for answers and was rude to him, and he was uncomfortable being questioned as he was not the owner of the business. While the two of them were speaking, a car pulled up. According to both Mr. Bradbury and the complainant, Councillor Ashmore got out of the car and walked directly over to them, keeping a proper social distance.”

Mr. Bradbury reportedly stated, “Councillor Ashmore was polite at all times.” However, in the report, the bylaw officer states, “Councillor Ashmore suggested the complainant should investigate other signs and said the officer should not investigate signs where there is new business the City wants to have.”

After the officer asked Councillor Ashmore to leave about two or three times, the Councillor left.

In his findings, Integrity Commissioner Charles Harnick said, Councillor Ashmore “offered to assist Mr. Bradbury, told him he sits on the Bylaw Appeals Committee and told him quite clearly what he thought the bylaw officer should (and should not) be doing. He did all of this in the officer’s presence and did not pull Mr. Bradbury off to the side when he made his comments. He made them right in front of the bylaw officer to undermine the officer’s authority.”

The Integrity Commissioner added, he feels the local Councillor “used his authority as a councillor to interfere with the lawful exercise of the complainant’s duties.”

“I find Councillor Ashmore’s actions were deliberate, undermining, and made without care and good faith in recognizing and understanding the importance of the bylaw enforcement officer’s impartial role,” the report concluded.

However, Councillor Ashmore told The Standard he stands behind his actions.

“I intervened to help a guy. I acted as a good Samaritan as [the employee] acted like he was in distress, and I was driving by there when I saw him,” he said. “It was really disappointing he was being treated like that.”

The Integrity Commissioner had recommended a one-month suspension of Councillor Ashmore’s remuneration.

Councillor Ashmore doesn’t feel like this is a black mark on his reputation.

“It shows I go over and above to help a constituent, and I’m going to stick my neck out to help someone.”

He also felt there’s not a lot of fairness in the Integrity Commissioner process.

“You only get one person to decide everything, and if you disagree, then you are out of luck. There should be a mediation type of system in place in every municipality. We pay these Integrity Commissioners millions of dollars, and to me, it’s really unnecessary that every little thing like this can [be put through an investigation]. There are other cases more egregious than mine.”

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