After a year mired with third-party investigations involving the conduct of city council members — costing Trail taxpayers $420,000 to date — at the Monday night council meeting Mayor Lisa Pasin recommitted to a respectful workplace. She asked council members to join her in “good governance by coming to council meetings with an open mind and free of advance discussion, ready and willing to serve the City of Trail.”
Her statement follows a media brief released by the city earlier in the day, announcing two conduct violations against the mayor and one conduct violation against Coun. Sandy Santori.
Two complaints filed against Pasin, one filed jointly by Councillors Carol Dobie, Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson and Colleen Jones and the other by Coun. Robert Cacchioni, allege that she violated conduct policies by treating them with disrespect and for the bullying and harassment of Cacchioni in a series of closed council meetings held in June 2021.
Regarding the claims, the investigator determined that Pasin violated the “Respect” and “Integrity” sections of the Council Code of Conduct and did not behave in a manner that would promote public confidence.
“For my part, I take full responsibility for allowing my frustration to show and for any comments, which were seen as disrespectful,” Pasin stated. “I am sorry I allowed my frustration to come to the surface.
“Moving forward I intend to bite my tongue more, take deep breaths before responding to provocation or aggression, and speak with more precision.”
The mayor addressed that there were many violations alleged in complaints filed by the councillors.
“Of the multiple allegations, only two made against me stood up to the investigator’s scrutiny,” Pasin said. “And she described them as ‘minor breaches of the code,’ based on ‘glib’ comments I made to Councillor Cacchioni.”
The third complaint, filed by Cacchioni against Coun. Sandy Santori, alleges that Santori violated conduct policies that Cacchioni considered to be threatening, abusive and harassing, at closed council meetings in October 2020 and June 2021.
The investigator determined that Santori did breach the “Respect” section of the Council Code of Conduct in his comments and behaviour towards Cacchioni.
Santori addressed his conduct breach during Monday night council and apologized to Cacchioni saying, “I do not deny that during three heated and highly frustrating discussions … my choice of words to describe councillor Cacchioni’s behavior were inappropriate.”
But he also questioned the price tag that came to taxpayers as a result of the complaints.
“It is truly unfortunate and sad that relationships amongst some council members have eroded to such an irreparable level and at significant cost to the taxpayers … I ask; was it in the public’s best interest to spend $49,500 to engage a third-party investigator?” Santori concluded. “I would have been more than happy if asked, to apologize at no cost to the taxpayer.”
The Times contacted the four councillors via email to ask if they were satisfied with the findings and ready to move forward.
Cacchioni mentioned the Jan. 25 governance meeting, June 28 regular council, and a June 23 public report, and noted, “You will see that these are not ‘minor’ incidents, nor are her accusations ‘glib.’ This is a very serious situation where four of the six council members have filed formal complaints against the mayor.”
Coun. Jones replied, ” This is definitely not the direction I wanted to see council to go in. It was a step that was taken, and not frivolously or lightly, in order to get back to doing the business of this city … A breach of the Code of Conduct should be taken seriously and not try to be minimized. I own my part in making this complaint and its impact that it has had on our ability to be doing what is right for our city. People do however need to be held responsible and accountable for their actions. We can’t undo what has happened but we can commit to being better collectively and work with the best interest of the city in mind.
She said she is ready to move on. “Politics is a tough job as it is. I know we can do better … There are seven hard working people on this council , with a lot of years of experience and knowledge and we need to commit to working with a higher degree of professionalism.”
Coun. Dobie replied that she was satisfied with the findings but disappointed that the mayor and Coun. Santori have “minimized our claims and the lawyer’s decision.”
“During my nearly eight years on council I have always been conscious of my responsibility to our citizens, and I am proud of the work I have done,” Dobie said. “Continuing to move forward as a council needs to be the mind set of all council, whereby all of us accept decisions willingly and take full responsibility of our actions by way of making necessary changes rather than trying to minimize the decision.”
Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson said, “I personally am very disappointed to say the least about what has been going on … Regarding about moving on I have personally already done that and believe others have too, we are still working hard for the citizens of Trail and will do so until our terms are over.”
Trail council meetings can be watched in full on YouTube at: City of Trail Local Government.