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Council fight over friendship flight to Lahr

Councillor Chris Malette got into a sometimes prickly conversation with Mayor Panciuk after his motion was ruled out of order. Photo from Youtube

By Rhythm Rathi [1]

BELLEVILLE – Two councillors get into a debate with the Mayor Mitch Panciuk regarding the friendship flight to Lahr, Germany at Monday night’s council meeting [2].

The flight left Wednesday with a delegation made up of the mayor, councillors Feeney and Allsopp, their spouses, Belleville’s police chief and two others from the community.

Councillors [3] Chris Malette and Garnet Thomson wondered whether procedure had been followed in determining who went on the trip and how that was decided. Malette said he only found out about the trip and who was going from a news release from the city. 

Malette proposed a motion questioning whether the correct procedure had been followed in determining who went on the trip to Germany.

“In recent weeks it was learned that without consultation or notice to the cultural exchange committee and without general notice to the council as a whole a delegation has been formed,” Malette started.

Panciuk stopped Malette as he was speaking and said that in an earlier conversation he had told Malette to go through the terms of reference for the cultural exchange committee and speak with Matt MacDonald, the director of corporate services.

To which Malette said, “I did not have a conversation with the clerk.”

Panciuk then ask MacDonald  for a ruling.

 “In my time at the city, friendship flights and flights particularly to Lahr, Germany, have been organized through the mayor’s office,” said MacDonald.

“In my time here the cultural exchange committee has not yet organized an outgoing flight or trip to Lahr, Germany,”  saying that the committee’s remit is incoming visits and student exchanges.

Malette stated that the terms of reference are vague on that front.

“I am in no way saying that this trip, that there is no valid reason for this trip,” he said. “I am looking at the process, simple.” 

Panciuk then ruled the motion to be out of order as Malette had suggested the process was not being followed while MacDonald confirmed that it had been followed.

Malette’s main concern was that a matter like this should be brought in front of the council directly and not through a press release.

Upon listening to the whole motion Panciuk asked MacDonald to re-state whether or not the current policy is being adhered to.

MacDonald replied that the terms were “being adhered to.”

“I would suggest that best course of action for Councillor Malette in my opinion, I would like to sit down with Councillor Malette and work on that motion to fine-tune it to achieve his goals,” he added.

Malette agreed, “I will in fact meet with the clerk while you are on your trip and we will get back at the next meeting and serve a notice of motion.”

Panciuk responded. 

“We have seen people state incorrect information about our current policies which are clear and available to all members of the council … and recommendations to have a meeting to have a further understanding before we get up and make comments and statements that are incorrect are the reason why those recommendations are made,” he added.

Councillor Garnet Thompson then entered the fray, but before he could further contribute, the mayor ruled him out of order and said the matter was closed.