City/county councillor Bill Dennis gave his signature thumbs-up to cameras while he and his colleagues heard a presentation from Sarnia's integrity commissioner and discussed whether, or not, to penalize him for past behaviour on Monday.
Councillor Terry Burrell voted against the motion, saying the report didn't focus on anything done in chambers.
"There was a conflict of some kind that happened in the hall, where someone said something to someone and someone said something back, and I am not supporting this," said Burrell. "Mainly because I don't think it's appropriate if one person sticks their nose in somebody else's businesses and it was not what happened in the chamber that this investigation is related to."
Burrell said the confrontation reported to the integrity commissioner was "a personal thing between two people."
"I don't agree with what councillor Dennis did in the chamber here, and I don't think it was particularly nice what he did out there [in the lobby]. But, to me, it was two people throwing stones at each other and I don't think it's fair that one gets roasted and one does not," Burrell said.
Sarnia council listens to a presentation from Sarnia's integrity commissioner. February 12, 2024 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)
Councillor Anne Marie Gillis said elected officials must listen, and understand, what members of the public are saying without taking things personally.
"When I read the report, I clearly felt that the person who made this IC complaint felt that they had been ridiculed in public, felt they had been attacked in public, felt that they had been misunderstood in public," said Gillis. "When they themselves perceive themselves as only trying to help."
City/county councillor Brian White said it was his opinion the confrontation in the lobby was sparked by the prior exchange in council chambers.
"The lobby is part of this building, the lobby where the incident happened -- and you can make faces at me all you want, councillor Burrell -- that lobby is where this report is directed towards and that lobby is where members of this public were not feeling safe," said White. "That to me is incredibly upsetting because everybody in this community should be able to walk into the front door, the back door, the door to the chamber and have their voice represented by any one of us at any time."
City/county councillor Chrissy McRoberts said while she understands councillor Dennis is passionate about what he speaks about, discussions need to remain on topic and not be made personal.
"That is where we lose our track," said McRoberts. "We're paid, we're voted in to discuss the city matters and not to make it personal with any councillor, the mayor, staff... and we need to be respectful because that will help this machine move faster, quicker."
Councillor Adam Kilner said in other situations the behaviour would have been dealt with immediately.
"As a professional who has a profession outside of [council], if I ever uttered the things that I saw and read in the report in another professional setting I'd be fired that afternoon," Kilner said.
Councillor Dennis did not declare a conflict of interest and remained seated during the entire discussion.
He reiterated his apology for his behaviour in the lobby and chambers and to everyone involved.
"I would, however, like to state for the record that outside of this issue I do not believe in being stifled or forbidden from expressing my opinion," said Dennis.
Dennis concluded an expressive rant saying, "I realize I am a target for many, but that will not stop me from passionately serving the citizens. I will not be cancelled and the public will have the ultimate word on my style, my effectiveness, and my love for the city at the next election."
Sarnia city/county councillor Bill Dennis speaks during a discussion about whether or not he violated the code of conduct. February 12, 2024 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)